The Complete Beginners Guide to Formula 1

If you’re new to Formula One and fast cars fascinate you, we will bring you up to speed in this Beginners Guide to Formula 1. Formula One is an entrancing sport and it is quite easy to fall in love with it. As a beginner, you may feel a little bit like an outsider when other fans are discussing a driver, car, or race. That’s nothing to worry about. In this article, we will give you enough knowledge to set you on your way to becoming an F1 fan.

Formula One is the fastest motorsport in the world, let us help you to find your feet in the F1 world with equal speed.

Here is our Beginners Guide to Formula 1…

What is Formula One?

Formula One (F1) is a series of races held at different venues around the world, of the fastest open-wheel, open-cabin, single-seated, four-wheeled autos in the world. There have been a few years when even six wheeled cars participated in F1.

The word ‘Formula’, included in the name, refers to a set of rules that the constructors of the car, its mechanics and the drivers have to strictly follow during the tenure that they are members of F1.

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When motor racing first began, there were no limitations on the power or the size of the cars. The races became unequal with cars with more power and bigger sizes easily out pacing the smaller cars. The races also created dangerous situations in which many participants got seriously hurt, some even fatally.

When racing resumed after World War II, the governing body of the sport, the FIA, introduced a set of rules that set limits on the size and the power of the cars. This created an even playing field for the participants and drivers, while more stress was laid on efficiency and design of the cars and also the capability of the drivers.

The word ‘One’ comes from the grading FIA issues to the racing tracks, the approved cars and the drivers’ licences. The ‘One’ is also to distinguish F1 from street car racing and also to indicate that it is the ultimate in formula racing.

Formula One is governed by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) owned by the Formula One Group. The FIA, established on 20 June 1904, is a non-profit organisation and represents the interest of motoring organisations and motor car users.                   

The organisation amends, alters and introduces rules to Formula One so as to ensure the safety of the participants in the races, promote fair play, and to ensure that the followers and spectators of Formula One get a good deal.

The History of Formula One

Formula One originated with the European Championship of Grand Prix races. Though the ‘formula’ or a set of rules was agreed to by several Grand Prix organisations before World War II, races were suspended during the war.

Formula One, a new set of rules, were agreed upon by the racing organisations in 1946. The first non-championship race was the Turin Grand Prix held the same year in Italy. The following year the World Drivers’ Championship was formalised. Achille Varzi, an Italian driver, won the race in an Alfa Romeo.

The first world championship race was held in 1950 at Silverstone in the United Kingdom. Guiseppe Farina, an Italian driver in his Alfa Romeo, was the first driver to win the World Drivers’ Championship that year.

Juan Manuel Fangio, an Argentinian driver and Farina’s teammate, narrowly missed the championship title in 1950. But Fangio came back strongly to win 1951, ‘54, ‘55, ‘56 and ‘57 championship titles. His record of 5 championship titles was surpassed 45 years later when Michael Schumacher won his sixth World Driver’s Championship in 2003.

The Constructors Championship was introduced in 1958. Then called the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers, the first cup in 1958 was won by Vanwall.

According to FIA, the Constructors Championship, “the constructor of an engine or chassis is the person (including any corporate or unincorporated body) which owns the intellectual rights to such engine or chassis.”

That is the reason teams are named as McLaren-Renault. It means that while the chassis of the F1 car is built by McLaren, the engine is supplied by Renault. Both parties have to work together to build a car suited to the tracks and their drivers.

Over the years there have been only five countries that have shared the Constructors’ Championship between them. The countries are the UK leading with 33 championships, Italy (16), Germany (6), Austria (4) and France (3). Ferrari of Italy with 16 championships is the top constructor to date.

Formula One went through many changes in its rules. Most of the changes were aimed at minimising risk to the cars and drivers and increasing the spectator appeal of the sport. There were changes in engine sizes, car width and lengths, fuel tank sizes and the sizes of the tyres.

Those rules do not concern us. Suffice it to say that spectators are better off for the changes, the sport is more competitive and the participants are safer. We will go on to take a look at the cars which we are sure you are most interested in.

