F1 Guides

Understanding F1: A New Fan’s Guide to Formula One And Its Rules

Formula 1, often abbreviated as F1, began in the late 1940s when the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) introduced regulations for a new form of motor racing. The first official championship race occurred in 1950 at Silverstone in the UK, marking the birth of the modern F1 we know today.

Over the years, F1 has continually evolved, responding to technological advances, safety concerns, and changing social attitudes. From the 1950s to the 1980s, we witnessed an era of rapid development in car design and technology. The shift from front to rear-engined cars, the adoption of aerodynamic wings, and the introduction of turbocharged engines transformed the sport drastically.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw increased attention to safety, triggered by tragic events such as the death of Ayrton Senna, one of F1’s most iconic drivers. Significant safety features were introduced, including crash energy absorption structures and improved helmet designs.

In recent years, F1 has embarked on a journey towards sustainability and increased competitiveness. The introduction of hybrid power units in 2014, and the comprehensive technical, sporting, and financial regulations changes in 2022, aimed at creating closer racing and a more level playing field, demonstrate F1’s commitment to progress and adapt to changing times.

Understanding the Basics

As a newcomer to the exhilarating world of F1, there’s plenty to grasp. The sport combines high-speed thrills, advanced technology, and strategic complexity, making it one of the most captivating spectacles on the global stage.

However, understanding the basic concepts and terminologies can greatly enhance your viewing experience. The following bullet points provide a concise overview of the key elements that define F1, offering an excellent starting point for new fans

  • Formula 1 is a high-speed motor racing sport governed by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
  • “Formula” refers to the set of rules that all participants and cars must follow.
  • A typical F1 season consists of races, each known as a Grand Prix.
  • F1 teams, including Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull, field two drivers each.
  • Races take place on a variety of circuit types worldwide, including street, hybrid, and traditional tracks.
  • A race weekend usually consists of practice sessions, a qualifying session, and the race itself. A new format called sprint races has also been introduced.
  • Scoring is based on finishing positions in races, with points awarded to the top 10 finishers.
  • The two main championships are the World Drivers’ Championship and the World Constructors’ Championship.
  • The sport has a strong focus on technology, with aspects like aerodynamics, hybrid power units, and tire compounds playing significant roles.
  • Pit strategy, including tire changes and car adjustments, can greatly affect race outcomes.
  • F1 also places a heavy emphasis on safety and has seen major advancements in this area over the years.
  • The sport has an extensive global fan base and can be followed through various media platforms.

The Formula One Grand Prix and Sprint Races

A series of races, each known as a Grand Prix, make up the F1 season, which typically spans from March to December.

Traditional Race Weekend

A standard race weekend is structured over three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It begins with two practice sessions on Friday, each lasting 60 minutes, which give teams a chance to adapt their cars to the circuit. On Saturday, a three-part qualifying session, lasting approximately one hour, takes place to establish the starting grid for the race. The main event, the Grand Prix itself, happens on Sunday, and race distances vary but are approximately 305 kilometres (around 190 miles), or a maximum of two hours.

FridayPractice 160 minutes
FridayPractice 260 minutes
SaturdayQualifyingApprox. 60 minutes
SundayRace (Grand Prix)Approx. 2 hours
– A table showing the structure and timings of a traditional race weekend.

Sprint Race Weekends

The format changes during a sprint race weekend. It starts with a single practice session on Friday, followed by a standard three-part qualifying session which sets the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Saturday then features another qualifying session, known as the Sprint Shootouts, that determines the starting grid for the Sprint Race, which occurs later on the Saturday.

These Sprint Races are standalone events, with their own set of points separate from the Grand Prix.

FridayPractice Session60 minutes
FridayGrand Prix QualifyingApprox. 60 minutes
SaturdaySprint ShootoutsApprox. 60 minutes
SaturdaySprint RaceApprox. 30 minutes
SundayGrand PrixApprox. 2 hours
– A table showing the structure and timings of a sprint race weekend.

The Scoring System

A unique point system is used to determine the World Drivers’ and World Constructors’ championships in F1. Points are given based on finishing positions in the race, with the winner receiving 25 points, and decreasing points are awarded down to the tenth-place finisher. These points are gathered over the season.

