June 23, 2024

What is Formula 1, and why you should care

Formula 1 (F1) has started their pre-season testing this month and their first qualifying session of the season starts in Bahrain on March 18

F1 is the biggest motorsport series in the world. The final race of the 2021 season pulled just around 109 million people. The series is held with over 20 races that run over the course of most of the year. Multiple teams race in Formula 1 cars, which can hit speeds of up to 231 mph.

F1 is a world-wide series; in the span of a week, they can go from France to Austria to Great Britain to the U.S. 

F1 has been around for a long time. It was founded in 1950, and the cars have experienced a series of design changes and regulations since. Because of these consistent changes, teams need a lot of money from sponsors to fund the development of their cars. For Mercedes to run their two drivers in 2020, and for one of them to win the championship, it cost them £333.2 million, or $459 million

Usually, the amount of funding is decided by the amount of points an individual driver and a team collect during the season. Those points are awarded based on what position they finish in at the end of a race. 

As a result, many teams race in their own class of sorts. Usually, there are a few teams that are aiming for a championship, then the rest of the teams are racing against their rival teams and trying to build up points to beat their rivals at the end of the season.


The iconic and beautiful Red Bull Formula 1 car. Image courtesy of Formula 1

The teams competing change fairly regularly, but there are always 10 teams during the season, each hosting two drivers. 

Some, like Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alfonso and the recently retired Kimi Räikkönen (all of which are around the age of 40), have been competing for a number of years, while others like Mick Schumacher, George Russel and Lando Norris, are as young as their early 20s. 

This age of F1 is particularly interesting because of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Typically, there are a select few drivers who are at the top at the beginning of the season, and someone runs away with the point lead around half way through the season. 

In the 2021 season, at the final race, Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world champion, and Max Verstappen were tied in points. Throughout the season, they traded race after race in points and this season is looking to be very similar. 

There are several strategies a team can use to try to get ahead, like factoring in tire degradation, using teammates to slow down other drivers, as well as planning for crashes so they can get in a free pit stop. 

Even if you aren’t rooting for the teams at the top, it doesn’t mean you can’t see your favorite driver win a race or get a podium. Esteban Ocon got his first win in Hungary having only started F1 a few years ago.

There have been a few complaints by the drivers about the 2021 car design, due to how heat comes off the car. This can cause the aerodynamics of one car to destroy the car behind it, inherently forcing the car behind to not want to race close to the car ahead. 

With the new 2022 car design, there have been several changes to try to encourage close driving, from new tire sizes to a complete reconstruction of how air comes off the cars. 

With Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen expecting to race just as well as they did last year, and with new designs for the car supposedly incentivizing close wheel-to-wheel driving, the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship is going to be an exciting spectacle to watch from beginning to end.


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