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Formula 1 Cars

Formula One is all about cars and every fan would like to know more about them. They are indeed a fascinating piece of machinery and a lot of effort goes into their construction. That is precisely why the Constructor’s Championship is awarded at the end of every racing season.

Cars have evolved drastically over almost seventy years of Formula One. Today’s cars are much safer and more manoeuvrable. The dynamics have improved and electronics has crept in substantially over the years. Because of that, drivers have better control over the cars resulting in better speeds and fewer accidents. However, F1 cars still have open wheels and open cockpit and are single-seated.

Formula 1 Car Design

Formula One cars are aerodynamically designed to provide the least resistance as they cut through the air. The feature not only helps them attain great speeds but also to consume less fuel as well as to get a better grip on the tarmac.

Because of their aerodynamic design Formula cars attain a speed greater than that of an airliner at take-off. But the wings and the diffusers of the car produce a negative lift or a downforce that presses the car down upon the track. Or else, drivers would have little control over the cars as cars would be air-borne over the track because of the air lift.

A formula one car produces 5G of down force on an average. It means that 5 times the weight of the car is pressing down on the track This gives the tyres traction and prevents the car from skidding on bends and sharp corners. The down force also allows the drivers to take corners and bends at speed much higher than we could in our streetcars.

Formula 1 Engines

Since 2014, all F1 cars have 1.6L, V6 turbocharged engines. To those uninitiated, the number after ‘V’ stands for the number of cylinders on the engine. The number before ‘L’ represents the displacement volume in litres of all the cylinders of the engine taken together.

F1 cars are required to weigh a minimum of 746kgs without the driver and fuel in them. Constructors, along with the other members of the team including drivers, have to optimise the horsepower, torque and the fuel efficiency to suit their requirements. That is why F1 cars’ engines are fine-tuned for every F1 circuit.

Revolutions per minute or revs as we call it, for F1 car engines are limited to 15000 rpm. F1 cars are capable of speeds of up to 375 (235 mph) kilometres per hour. Juan Pablo Montoya hit a top speed of 372.6 kph (231.523 mph) during the Italian Grand Prix in 2005 while driving a McLaren-Mercedes car.

Formula 1 Tyres

Car tyres play a big part in Formula One races. Pirelli is officially recognised as the tyre supplier by FIA for Formula One. Unlike street car tyres, Formula One car tyres are built to last only between 60 to 120 kilometres (40 to 80 miles).

Because one set of tyres will not last the distance of any F1 race, drivers have to make pit stops to replace tyres so that they can complete the races. Formula One car tyres are rated from C1 to C5 with C1 the hardest tyres and C5 the softest.

As the season was delayed for 2020, Pirelli has come to an agreement with the teams, the promoters and the FIA that they will supply for the first few races will be a mix of hard, medium and soft tyres to each of the teams for the first eight races. The tyres will mostly be in the range of C1, C2, C3 and C4 depending on the characteristics of each track. The tyres for the remaining races are likely to be softer.

Formula 1 Teams

Participants in Formula One are not individuals but teams. You may not realise it, but each Formula One team employs hundreds of technicians, engineers and support staff. If you include the designers and the assembly employees, that number could well exceed one thousand.

There were ten teams enrolled for the 2020 Formula One season with two cars each. According to the rule for the 2021 season, a maximum of 26 cars will be allowed to compete. That would mean a maximum of 13 teams because each team is allowed to field two cars.

A formula One team comprises all the entities that design and produce the car and own the intellectual rights. Therefore if the chassis is designed by one company and the engine is supplied by another, the two taken together become the participating team. That is the reason you will hear names like Benetton-Ford or Williams-Renault.