Traditional Grand Prix

– A table showing how many points drivers receive depending on where they finish in the Grand Prix

The driver with the fastest lap of the race will be rewarded an extra point, as long as they finish in the top 10.

Sprint Race

The points system of a sprint race is slightly different. Fewer points are rewarded due to it being a shorter, and less important race.


Key Regulations and Rules

F1 operates under an intricate set of technical and sporting regulations, managed by the International Automobile Federation (FIA). These rules encompass everything from car design (including aerodynamics, power units) to race regulations (such as pit stop rules, track limits). Stewards assigned by the FIA ensure compliance with these rules during the races.

The rules you need to know

  • Race Distance: A race must last for a minimum of 305 kilometres (189.5 miles), or a maximum of two hours, excluding any time spent behind a safety car.
  • Tyres: Pirelli, the official tire supplier, provides different types of tires for varying weather and track conditions. Teams must use at least two different types of dry-weather tyres in a race, unless it’s declared a wet race.
  • Pit Stops: Teams must conduct at least one pit stop during races for tyre changes. They can also make repairs to the car here. These stops must be executed safely without releasing the car in the path of another vehicle.
  • Qualifying: The grid for the race is determined by a three-part knockout qualifying session. The fastest driver in the final session (Q3) is awarded pole position.
  • Driver Conduct: Drivers must adhere to standards of professional conduct. They cannot, for instance, drive dangerously or impede other drivers.
  • DRS (Drag Reduction System): To aid overtaking, drivers can use DRS in certain zones if they are within one second of the car ahead at designated detection points.
  • Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car (VSC): The safety car is deployed after incidents that require cars to be slowed for safety reasons. During VSC periods, drivers must reduce their speed and overtaking is not permitted.
  • Blue Flags: A driver about to be lapped who receives a blue flag must allow the faster car past at the first available opportunity.
  • Stewards’ Decisions: Stewards can impose penalties for breaches of regulations, ranging from time penalties to disqualification from the results.

Behind the Scenes: The F1 Pit Crew and Strategy

The pit crew is an integral component in the grand ballet of Formula 1 racing. Composed of over 20 individuals, the pit crew executes choreographed, lightning-quick services during pit stops to ensure the driver spends the least amount of time off the track. These tasks include changing tyres, making adjustments to the front wing to alter the car’s aerodynamic characteristics, and, on rare occasions, replacing damaged parts.

Every member of the pit crew plays a unique role, from the jack men who lift the car off the ground, to the wheel-gun operators responsible for removing and attaching the wheels, to the lollipop person who signals the driver when it’s safe to leave the pits. Their harmonised efforts can see a pit stop completed in just over two seconds, a testament to their extreme precision and coordination.

Strategising these pit stops is a complex science. Teams analyse vast amounts of data and consider numerous variables to determine the optimal pit strategy, which can often be the difference between winning and losing. The decision of when to pit and how many times during a race hinges on several key factors including the gap between the driver and those driving around him, the time it takes to pit, and the weather conditions.

Adding to this, the strategist of the team is incredibly important.

The strategist analyses massive data sets, and considers a plethora of variables like tyre wear, fuel load, weather, and rival teams’ tactics to formulate the optimal race plan. This includes decisions about pit stop timing, tyre choice, and reacting to unforeseen events like safety cars or changing weather. A well-executed strategy can significantly improve a driver’s position, potentially transforming a middling race into a podium finish. Hence, the strategist plays a crucial role in balancing risk and reward, making split-second decisions that can make or break a race.

Becoming a Fan: Following F1

As a new F1 fan, you have several options for watching races on TV depending on your location. In the US, ESPN holds the broadcast rights, while Sky Sports F1 is the main broadcaster in the UK. In Canada, you can tune into TSN, and in Australia, Fox Sports and Network Ten are the go-to channels.

Always check local listings as contracts may change. Additionally, Formula 1’s official streaming service, F1 TV, offers live races, replays, and extra content for a subscription fee, accessible through various devices including smart TVs. Check its availability in your region.

UKSky Sports F1
AustraliaFox Sports, Network Ten
– A table showing where to watch the F1 depending on your location


The world of F1 racing offers a blend of excitement, speed, and a unique look into some of the most advanced automotive technology globally. As a new fan, the deeper you delve into the sport, the more enticing it becomes.

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