A beginner’s guide to Formula One racing

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Lewis Hamilton / Jake Archibald / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Since it’s inaugural season in 1950, Formula One has raced on 69 tracks across 34 countries.

The 2022 Formula One racing season is now underway. The sport has gained popularity in the past few seasons with aid from Netflix’s “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”. Whether inspired by Netflix’s docuseries or just looking for a new sport to enjoy, here is an introductory guide to Formula One.

Races 

Formula One is a uniquely worldly sport. Throughout the eight-month-long season, races are held in circuits in countries from Canada to Azerbaijan. Races are held on tracks roughly 5 miles long. These bending tracks are repeated to make up races of over 190 miles. But, given the variation in each host country, the tracks are different and thus require a new driving strategy for each race. Races take place throughout the weekends. The first day consists of practice for drivers and their crews to familiarize themselves with the track. Practice is followed by the qualifying round, which decides each driver’s starting position in the Grand Prix. Finally, the Grand Prix occurs on the third day of the racing weekend.

 

2022 driver lineup and their teams by Stella Pavao

Teams

Teamwork takes a unique role in Formula One racing. The 20 driver grid is comprised of ten teams, each with two drivers. Both drivers operate with essentially identical cars. While the hopes of winning the Constructors’ Championship often keep teams working together toward a common goal, many teams have fallen victim to sour rivalries. Teammates are driving with the same machinery, so any disparity in performance can only be explained by the drivers’ skills. 

Drivers

Formula One drivers have a reputation for being egomaniacs. But outside the fanfare, many have used their platforms to raise awareness for social issues such as gender and racial equality. Formula One drivers also gain tremendous fan bases with some, like Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris, even getting songs produced about them.

Cars

Since the first season in 1950, the Formula One car has been improving with the addition of new safety and performance features. In 2022, new features include adding larger tires to prevent overheating and a stronger cockpit to absorb more energy in the event of a crash. All 20 cars must meet specific construction requirements, but there is room for variation in aspects of construction. A driver’s crew works to construct the car and can serve to be more valuable than the driver. There are only four-engine suppliers for all 20 cars. Red Bull and AlphaTauri run on engines produced by Red Bull. Mercedes, McLaren, Aston Martin, and Williams all use Mercedes engines. Ferrari supplies the engines for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Haas. Alpine is the only team that uses a Renault engine.

Scoring

The first ten drivers to finish a race score points. First place is awarded 25 points, with point values decreasing as the places go. Any driver who finishes outside of the first ten places will not receive any points for the race. At the end of the Formula One season, the driver with the most points wins the title of World Drivers’ Champion, and the team with the most points will be awarded the Constructors’ Championship prize. 

World Drivers’ Championship

The Formula One season is a months-long trek towards one final goal: the World Drivers’ Championship. The record for most World Drivers’ Championship wins is shared between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, who have seven titles. The current World Drivers’ Champion is Max Verstappen. Aside from the individual driver, the team that scored the most cumulative points at the end of the season wins the title of Constructors’ Champion. While there is prize money given to teams and drivers for winning each of these championships, the most valuable award comes from lucrative sponsorships from the likes of Hilton and Walmart. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc leads the race to the 2022 World Drivers’ Championship, going into the Australian Grand Prix on April 9.