Here is the list of F1 teams for 2020, along with their drivers:

  1. Mercedes with Valtteri Bottass and Lewis Hamilton
  2. Red Bull Racing with Alexander Albon and Max Verstappen
  3. McLaren with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris
  4. Racing Point with Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll
  5. Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel
  6. Renault with Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo
  7. AlphaTauri with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat
  8. Alfa Romeo Racing with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
  9. Haas F1 Team with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean
  10. Williams with Nicholas Latifi and George Russell

As you can see from the above list, only one entity is listed as a team in each of the ten teams. It means that either the teams are constructing the cars by themselves or the engine and chassis builders have handed over the intellectual rights to the teams.

Formula 1 Drivers

Formula One drivers are as fit as most athletes in any sport. They have very high stamina and extremely good reflexes. Driving a race is very demanding both physically and mentally. That is why drivers dedicate a lot of time both during the season and otherwise maintaining their physical health and well-being.

All F1 drivers lose weight at the end of a race. That is because a lot of energy is spent by the drivers in working the brake and throttle pedals and concentrating on the track. Much energy is also spent when countering the G-force on the bends and sharp corners.

G-force is the force an F1 driver experiences when he accelerates or the car is going around a bend or a corner on the track. F1 drivers will experience force 2G when accelerating and up to 6G on a sharp corner. It means that the drivers are pulled by a force equal to 6 times their weight.

Although a drivers’ body is firmly strapped in his seat, their neck as well as their legs is free to move. Keeping legs and neck in position under these high g-forces takes a lot of strength and effort. That is why F1 drivers assign a high priority to strengthen their neck muscles for high endurance.

Formula 1 Circuits

A Formula One circuit is a loop of a road which is approved by the FIA as a race track fit for F1 racing. A circuit usually starts with a straight stretch and has several turns and corners. Most circuits run in a clockwise direction. Those few that are anticlockwise give drivers the most trouble because of G-force on their necks in a direction that they are used to.

The average time taken for a race is 2 hours and the average distance of a circuit is 305 km (190 miles). But the distance varies in the length of the track from circuit to circuit as does the difficulty in negotiating the circuit. One round around a circuit is counted as one lap and races are usually specified as the number of laps of a particular circuit.

For example, Monaco is a slow circuit and the distance of the race is 260 km (161.7) miles. Monaco also has the shortest track length of 3.34 km (2.075 miles). Although the average length of a circuit is 5 km (3.1 miles), the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, at 7 km (4.352 miles), is considerably longer than the other tracks.

Here is a complete list of every Formula 1 circuit ever used.

