Formula 1 Simplified: A guide to the sport

Formula 1 is the highest level of the open-wheel, open-cockpit, single seater championships. This international sport is governed by the FIA − Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile or the International Automobile Federation.

The use of ‘Formula’ comes from the set of rules that all of the cars and drivers must follow when competing. The main objective for every team is to win, with the first to cross the line being crowned the winner. The top-10 are given points on a sliding scale. First place receives 25 points, then P2 gets 18 then 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1. 


The F1 cars are the clearest example of how amazing motorsport technology is today. Here’s what you need to know:


Current regulations stipulate that every car is fitted with a 1.6-litre V6 engine with kinetic and heat energy recovery systems. There are currently 4 manufacturers building engines for Formula 1; Mercedes, Honda, Alpine and Ferrari. McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams currently use Mercedes engines, while Honda supply Red Bull and Alpha Tauri and Ferrari supplies Haas and Alfa Romeo. Alpine (formerly Renault) only provide engines for their own team, although they manufactured the engines for McLaren last year before their Mercedes move.


F1 cars are designed to be totally aerodynamic. This allows them to move at very high speed when cutting through the air. This is hugely important to the cars attaining greater speed, but it does lead to a lot of lift. To counteract this, the wings and diffusers on the car produce downforce that ensures the car is pressed onto the track, meaning the drivers keep control of the car. With these cars producing 5Gs of downforce, drivers can take corners and bends at high speeds without skidding off the track.


Pirelli is the manufacturer for the Formula 1 tyres. They produce 5 different compounds of dry weather (slick) tyres, as well as intermediate and wet tyres. C1 tyres are the hardest, with C5 being the softest. Depending on the circuit being visited each weekend, Pirelli chose 3 successive compounds to use from the slick range. Once this decision is made, colour coding is applied. The hardest tyre will be white, with the medium tyre yellow and the soft tyre in red. The intermediate tyres are always green and full wet tyres are blue.

Pit lane and pit stops:

The tyres often only last for short distances, so the drivers must pit during the races, as they do during qualifying and practice sessions. Drivers must make at least one pit stop during the race, but some tracks and strategies, as well as weather changes require multiple stops during a race.

The pits are located at the side of the start/finish straight and a team can have up to twenty mechanics working on these stops. Pit boxes and garages on the pit lane are in an order which is based on the finishing position of the team from the previous year. This means that Mercedes are the closest to the entry, with Williams at the end near the pit exit.


The circuits are all approved by the FIA as fit for F1 racing. They usually start with a long stretch which leads onto several corners around in a loop. Most of these circuits run in a clockwise direction, although some do run anti-clockwise. The drivers struggle more with these circuits as they normally feel the G-force strongly on just one side of their neck.

A race has a maximum length of 2 hours and has an average distance of 305km, although this varies from circuit to circuit depending on the length or speed of the track.

Behind every driver is a massive team including thousands of staff members including mechanics, engineers and support staff of every kind. There are currently 10 teams competing. Each team is responsible for their own design and construction of the car, although some teams buy parts from other teams.

Here is the list of Formula 1 teams for 2021, along with their drivers:

  1. Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton
  2. Red Bull Racing with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
  3. McLaren with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo
  4. Aston Martin with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll
  5. Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
  6. Alpine with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso
  7. AlphaTauri with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda
  8. Alfa Romeo with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
  9. Haas  with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin
  10. Williams with Nicholas Latifi and George Russell

Race weekend:

Each Formula 1 race weekend starts with a media day on the Thursday where drivers and team staff are interviewed about the previous race, as well as the upcoming event. Following that, 2 practice sessions occur on Friday, both an hour long. A final practice session occurs on the Saturday morning before qualifying on a Saturday afternoon. This session is split into 3 sections, with Q1 lasting 18 minutes, knocking out the bottom 5. Q2 then lasts 15 minutes and knocks out the next 5 slowest drivers. Q3 is the battle for pole position, the spot at the front of the grid on race day. The race then occurs on a Sunday where drivers battle for the race win and points.

F1 are introducing sprint race format at a few races throughout the 2021 season. This will involve a practice session on the Friday morning. Qualifying on a Friday afternoon follows it, using the same format seen on a normal Saturday. Practice 2 then occurs on a Saturday morning before a 100km sprint race that sets the grid for the normal race on a Sunday. The driver in first place following the sprint race receiving 3 points, with 2 points for the driver in second and one point for the 3rd placed driver.


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