What even is Formula 1?

What even is Formula 1?

What even is Formula 1?

  1. A traveling circus
  2. The highest echelon in motorsport
  3. A global sport
  4. Open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars

The answer? E. All of the above!

Formula 1, also known as F1, is the highest level of international open-wheel single-seater formula cars with races held globally, nicknamed a traveling circus. Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, more commonly known as the FIA, acts as the governing body for Formula 1. Formula One’s inaugural season was in 1950, the sport has changed drastically since then, but the level of competition remains insane. 

Let’s run through some of the basics of the sport!

  • The word 'formula' refers to the set of rules that determine the development and design of the car; 2022 started a 'new era' with a shift in the formula and methodology of design. 2023 will be the second year that these new formula cars race. 
  • The season, which commonly runs from March to September, has a maximum of 24 races (for now, at least!). Races occur on purpose-built tracks and closed public roads (street circuits). 2023 will host 23 races starting in Bahrain and ending in Abu Dhabi. Formula 1 planned 24 races in 2023 but canceled the Chinese Grand Prix due to continued health concerns. 
  • There are currently ten teams on the grid, with two drivers per team. Teams consist of thousands of people - from the drivers to the team principals to the engineers to the pr departments to the factory teams.
  • There are two championships up for grabs every year. The first is the World Constructors Championship which goes to the team with the highest total of points; it combines both driver’s point totals. The second championship awarded is the World Driver’s Championship, won by the driver with the most points. The driver does not have to be on the winning constructor's team. In 2022, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) won the Drivers, and his team won the Constructors. In 2021, the championships split between teams; Max Verstappen (Red Bull) won the Drivers, and Mercedes won the Constructors.
  • Each race weekend, the action begins on Friday with two practice sessions called Free Practice 1 and 2. On Saturday, there is the final practice session, Free Practice 3, followed by Qualifications. On Sunday, the Grand Prix takes place. Since every track is different, practice sessions allow the drivers and teams to prepare the car and confirm the setups for qualis and the race. Qualifications determine the starting order for the race, and the Quali session consists of three sub-sessions (Q1, Q2, Q3). In Q1, the fastest 15 drivers advance, and the five slowest drivers set to start 16th through 20th, respectively. In Q2, the fastest ten drivers advance, and the slowest five set to start 11th through 15th. Q3 determines the starting positions of the ten fastest drivers of that session. On Sunday, the cars line up on the grid, and before you know it, it’s 'lights out and away we go' for about 2 hours of racing. 
  • The top 10 drivers of every race receive points that determine their standings in the Driver's Championship. 
  • In 2021, Formula 1 introduced a new weekend format featuring a Sprint, featuring a 100 km sprint race to determine the order of the Grand Prix. Next year will feature six Sprints in Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, the USA (Austin), and Brazil.

These are just the basics! There are thousands of layers to this sport, with something for everyone. Interested in learning more about how Formula One works? Check out our episodes titled Formation Lap - these will give you more details about the basics of F1 to prepare you for the 2023 season.

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