CircuitTypeDirectionLocationLengthGrand PrixYears UsedGrands Prix Held At Circuit
Adelaide Street CircuitStreet circuitClockwiseAdelaide, Australia3.780 km (2.349 mi)Australian Grand Prix1985–199511
Ain-Diab CircuitRoad circuitClockwiseCasablanca, Morocco7.618 km (4.734 mi)Moroccan Grand Prix19581
Aintree Motor Racing CircuitRoad circuitClockwiseAintree, United Kingdom4.828 km (3.000 mi)British Grand Prix1955, 1957, 1959, 1961–19625
Albert Park CircuitStreet circuitClockwiseMelbourne, Australia5.303 km (3.295 mi)Australian Grand Prix1996–201924
Algarve International CircuitdaggerRace circuitClockwisePortimão, Portugal4.692 km (2.915 mi)Portuguese Grand Prix0
Autódromo do EstorilRace circuitClockwiseCascais, Portugal4.360 km (2.709 mi)Portuguese Grand Prix1984–199613
Autodromo Enzo e Dino FerraridaggerRace circuitAnti-clockwiseImola, Italy4.933 km (3.065 mi)Italian Grand Prix1980–200627
San Marino Grand Prix
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Autódromo Hermanos RodríguezRace circuitClockwiseMexico City, Mexico4.304 km (2.674 mi)Mexican Grand Prix1963–1970, 1986–1992, 2015–201920
Autódromo Internacional Nelson PiquetRace circuitAnti-clockwiseRio de Janeiro, Brazil5.031 km (3.126 mi)Brazilian Grand Prix1978, 1981–198910
Autódromo José Carlos PaceRace circuitAnti-clockwiseSão Paulo, Brazil4.309 km (2.677 mi)Brazilian Grand Prix1973–1977, 1979–1980, 1990–201937
Autódromo Juan y Oscar GálvezRace circuitClockwiseBuenos Aires, Argentina4.259 km (2.646 mi)Argentine Grand Prix1953–1958, 1960, 1972–1975, 1977–1981, 1995–199820
Autodromo Nazionale MonzadaggerRace circuitClockwiseMonza, Italy5.793 km (3.600 mi)Italian Grand Prix1950–1979, 1981–201969
AVUSRoad circuitAnti-clockwiseBerlin, Germany8.300 km (5.157 mi)German Grand Prix19591
Bahrain International CircuitdaggerRace circuitClockwiseSakhir, Bahrain5.412 km (3.363 mi)Bahrain Grand Prix2004–2010, 2012–201915
Baku City CircuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseBaku, Azerbaijan6.003 km (3.730 mi)European Grand Prix2016–20194
Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Brands HatchRace circuitClockwiseWest Kingsdown, United Kingdom3.703 km (2.301 mi)British Grand Prix1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982–198614
European Grand Prix
Buddh International CircuitRace circuitClockwiseGreater Noida, India5.141 km (3.194 mi)Indian Grand Prix2011–20133
Bugatti CircuitRace circuitClockwiseLe Mans, France4.430 km (2.753 mi)French Grand Prix19671
Caesars Palace Grand Prix CircuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseLas Vegas, United States3.650 km (2.268 mi)Caesars Palace Grand Prix1981–19822
Charade CircuitRoad circuitClockwiseSaint-Genès-Champanelle, France8.055 km (5.005 mi)French Grand Prix1965, 1969–1970, 19724
Circuit BremgartenRoad circuitClockwiseBern, Switzerland7.208 km (4.479 mi)Swiss Grand Prix1950–19545
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyadaggerRace circuitClockwiseMontmeló, Spain4.655 km (2.892 mi)Spanish Grand Prix1991–201929
Circuit de MonacoStreet circuitClockwiseMonte Carlo, Monaco3.337 km (2.074 mi)Monaco Grand Prix1950, 1955–201966
Circuit de Spa-FrancorchampsdaggerRace circuitClockwiseStavelot, Belgium7.004 km (4.352 mi)Belgian Grand Prix1950–1956, 1958, 1960–1968, 1970, 1983, 1985–2002, 2004–2005, 2007–201952
Circuito de MonsantoStreet circuitClockwiseLisbon, Portugal5.440 km (3.380 mi)Portuguese Grand Prix19591
Circuit de Nevers Magny-CoursRace circuitClockwiseMagny-Cours, France4.411 km (2.741 mi)French Grand Prix1991–200818
Circuit Gilles VilleneuveStreet circuitClockwiseMontreal, Canada4.361 km (2.710 mi)Canadian Grand Prix1978–1986, 1988–2008, 2010–201940
Circuit Mont-TremblantRace circuitClockwiseMont-Tremblant, Canada4.265 km (2.650 mi)Canadian Grand Prix1968, 19702
Circuit of the AmericasRace circuitAnti-clockwiseAustin, United States5.513 km (3.426 mi)United States Grand Prix2012–20198
Circuit ZandvoortRace circuitClockwiseZandvoort, Netherlands4.252 km (2.642 mi)Dutch Grand Prix1952–1953, 1955, 1958–1971, 1973–198530
Circuit Paul RicardRace circuitClockwiseLe Castellet, France5.842 km (3.630 mi)French Grand Prix1971, 1973, 1975–1976, 1978, 1980, 1982–1983, 1985–1990, 2018–201916
Circuit ZolderRace circuitClockwiseHeusden-Zolder, Belgium4.262 km (2.648 mi)Belgian Grand Prix1973, 1975–1982, 198410
Circuito da BoavistaStreet circuitAnti-clockwisePorto, Portugal7.775 km (4.831 mi)Portuguese Grand Prix1958, 19602
Circuito de JerezRace circuitClockwiseJerez de la Frontera, Spain4.428 km (2.751 mi)Spanish Grand Prix1986–1990, 1994, 19977
European Grand Prix
Circuito del JaramaRace circuitClockwiseSan Sebastián de los Reyes, Spain3.404 km (2.115 mi)Spanish Grand Prix1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976–1979, 19819
Dallas Grand Prix CircuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseDallas, United States3.901 km (2.424 mi)Dallas Grand Prix19841
