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For those of you who don’t know me, I am an avid Formula One Racing follower. I am engrossed in all the races and qualifying sessions. The first race of the 21-race season (which ties for the longest of all time) is on Sunday, and someone suggested I write a post on it. I thought, why not?
For those of you closing this tab now, you don’t need to know a lot about F1 to read this article! It will explain everything including Background, Drivers, Teams, Circuits, Weekend Format, Tires and Engines, Talking Points, Favorites and Who to Watch, and how to watch.
What Is F1?
Formula One Racing is a form of motor racing that is run by the FIA and is owned by Liberty Media. It has been contesting full seasons of races since 1950. It is the highest class of single-seated motor racing. This year, 20 drivers from 10 teams will race on 21 circuits all around the world to try to clinch the World Drivers Championship (individual drivers) and the World Constructors Championship (teams).
There are 20 drivers contesting in this year’s championship (two from each team). The defending drivers champion is Lewis Hamilton from Great Britain. Some other famous drivers on the grid include Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso.
There are 10 teams in this year’s Formula One championship. The defending champions are Mercedes, the same team that Hamilton races. They have won every drivers and constructors championship since 2014. Can that trend be broken this year?
There are 21 racing circuits this year, which is tied with 2016 for the most number of circuits in raced on in a year. Unlike other racing events such as Nascar, Formula One races take place all around the world from Japan to Germany to Azerbaijan! Also unlike other racing events such as Nascar, the races are not contested on oval circuits, but rather have a bunch of turns that have the same starting and ending point. Most circuits are between two and four miles long. According to formula1.com, this year’s season starts on March 25 in Melbourne, Australia and ends on November 25 in Abu Dhabi in the UAE.
From a driver’s point of view, the F1 weekend of each race goes from Wednesday to Sunday. From a fan’s perspective, it normally goes from Thursday or Friday to Sunday. Let me explain.
F1 drivers usually get to each circuit on Wednesday to start setting up, unpacking cars, moving into accommodations, etc.
On Thursday there is the pre race press conferences which some F1 fans watch, but not all. The drivers talk about their initial goals/expectations, plans, etc. at this time.
Friday is when the first two of three practice sessions take place. Drivers just try to get used to the track and different setups at this time, and it is broadcast on television (although many fans choose not to see it).
The third practice session and qualifying take place on Saturday. Just like in other racing shows, qualifying is when the drivers set the fastest laps that they can. This determines which place they start the race on Sunday.
Finally, Sunday is race day. Usually the races start around 1 or 2 PM in the local time of the race city and go on for about an hour and a half. Afterwards, there is normally a one or two week break before the next race (with the exception of the summer break).
In extremely rare circumstances (such as the 2015 United States Grand Prix), weather or other major circumstances can postpone a session to the next day.
Tires and Engines
This year, there are nine tyre types, all supplied by Pirelli: Hypersofts, Ultrasofts, Supersofts, Softs, Mediums, Hards, Superhards, Intermediates, and Wets. The first seven on the list are dry-weather tires, while the Intermediates and Wets are wet-weather tires. For each race, Pirelli brings three compounds of tires as well as the two wet weather tires. In advance of each race, the teams must choose 13 sets of dry-weather tires for their drivers to use over the course of the weekend, and at they must select at least one set of each tyre. During the race, they must use two of the three tires, one of which is mandatory.
All of the cars run on V6 engines. You might not think that the maker of the engine has a huge impact on the races, but believe me, it can change championships. Some of the more powerful and reliable engines on the grid last year included Mercedes and Ferrari, while some of the weaker engines included Renault and Honda.
The biggest talking point over the winter break was probably the unpopular addition of the Halo. The Halo is a contraption that goes on the front of the cockpit and is used to protect debris from hitting drivers or drivers from taking damage when they run into barriers too quickly. It is unpopular because of the way it looks and because many people think that it does not really protect the driver. The FIA still added the device.
Favorites + Who to Watch
The main favorites this year are Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferraris’ Sebastian Vettel. The main favorite teams are Mercedes and Ferrari, although Red Bull is also looking pretty popular.
There are a few drivers and teams worth watching. As always, it is interesting to watch the rookies and see how they fare. The most interesting teams to watch this year will probably be Red Bull, Haas, McLaren and Toro Rosso. Red Bull and Haas both showed unusually fast speeds in testing. Toro Rosso just switched to a Honda engine this year, which was arguably the most unreliable engine last year, but still showed decent times in testing. McLaren switched from a Honda to a Renault engine this year, but were having too many problems during testing to properly see how they were doing. Haas showed amazing pace in testing, so let us see how that will turn out in the actual season!
How to Watch
There are too many countries in the world to explain the channels for all of them, so in this blog, I will just focus on how to watch in the US (where I live) and the UK (the most popular country for F1).
US: According to espn.com, each race will either be broadcast onESPN, ESPN2, or ABC. The first two practice sessions will normally be broadcast on ESPN3, with the last one normally being broadcast on ESPN News. The qualifying sessions could be broadcast on any of these channels.
UK: According to techadvisor.com, most races will be shown on Sky Sports and sometimes on Channel 4 as well.
I am super excited about this year’s Formula One season. Has McLaren made another wrong decision? Will Haas surprise in speed? Will Mercedes get dethroned from their dominance? There are so many questions ahead of this season.
I definitely hope that everyone, fan or non fan, enjoyed and/or learned something from this unusual article on the blog. As always, if you have any questions or comments, definitely comment in the comment section down below. Apart from that, I’ll see you all very soon for an aviation-related blog post very soon!
[Featured image from Wikimedia Commons]