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Overview of F1:

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 cars and drivers must follow when competing, which will be discussed more throughout this post. Of course, 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, with first-place receiving 25 points, then P2 gets 18, then 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1.  

The cars:

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

Engine:

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 F1; Mercedes, Honda, Alpine and Ferrari. McLaren, Aston Martin, and Williams use Mercedes engines, while Honda supplies Red Bull and Alpha Tauri and Ferrari supply Haas and Alfa Romeo. Alpine (formerly Renault) only provide engines for their own team, having manufactured the engines for McLaren last year before they moved to Mercedes.

Design:

F1 cars are designed to be totally aerodynamic. This allows them to move at a very high speed while cutting through the air. While this is hugely important to the cars attaining greater speed, it does lead to a lot of lift on the car. To counteract this, the wings and diffusers on the car produce downforce that ensures the car is pressed onto the track and helps the drivers to 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.

Tyres:

Pirelli is the manufacturer of Formula 1 tyres. They produce 5 different compounds of dry weather (slick) tyres and intermediate and wet tyres. C1 tyres are the hardest, with C5 being the softest. Pirelli chose 3 successive compounds to use from the slick range depending on the circuit being visited each weekend. 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:

With the tyres only able to last short distances, the drivers must pit during the races and qualifying and practice sessions. It is required that drivers make at least one pit stop during the race, but some tracks and strategies and 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 ordered based on the team’s finishing position from the previous year, meaning Mercedes are the closest to the entry, with Williams at the end near the pit exit.

Circuits:

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

Teams:

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 parts can be bought from other teams.

Here is the list of F1 teams for 2021, along with their drivers:

Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull Racing with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez

McLaren with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo

Aston Martin with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll

Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz

Alpine with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso

AlphaTauri with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda

Alfa Romeo with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi

Haas  with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin

Williams with Nicholas Latifi and George Russell

The race weekend:

Each race weekend starts with a media day on the Thursday, where drivers and team staff are interviewed about the previous race and 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 and knocking out the bottom 5, before Q2, which 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 a sprint race format at a few races throughout the 2021 season. This will involve a practice session on the Friday morning, followed by qualifying on a Friday afternoon using the same format as we see 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 will be awarded 3 points, with 2 points for the driver in second and one point for the 3rd placed driver. This is an experiment being trialled at Silverstone for the first time and maybe removed or broadened in the future depending on the results.

Formula 1 is set to see a major overhaul in 2022, which could dramatically change the sport. These changes were meant to occur in 2021 but were postponed largely due to the pandemic’s financial implications. However, it is now time to discuss and understand what these regulations are and what they will mean for the sport.

Design changes

The biggest and most dramatic change for the 2022 season will be returning to the ground-effect formula of aerodynamics on the car. The existing reliance on wings is causing the cars to produce ‘dirty air’, which means the cars behind lose 50% downforce when close. This means overtaking is becoming increasingly difficult, and therefore the FIA plan to reduce this downforce loss to 5-10%. The ground-effect design involves air being passed through two Venturi tunnels at the front of the floor. Therefore, the air is squeezed to the closest point to the ground, turning it into a low-pressure area with suction underneath. This means that the floor is relied on more for downforce, rather than several bodywork components, as we currently see. Air will therefore be cleaner as it comes off the car while also being pushed higher, out of the path of the drivers and cars that are following. Cars being able to follow each other closely will mean much more exciting races for the fans to watch and the drivers to race in.

In addition, many elements of the car have been made sleeker and simpler, including the front wings and bodywork. Under the new regulations, front wings will be much simpler, being made up of a maximum of just four elements. The most striking difference can be seen on the endplates, which remain up-turned. The nose will be attached to the front wing rather than being connected by additional carbon fibre, making the likelihood of front wings breaking much lower. The rear wings have also changed, with endplates now wrapping around the back of the car, allowing cars to follow each other without any aerodynamic difficulties. With the barge boards also removed, in place of “wheel bodywork”, which minimises the impact of wheel wake, the cars are more reliant on the floor for downforce, making the racing fairer between teams. These wheels are also changing with larger 18-inch wheel rims, as seen already in F2, taking the place of the current 13-inch tyres, with wheel-wake control technology, which again should lead to more fair racing throughout the field.

One major element of the car that will not change is the V6 turbo hybrid engines, although they will be built from commercially available materials, meaning none are company exclusive. This freeze will continue until 2025, with the aim of sustainability becoming the major focus at that point. In addition, exhaust systems have been added to the PU components that are limited during a season, with a maximum of 6 permitted before a driver incurs a penalty.

Cars will be 25kg heavier due to all of these changes, meaning they will be slower than they currently are, but racing will hopefully be drastically improved.

Financial changes

2022 brings with it a cost cap of $175 million per team, which will apply to everything that impacts on-track performance, excluding driver salaries, marketing costs and the top-three personnel at any team. In addition, cars will be given less wind tunnel running time and must focus more on Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation than physical testing. Rules have also been put into place to limit car upgrades over a weekend, as well as the number of in-season aero upgrades. This will reduce the constant developments from the larger teams, which are currently impacting how competitive the grid is.

Race weekend structural changes

With the FIA hoping to have a maximum of 25 races in 2022, the race weekend has been condensed to cater for this and to improve the fan experience. Rather than Thursday, the press conferences will take place on a Friday morning before FP1 and FP2. Cars will also be in Parc Ferme conditions from the start of FP3 onwards, limiting the upgrades that teams can add over the course of the weekend. Teams must at this point return their cars to ‘reference specification’, meaning any bodywork being trialled must be removed at this stage.

Teams must also run at least two practice sessions during the year using drivers who have competed in two Grand Prix or fewer. This is a very beneficial change for the future of the sport as it gives opportunities to young drivers who are hoping to race in Formula 1 in the future, rather than reserve drivers who have competed in a multitude of previous races.   

What do these changes mean for the sport?

According to Ross Brawn, these new regulations stop the serious issue that we currently see in Formula 1, where “the more you spend, the quicker you go”, which means finances won’t entirely dictate the competitiveness of a car. With so many talented drivers currently on the grid, the future of motorsport looks hugely positive with closer racing and, therefore, hopefully, more varied results.

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