Detroit street circuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseDetroit, United States4.168 km (2.590 mi)Detroit Grand Prix1982–19887
Dijon-PrenoisRace circuitClockwisePrenois, France3.886 km (2.415 mi)French Grand Prix1974, 1977, 1979, 1981–1982, 19846
Swiss Grand Prix
Donington ParkRace circuitClockwiseCastle Donington, United Kingdom4.020 km (2.498 mi)European Grand Prix19931
Fuji SpeedwayRace circuitClockwiseOyama, Japan4.563 km (2.835 mi)Japanese Grand Prix1976–1977, 2007–20084
Long Beach Street CircuitStreet circuitClockwiseLong Beach, United States3.275 km (2.035 mi)United States Grand Prix West1976–19838
Hanoi Street CircuitdaggerStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseHanoi, Vietnam5.607 km (3.484 mi)Vietnamese Grand Prix0
HockenheimringRace circuitClockwiseHockenheim, Germany4.574 km (2.842 mi)German Grand Prix1970, 1977–1984, 1986–2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018–201937
HungaroringdaggerRace circuitClockwiseMogyoród, Hungary4.381 km (2.722 mi)Hungarian Grand Prix1986–202035
Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayRace circuitClockwiseSpeedway, United States4.192 km (2.605 mi)Indianapolis 500[a]1950–1960, 2000–200719
United States Grand Prix
Istanbul ParkRace circuitAnti-clockwiseIstanbul, Turkey5.338 km (3.317 mi)Turkish Grand Prix2005–20117
Korea International CircuitRace circuitAnti-clockwiseYeongam, South Korea5.615 km (3.489 mi)Korean Grand Prix2010–20134
Kyalami Racing CircuitRace circuitAnti-clockwiseMidrand, South Africa4.200 km (2.610 mi)South African Grand Prix1967–1980, 1982–1985, 1992–199320
Marina Bay Street CircuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseSingapore5.063 km (3.146 mi)Singapore Grand Prix2008–201912
Montjuïc circuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwiseBarcelona, Spain3.791 km (2.356 mi)Spanish Grand Prix1969, 1971, 1973, 19754
Mosport International RacewayRace circuitClockwiseBowmanville, Canada3.957 km (2.459 mi)Canadian Grand Prix1967, 1969, 1971–1974, 1976–19778
Mugello CircuitdaggerRace circuitClockwiseScarperia e San Piero, Italy5.245 km (3.259 mi)Tuscan Grand Prix0
Nivelles-BaulersRace circuitClockwiseNivelles, Belgium3.724 km (2.314 mi)Belgian Grand Prix1972, 19742
NürburgringdaggerRace circuitClockwiseNürburg, Germany5.148 km (3.199 mi)German Grand Prix1951–1954, 1956–1958, 1961–1969, 1971–1976, 1984–1985, 1995–2007, 2009, 2011, 201340
European Grand Prix
Luxembourg Grand Prix
Eifel Grand Prix
Pedralbes CircuitStreet circuitClockwiseBarcelona, Spain6.316 km (3.925 mi)Spanish Grand Prix1951, 19542
Pescara CircuitRoad circuitClockwisePescara, Italy25.800 km (16.031 mi)Pescara Grand Prix19571
Phoenix street circuitStreet circuitAnti-clockwisePhoenix, United States3.720 km (2.312 mi)United States Grand Prix1989–19913
Prince George CircuitRace circuitClockwiseEast London, South Africa3.920 km (2.436 mi)South African Grand Prix1962–1963, 19653
Red Bull RingdaggerRace circuitClockwiseSpielberg bei Knittelfeld, Austria4.318 km (2.683 mi)Austrian Grand Prix1970–1987, 1997–2003, 2014–202033
Styrian Grand Prix
Reims-GueuxRoad circuitClockwiseGueux, France8.302 km (5.159 mi)French Grand Prix1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 196611
Riverside International RacewayRace circuitClockwiseMoreno Valley, United States5.271 km (3.275 mi)United States Grand Prix19601
Rouen-Les-EssartsRoad circuitClockwiseOrival, France6.542 km (4.065 mi)French Grand Prix1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 19685
Scandinavian RacewayRace circuitClockwiseAnderstorp, Sweden4.031 km (2.505 mi)Swedish Grand Prix1973–19786
Sebring International RacewayRoad circuitClockwiseSebring, United States8.356 km (5.192 mi)United States Grand Prix19591
Sepang International CircuitRace circuitClockwiseSepang, Malaysia5.543 km (3.444 mi)Malaysian Grand Prix1999–201719
Shanghai International CircuitdaggerRace circuitClockwiseShanghai, China5.451 km (3.387 mi)Chinese Grand Prix2004–201916
Silverstone CircuitdaggerRace circuitClockwiseSilverstone, United Kingdom5.891 km (3.660 mi)British Grand Prix1950–1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987–201953
70th Anniversary Grand Prix
Sochi AutodromdaggerRace circuitClockwiseSochi, Russia5.848 km (3.634 mi)Russian Grand Prix2014–20196
Suzuka CircuitRace circuitPart clockwise and part anti-clockwise (figure eight)Suzuka, Japan5.807 km (3.608 mi)Japanese Grand Prix1987–2006, 2009–201931
Okayama International CircuitRace circuitClockwiseMimasaka, Japan3.703 km (2.301 mi)Pacific Grand Prix1994–19952
Valencia Street CircuitStreet circuitClockwiseValencia, Spain5.419 km (3.367 mi)European Grand Prix2008–20125
Watkins GlenRace circuitClockwiseWatkins Glen, United States5.430 km (3.374 mi)United States Grand Prix1961–198020
Yas Marina CircuitdaggerRace circuitAnti-clockwiseAbu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates5.554 km (3.451 mi)Abu Dhabi Grand Prix2009–201911
Zeltweg AirfieldRoad circuitClockwiseZeltweg, Austria3.186 km (1.980 mi)Austrian Grand Prix19641

