Formula 101 — A beginner’s guide to Formula 1

Whether you’ve never seen a race before, have a friend who’s been begging you to get into Formula 1, or have already devoured ever single season and episode of Drive to Survive and are looking to go even further down the F1 rabbit hole, this guide will give you the basics of the fast, furious, exciting sport that is Formula 1.

What is Formula 1?

Despite popular belief, Formula 1 isn’t just a bunch of boys driving around in circles. Sometimes they also drive in straight lines. All jokes aside, Formula 1 is an incredibly difficult and competitive motorsport.

The rules are simple — drive fast, don’t come in last. Ok, ok. The actual rules are a little more complicated than that, but here are the basics:

There are 10 teams. 2 drivers per team. 20 drivers on the grid.

Every race weekend is broken down into 3 stages — practice, qualifying, and race day.

Drivers compete as teams, but they also compete as individuals against each other so in Formula 1 your teammate is also you're biggest competition.

The top 10 finishers in every race earn points.

The team with the most points at the end of the season wins the Constructors' Championship – and the most prize money.

The driver with the most points at the end of the season wins the Drivers' Championship, a big trophy and huge bragging rights.

What happens on Grand Prix Race Weekend?

The weekend breaks down into three days of events — Friday is practice, Saturday is qualifying, and Sunday is race day.

Practice is where the drivers get to test out their cars and get the hang of the track before the race.

Qualifying is where the drivers head out onto the track for speed trials. The fastest lap gets pole position — the #1 spot on the grid. Where you start can make a huge difference so qualifying is almost as important as the race itself.

Race day is the main event. On Sunday all 20 drivers line up on the grid and we go racing. Races last about 2 hours, and can be anywhere from 44-72 laps.

What are the F1 teams?

10 teams make up the Formula 1 grid. (Well 11 if you count Brad Pitt’s fake F1 team, but that’s a story for another blog post.) Some have been there since day 1, some have fallen off over the years, some have gotten new owners and makeovers.

Here are this year’s teams:

  • Red Bull
  • Mercedes
  • Aston Martin
  • Ferrari
  • McLaren
  • Alpine
  • Williams
  • Haas
  • Alfa Romeo
  • AlphaTauri

Who are the Formula 1 drivers?

Each team has 2 drivers. Usually teams tend to have one more experienced driver who operates as essentially the team lead, and a second typically more rookie driver acting as support in race battles and strategies. 

  • Max Verstappen 
  • Sergio Perez 
  • Lewis Hamilton
  • George Russel
  • Fernando Alonso 
  • Lance Stroll 
  • Charles Leclerc 
  • Carlos Sainz
  • Pierre Gasly
  • Esteban Ocon
  • Lando Norris
  • Oscar Piastri
  • Alex Albon
  • Logan Sargent
  • Nico Roseburg
  • Kevin Magnussen
  • Valtteri Bottas
  • Zhou Gaunyu
  • Yuki Tsunoda
  • Nyck De Vries*

*In a not so shocking, shocking turn of events Nyck has been replaced by long time favorite and F1 vet Daniel Ricciardo mid-season. 

How do the points in F1 work?

Only the top 10 finishers earn points in any given race. The higher you place, the more points you get. 

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.

In addition to the points above, the driver who gets the fastest lap also earns an extra point.

So what's next?

There are a ton of other rules and technicalities like penalties, flags, tyre strategies, safety cars and we'll get into those in future posts so stay tuned! But hopefully this intro gives you a place to start if you’re just getting into F1. So just sit back, enjoy the show, and welcome to the craziness that is Formula 1. See you on race day!

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