new f1 car for 2022 on display

Are you new to Formula One? Did you enjoy last season’s racing, but were confused by some of the rules? Perhaps specifically the rulings in the last race? (ahem…)

See our guide below for all you need to know to set you up for official Formula One fandom.

What is Formula One?

Formula One is seen as the crème de la crème of motorsport and loved by millions all over the world. This means that is the most advanced open-wheel, single-seater motor racing: technically, commercially and most popular among fans. Selecting only the top cars and the best drivers to travel the world between March and December and race each other on a variety of circuit styles.

‘Formula’ refers to the sport’s rules – controlled by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Teams are permitted to construct and enhance their cars in their own way – but all must abide by the rules set out by Formula One.

Each race is called a ‘Grand Prix’, which is from the French term ‘grand prize’.

The F1 World Championship (almost as we know it) began at Silverstone in 1950 after several decades of various versions of grand prix motor racing – that first began in France in the mid-1890s. It became the European Drivers Championship in the 1930s, until a new ‘Formula’ was agreed upon in 1946.

So, who or what are the FIA?

The FIA is a non-profit organisation and governing body of Formula One. It was established in 1904 in an attempt to regulate the newly flourishing sport.

Today the organisation’s main job is to make sure that Formula One is safe and fair for all participants in the sport.

mercedes car in a spin with driver running away to safety

What do I need to know about the racing cars invloved in the sport?

The 3 elements that you will immediately notice about the cars are that they are all open-wheel, cockpit this open and the racing cars are single-seated. This design has been part of Formula One for a very long time. But it has evolved over the years to be faster, safer, easier to control and obviously - more advanced in technology. This design has been perfected for racing on a circuit: particularly the ability to take corners and how quickly the vehicle can speed up and slow down.

So how does it do this? The ability to take the corners while driving at speed is achieved by creating downforce. At high speeds the downforce brought about by the air flowing around the Formula one car will greatly exceed its weight.

During the 1960s, engineering teams started to use wings to create downforce and pto help force the cars into the track – creating more grip. Ideally without any drag that can come about from this downforce. All surfaces: the car and the driver’s helmet will influence this aerodynamic behaviour – so they are constantly optimised for every different circuit.

Technical Information:

  - All cars must have a minimum weight of 752kgs not including fuel. This has led to the chassis being made from ultra-lightweight materials – eg carbon fibre.
  - Formula One cars are all powered by 1.6 litre, V6 turbocharged engines. With 8 forward gears and 1 reverse. The engines can produce around 1,000 bhp and they are limited to 15,000 rpm. They are capable of speeds of up to 378km/h.
  - A power unit consists of an Engine Recovery System (ERS), the Motor Generator Unit-Heat (this reuses heat energy from the exhaust) and the Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (reuses heat energy from the brakes). Both the MGU-H and MGU-K collect energy that is stored in the aptly named Energy Store.

f1 cars racing round the hairpin bend at the fairmont in monaco

Tyres seem to be important? How?

Pit stops for new tyres and how often they are made/what compound is chosen - can be the difference between a win or a failure to reach the podium/the points for a Formula One driver.

The tyres must complement the car to maximise performance. But so many factors affect tyre performance – temperature, pressure, weather, track surface and the driving style – that getting this ‘just right’ involves constant tweaking and reassessment.

Pirelli is the official supplier of F1 tyres. They range from C1 (the hardest compound) to C5 (the softest) and Wet/Intermediate tyres that include tread that removes water from the tyre surface.

C1: The hardest tyre compound. Good for fast corners, high temperatures and abrasive surfaces. Maximum durability and low degradation. Takes longer than other tyres to warm up.

C2: As above, this tyre is good for high speeds, high temperatures and energy loadings. It can adapt to a wide variety of circuits.

C3: The ‘middle’ range tyre achieves a good balance between performance and durability. Consequently, it is one of the most common compounds used.

C4: Warms quickly and has a huge peak performance - but the downside of this is that it has a relatively short tyre life. It is excellent on tight and twisty circuits but degrades quicker than the harder compounds. Although the recent improvements have made it more versatile and less prone to overheating.

C5: This tyre is great for all circuits that demand high levels of mechanical grip. But it has the shortest lifespan of all the tyres. Perfect for short bursts though – so often used in qualifying.

Red on the tyre sidewall indicates the softest compound available during a racing weekend, yellow the medium and white the hardest. Green is for intermediate and blue for wet tyres.

How do you win points?

To achieve points a driver needs to finish in the top 10. One point is also awarded to the driver who achieves the fastest lap – but only if they finish in the top 10.

1st = 25 points

2nd = 18 points

3rd = 15 points

4th = 12 points

5th = 10 points

6th = 8 points

7th = 6 points

8th = 4 points

9th = 2 points

10th = 1 point

The driver with the highest number of points at the end of the season wins the Drivers’ Championship.

The team with the highest number of points combined from both drivers wins the Constructors’ Championship.

Should a tie occur for 1st place, positions are decided on countback – and whoever scored the most 1st places, then 2nd places (and so on) will win the championship.

In the event that a race is stopped and cannot restart – the leading driver must have completed 75% of the race to achieve full points. Below that, only half points are awarded – as long as at least 2 laps have been completed.

f1 car racing to the finish line and shows the chequered flag

What do the flags mean?

Flags are used for communication to all drivers during the race.

Chequered Flag: Shown at the start and finish of the race.

Yellow Flag: A single yellow flag indicates that drivers must slow down and not overtake at this time. A double-waved yellow flag means the same, but also that drivers should be prepared to stop.

Green Flag: The green flag is shown after a yellow flag or Safety Car period to indicate that normal racing has resumed.

Blue Flag: The blue flag is used to warn a driver that a faster car may be about to lap them. The driver being lapped is required to let the car past. It is also used at the end of the pit lane to warn drivers of fast traffic on the track. If a driver ignores three blue flags - they will receive a penalty.

White Flag: Indicates a slow-moving vehicle – eg a medical car.

Red and Yellow Striped Flag: Is used to indicate a change in track conditions coming up ahead – standing water, debris, oil or dirt/gravel.

Red Flag: This flag indicates that conditions are unsafe for the race to continue. Shown during practice/qualifying – drivers must reduce speed and proceed slowly to the pit-lane. Shown during the race, they must do the same and line up in the fast lane at the pit exit and await a restart. This restart will take place behind the safety car.

Black Flag: This flag shown at the start/finish line, combined with a driver’s race number is used to indicate that this driver has been disqualified. They will need to exit the race at the next pit stop.

What does a race weekend include?

A Grand Prix takes place over three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

  - Friday: Free Practice. 2 one-hour sessions where drivers/teams can test the circuit and plan their strategy accordingly.
  - Saturday: 1 one-hour practice session. Then Qualifying, which will decide the grid positions for the race. There are three parts to Qualifying. After Q1 and Q2 the slowest five drivers are eliminated - and their position is decided based on lap time. The driver with the fastest lap time at the end of Q3 will be in pole position for the race, the second fastest will be second on the grid, and so on.
  - Sunday: The Race. The race distance must be over 305km, so how many laps there are will depend on the size of the circuit. It starts with a formation lap behind the Safety Car – this is the warm-up to bring the cars up to temperature. The car will start with all the fuel it needs – drivers are not permitted to refuel during the race.
The race begins from a standing start as per grid positions and is started with 5 red lights above the start line being illuminated and then extinguished. The drivers then race until one of them crosses the finish line in first place and the chequered flag is waved to signal the end of the race.

At the start of the 2021 season, Formula One also introduced the Sprint Format at select rounds of the championship – but more on that later.

3 drivers talking at a press conference after the race

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