Pits and Pit Stops

Pit stops are essential for cars to change tyres and for making repairs, mechanical adjustments, refuelling or as a penalty. Refuelling is not allowed in F1 for now. However, drivers have to make at least one pit stop to change tyres because F1 tyres are designed to last much less that the distance of one race.

Pits are located at the side of racing lanes and they are assigned in the order of qualifying rankings of the team. A pit may have even up to twenty mechanics who prepare for all eventualities one lap before the car makes a pit stop.

Drivers make a call on taking a pit stop depending on the state of their tyres and any mechanical repairs or adjustments their car might need. The team leader in the pit will usually remind the driver that he has to make a pit stop one lap before a pre scheduled stop. The less the number of pit stops drivers make, the more advantage they get in race times.

Formula 1 Seasons

A season of Formula One consists of a number of Grands Prix conducted over the course of a year. The F1 season usually starts in March and ends in December. There are 22 venues across the world where the Grands Prix are held.

Both the number of venues and the locations may change and are announced well in time before the season begins. In 2020 for example, all the Grands Prix in the Americas stand cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellations were announced mid-F1 season.

At the end of the F1 season, the World Drivers’ Championship and the Constructors’ Championship are awarded to the winners. The drivers’ championship is decided by the cumulative number of points the driver has accumulated in that season. The constructors’ championship goes to the team with the highest total of the points accumulated by both its drivers during the season.

Slang Terms Used in Formula One

Now that you have got the hang of what F1 is about let us go to some of the slang used in F1. The words listed below are some of the technical jargon used by team staff and commentators. Once you know them, you will be in a better position to understand what some ‘expert commentators’ are talking about when they say ‘marbles’ and ‘polesitter’.

