Formula 1: How it Works

A brief description of the sport.

Formula One consists of 10 teams, each with two drivers. There are many well-known and older teams, such as Williams or Ferrari, but also many new teams that are performing very well, like Aston Martin. These teams are usually sponsored by big companies or are privately owned.

The race takes place over a weekend, with sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
There are three hour-long practices on Friday and Saturday. Free practice one, or FP1, and free practice two (FP2) both take place on Friday, and FP3 is on Saturday, before qualifying rounds.

All practices are times for drivers to get used to the track. After the practice rounds, the first qualifying round is Q1, where all 20 drivers take part. At the end of Q1, the drivers with the five slowest times are eliminated. The eliminated drivers start in whatever position they qualified in in the bottom five. The rest of the drivers proceed to Q2, with the bottom five in that session also being eliminated. Finally, the remaining 10 drivers go to Q3. In this session, the last 10 drivers all set times, and they start in the position they finished in. These set the final starting grid for the race on Sunday.

Later in the season, some teams have to replace parts such as engines, and the drivers get a penalty for this. These can be caused by crashes in sessions during the weekend or in the previous race. Teams replace parts in cars very quickly in between sessions, making small adjustments. As this is the first race of the season, the drivers did not suffer such penalties, but in the future, they could be affected by crashes that damage parts of the car. In these cases, the driver will still compete in qualifying, but then will have a penalty added on to the position they finished in. These are usually 5-place or 10-place grid penalties, with the driver being forced to start from the back of the grid in some cases.

Each year, there are two championships – the drivers’ championship and the constructors’ championship. The drivers’ championship is between all 20 drivers. Every driver that finishes in the top 10 in the race gets points, ranging from 25 points for first place to one point for 10th, and there is also a point awarded each weekend to the driver that completes the fastest lap in a race. The championship is decided based on whoever has the most points over the season.

Last year, Max Verstappen won the drivers’ championship. He drives for Red Bull. Charles Leclerc of Ferrari got second, and Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, finished third. Verstappen also won the 2021 drivers’ championship.

Accidents Happen

When an accident occurs on track, different things could happen in order for people to get on the track in order to safely remove all of the debris from the car and for the driver to get off the track. These are also for the safety of the drivers still in their cars, so that they don’t run over any debris.

Here are the scenarios:

  • Green flag: Nothing on the track. This is what the conditions are if everything is normal and clear on track.
  • Yellow flag: People start waving these right after an accident occurs. This warns drivers that there is an accident ahead, and tells the stewards that they need to take further action. Things that could result from a yellow flag:
    • Safety Car: A car is deployed onto the track. All drivers must reduce speed and follow the safety car. The car goes from around 30 miles per hour to 160 miles per hour. This may seem fast, but it’s actually quite slow compared to F1 drivers’ normal speed. F1 cars race at speeds that can reach 200-220 miles per hour.
    • Virtual Safety Car: This is when the accident isn’t quite as severe. The drivers must reduce speed by about 30%. They are told whether they are staying below that threshold on their steering wheel.
  • Red flag: When the accident is really severe. This could be when there is a lot of debris on track, or if the driver in the car is in danger from other cars coming around the track. In this case, the drivers must go into the pit lane immediately and stay there until they are allowed to resume driving.

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