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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.