Backmarker

Trailing drivers are often lapped by the leading drivers. The trailing drivers are referred to as backmarkers just as we refer to back benchers in schools and colleges.

Blistering/Graining

Blistering is when the cold surface of the track causes pieces to blow out of the tyre surface because the inside of the tyre is warmer. Graining is just the opposite. It is a situation when the tyres are cold and the hotter surface outside causes the rubber chunks to come off and stick to the tyre.

Bottoming

When the underside of the cars comes in contact with the track, it is referred to as bottoming. It happens because of uneven tracks and in cases of sudden rise or crest. You get a shower of sparks when a car bottoms out because F1 cars use titanium skid blocks underneath their chassis.

Box

Box is a reminder to the drivers coming from a controller in the pits that they have a pit stop coming during the lap or in the next lap. The word is derived from the German word ‘Boxenstopp’ which means a pit stop.

Brake Bias

Brake bias is what allows the drivers to adjust the difference between how much the front wheels and the rear wheels brake. Normally, both the front and rear wheels will break equally when the driver pushes down on the brake pedal. In wet conditions, the driver may want to increase the braking in the rear tyres and reduce in the front wheels.

Drivers adjust brake biases throughout the course of a race to balance the car depending on the condition of the tyres and the amount of fuel left in the tanks.

Dirty Air/Clean Air

Dirty air is the turbulent air left in the wake of the preceding car. The car coming in the wake of the leading car will experience a drag because of the dirty air. Clean air is the undisturbed air encountered by a car speeding all on its own. The air flows smoothly around the car’s streamlined surface but leaves dirty air in its wake.

DRS

Drag Reduction System (DRS) is allowed to be used in only marked zones on the track. Turbulent air behind the leading car can lead to a drag on the car following it closely, reducing the down force. A flap on the car is then used to reduce the drag and increase the down force which can help the car in overtaking on a straight.

Falling Off the Cliff

Falling off the cliff describes the situation when the tyre compounds deteriorate unusually rapidly during the race. Ths slows down the car and renders it uncompetitive. Drivers say “ my tyres fell off the cliff and I had to pit stop early” to describe their predicament.

Flatspot

When a car driver locks his front brakes, the front tyres skid along the surface of the track rather than roll across it. This wears the tyres giving it a prominent flat spot. A flatspot on the wheels results in unscheduled pit stops spoiling the chances of the driver in the race.

Green Track

A green track is an almost unused track that drivers encounter on the first day of practice. The track has little rubber laid down onto it affording the cars less than optimum traction on the dry.

Lift and Coast

If a driver feels that he is going to run out of fuel before the end of the race, he has to conserve his fuel. The driver then lifts off the throttle and cruises. The driver is said to be  ‘lifting and coasting” into the braking zone at the cost of speed.

Marbles

Tiny pieces of rubber that are shredded off the tyres while cornering are called marbles. They accumulate off the racing line and driving on them can be dangerous as the car loses traction.

Oversteer/Understeer

When a car is cornering and the rear wheels of the car loose grip and step out of line, the driver is said to have oversteered. On the other hand if the front wheels loose grip and the car takes a shallower turn than the driver intended, the car has been understeered.

Polesitter

A polesitter is the driver who wins the pole position in the qualifying races. Pole sitters have an advantage if they get away from the pack and hold the lead into the first corner.

Power Unit

The engine of a modern day F1 car has ‘power units’ rather than just engines as in the olden days. This unit consists of six components. The Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), the Turbo Charger (TC), the Motor Generator Unit – H (MGU-H), Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K), the Energy Store (ES) and the Control Electronics (CE) taken together is called the Power Unit. These components combine to give a F1 car just below 1000 bhp of power.

Tankslapper

A driver is said to have got a tankslapper when a sideways movement causes the rear end of the car to step out of line.

Why Should You Attend a Grand Prix?

