So you want to learn more about Formula 1 but you don’t have a clue where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered
Formula 1 is known around the world but it’s easy to get confused or underestimate the intricacy of the sport and how it works if you’re not a petrolhead.
If you’re not sure what the white flag means, what a pit stop is or even the difference between the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship then worry not, we’ll bring you up to speed.
What is Formula 1?
Simply put, Formula 1 is the highest class of single-driver racing in the world and it’s run by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
So why is it called Formula 1? Well, the word ‘formula’ refers to the set of rules and regulations adopted by the sport to which all drivers and constructors much adhere to, while the ‘1’ refers to the classification of the sport as the highest level of competitive driving.
The sport as we know it has been running annually since 1950 but, as you would expect, huge changes have taken place in the decades since.
Remaining hugely popular around the world, Formula 1 was watched by more than 400 million people last year when the now-retired Nico Rosberg secured the Drivers’ Championship in the final race in Abu Dhabi.
How does it work?
This year, the racing calendar includes 20 events that began with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne back in March and will culminate with the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 26th November.
Each race features a different number of laps, which is decided by calculating the least number of complete laps necessary to reach the target distance of 305km.
For instance, in the Abu Dhabi GP, the track distance is 5.55km, meaning that the total number of laps to be completed by each driver is 55. The only exception to this rule is Monaco where the total distance of the race is 260km.
On a Grand Prix weekend, drivers also participate in practice rounds, usually on a Friday, and then take part in a qualifying round on Saturday, which helps to determine their position on the starting grid for the big race on Sunday.
When the championship race begins, drivers will undertake one warm-up lap where they stay in formation, with no overtaking, before starting the race in earnest.
Currently, ten teams are in the championship, each with two drivers, with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing proving dominant in 2017.
Flags, pit stops and tyres
Okay, there are a lot of flags so let’s breeze through them quickly.
Yellow means danger ahead. Green means all clear. Red means the session has stopped. Blue means let the driver overtake you. Yellow and red stripes means slippery surface. Black with orange circle means a mechanical problem. Half black, half white means unsporting behaviour. Black means a driver is excluded from the race, and white means there’s a slow-moving vehicle on the track. Simple.
Okay, tyres. You may be surprised to know that drivers can choose from seven tyre types, all made corresponding to a colour code. These are ultra soft (purple), super soft (red), soft (yellow), medium (white), hard (orange), intermediate (green) and wet (blue).
Each car has an allocation of 13 sets of dry weather tyres and of the 13 sets, two are chosen by the manufacturer Pirelli. Teams must notify the FIA of their tyre choice eight weeks before the start of a European event and 14 weeks before a non-European race.
Now what’s all this pit stop nonsense? Pit stops may seem strange to non-Formula 1 fans, but they’re quite straightforward and are important to the sport. Used for changing tyres, front and rear wing assembly and minor repairs, a pit stop is planned by the drivers, who tell the crew a lap before they plan to make a pit stop so the crew can prepare.
Only one car per team can pit at any given time, so the two drivers need to work together to stagger their stops. On average, a pit stop lasts between two and three seconds – after all, every second counts in Formula 1.
There are two titles up for grabs: the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship. The winner of each is decided by a points-based system that tallies the results of every Grand Prix the driver or team has participated in throughout the season.
The first placed driver and manufacturer in a Grand Prix earns 25 points, second earns 18 points, third 15 points, all the way down to tenth place, which is awarded one point.
The driver with the most points after the last race in the season will win the Drivers’ Championship, and this can sometimes be decided before the last race of the season if the leading driver is more than 25 points in the lead, as with Hamilton this year.
It’s worth noting that the team that the winner of the Drivers’ Championship belongs to does not necessarily win the Constructors’ Championship, which may be confusing as this year, Drivers’ Championship winner Hamilton’s team, Mercedes, also won the Constructors’ Championship.
This year, the main contenders for the Drivers’ Championship boiled down to two drivers after the reigning champion, Nico Rosberg, retired at the end of last season – and the duo will no doubt give a good show in Abu Dhabi, despite the champion already being crowned.
Recently securing his fourth World Championship and the 2017 title in October, Lewis Hamilton is considered to be one of the greatest drivers of his generation and he holds the record for the most Grand Prix victories in British racing history.
Hamilton is the only driver to have won at least one Grand Prix in every Formula 1 season he has competed in – needless to say he’s a fierce competitor.
Known as an ‘all-rounder’, he’s a strong qualifier and aggressive wheel-to-wheel driver who loves to overtake competitors on the track.
And despite already winning the championship, he’s promised to keep
battling even in the last race of the season.
One of only five drivers to have won four or more Drivers’ Championships, alongside prestigious names like Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio, Ferrari driver Vettel has given Hamilton a run for his money since day one of the 2017 season.
The four-time world champion secured four major victories in a row between 2010 and 2013, but has remained at the top of sport despite seeing Hamilton and Rosberg take the top prize in the three years that followed his last major victory.
Often compared to his compatriot and hero Schumacher, Vettel has been in top form this season, though his consistent podium placements and four Grand Prix wins weren’t quite enough to beat the Brit. But will the Ferrari champion come back fighting in 2018?