Each Grand Prix is held over three days, from Friday to Sunday, except in Monaco where the Friday practice sessions are held on a Thursday. The action starts on Fridays and culminates in the crowning event, the race on Sundays. Between Friday and Sunday, there are practice and qualifying sessions that set the scene for the race on Sunday.

Practice Sessions

Practice sessions usually start on Fridays and last till Saturday mornings. If the races are scheduled to be held in the night, the timings of the practice sessions may vary. Practice sessions are for individual teams and their drivers to familiarise themselves with the track and fine tune their cars.

During practice sessions the drivers will try out different types of tyres on the track to find out how long they last. They will also keep a close watch on their fuel consumption with different tyres and tune their engines accordingly.

Drivers use the practise sessions to get a good feel of the track and the car. They will use this knowledge to get a good position in the qualifying rounds. Watching the practice sessions will let you identify the different cars and drivers during the race. It also gives you a chance to watch all the behind the scenes activities.

Qualifying Sessions

Qualifying sessions are the most exciting experience you will get on a racing weekend. Generally held on Saturday afternoons, there are three qualifying phases Q1, Q2 and Q3. During qualifying sessions, drivers will push their machines to the brink in order to get a good position on the grid.

In Q1, or the first qualifying round all the 20 cars (if there are 20 cars participating) will take part. The five cars finishing last will be eliminated from any further qualification sessions. They will take the grid positions from 16 to 20 depending on their timings in Q1.

The remaining 15 cars will participate in the Q2 session. In this session a further five cars that finish last will be eliminated from the last qualifying session. They will take grid positions according to their performance in the Q2 session.

Q3 is the last qualifying session and decides the grid position for the remaining 10 cars. In this session, drivers will really work their throttles during this session in a bid to win the pole position. The pole position is considered a distinct advantage. The polesitter gets an unencumbered track and clean air to take a lead which many times tends to be unassailable.

That is why qualification sessions are considered to be the most exciting time of a racing weekend.

The Race

After the grid is set in qualifying, barring any penalties either for wrongdoing or technical changes to the car, the grid will start how they ended qualifying.

The cars come out early for an installation lap, then grid up, where they are assessed by the team, and the drivers have an anxious wait as the clock ticks down until the race begins. During this time some will be interviewed, some listen to music, and drivers like the affable Kimi Raikkonen avoid eye contact with anyone as they get into the zone.

After a ‘parade lap’ of the drivers being driven around the track to wave to the crowd, they they fire up the cars and complete a warm up behind the safety car.

At the completion of the warm up lap, the starter waits for the signal, then it’s lights out and away we go!

The first corner is always a nerve-jangling time, more so for team bosses and those of us watching, than it is for the drivers.

After a frantic opening lap, it is then time to settle down and race to the chequered flag.

Things Taking Place During a Racing Weekend

Support Races

Support races feature in most GP weekends. Young drivers who are tomorrow going to take the place of F1 drivers compete in F2 and F3 races. These races can be quite intense and make for good watching. You never know if you can spot a youngster who might feature in the next year’s FI race.

Pit Lane Walks

If you are just getting familiar with F1 and happen to attend a F1 weekend, try not to miss the pit lane walk experience. A pit lane walk will give you a fair idea of what work goes on behind the scenes in F1.

You will see drivers and mechanics fine tuning their cars for the race. You may even get a chance to take a selfie with a F1 driver or a mechanic of your favourite team. Pit lane walks are however high in demand and you will have to buy tickets that include pit lane walks.

Get to Know F1 Better

When you are new to Formula One, it is easy to feel left out and you are left wondering when you will gain some level of expertise in the sport. There are plenty of forums on the internet where you can greatly enhance your knowledge on F1.

Here is a list of places where you can increase your F1 knowledge quickly.

If you still want to go deeper into F1, here are a few official F1 websites that will help.

After reading through this Beginners Guide to Formula 1 you’re now up to speed with the intricacies of the sport, so it’s time to choose your favourite team and driver!

If you enjoyed this guide, please take a moment to share it with your friends, and make sure you tune in to the Formula 1 Grid Talk Podcast to keep up to date.

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