Formula 1 Beginner's Guide

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

I recently posted an article about Formula 1, but as I was writing it, I thought some people wouldn't know what Formula 1 is. So today I will be giving you guys some background information so you guys can understand the Formula 1 articles I write!

Weekend Structure

If your a new F1 fan, then you shouldn't worry about Thursday and Friday. Thursday is usually a media day, where press conferences are held and cars are prepared. Friday is a practice day. Practice is split into 3 sessions, FP1, FP2, and FP3. FP1 and FP2 are each 1.5 hours and on Friday. FP1 is when teams allow reserve, test and academy drivers (more on that later) to test their car. FP2 is a normal test where teams go for the fastest time. On Saturday, FP3 is held, FP3 is a 1 hour long practice session. After FP3, there is qualifying to determine who starts where on the grid. Qualifying is split in 3 sessions, Q1, Q2, and Q3. Q1 is 18 minutes long. After Q1, the 5 slowest cars will be eliminated from qualifying and will start the race from their quali position. Q2 is 15 minutes long and like Q1, eliminates 5 cars. Q3 is a shootout for the fastest lap time. Whoever sets the fastest lap time in 10 minutes will start the race from 1st, or pole position. the rest of the cars will start from their qualifying position. Remember, it is possible for 11th to have a faster time than 10th, but 10th had a faster Q2 time, and 11th didn't make it to Q3. The top 10 must start on the tyre they set their fastest Q2 time on, and the rest of the drivers have free tyre choice. (more on that later as well).

Race Day Procedure

Race Day isn't all that complex. 30 minutes before the race, the cars will leave the garage to line up on the grid. If a car doesn't leave the pit lane or garage by 15 minutes before the session, the car will be required to start from the pit lane. In this time, the host country's national anthem will be sung and any other recognitions or events will happen. All races except for the ones declared too wet, will start with a formation lap. On this lap, drivers are not allowed to overtake. The purpose of this lap is for the drivers to get a feel of the track and for the tyres to get up to temperature. Once the drivers are back on the grid, there is an array of 5 red lights. Once all 5 are on, they will go off within 3 seconds. Once the lights are out, it's race time. Now, all starts are 90% manual. On wet weather race days, they might consider the conditions too wet to start normally, which then will lead to a safety car start. In these circumstances, there will be no formation lap. After, they have the choice to cancel the race due to undriveable conditions, have a rolling start, or have a standing grid start. When there is a safety car start, the race distance will be shortened accordingly. (so a 55 lap race with 2 laps under the safety car would be shortened to 53 laps). After the race, there is a cool down lap. The top 3 drivers, or the podium, will make their way to the cool down room and participate in the podium ceremony. The Top 10 finishers all receive points, with an extra point awarded to the driver with the fastest race lap. A driver must finish in the top 10 to claim a fastest lap point. Here is the complete points system.

The driver with the most points at the end of a season wins the drivers championship, with the team that accumulated the most points winning the constructors championship.

Tyres and Pit Stops

There are 5 different slick tyres in Formula 1. 3 are selected each race weekend and are given the soft, medium, and hard tags. Soft tyres are marked red, medium tyres are marked yellow, and hard tyres are marked white.

The drivers must use at least 2 different tyre compounds during a race. For instance, they can start on softs and then change to hards, but they cannot start and mediums and not pit stop or change to another pair of mediums and finish the race. The drivers starting in the top 10 must start on the tyre they set their fastest Q2 time on. So, if you set a 1:13:402 lap time on mediums and a 1:13:866 lap time on hards, you must start on the medium tyres. Soft tyres provide the most grip, and therefore is the fastest tyre, and hard tyres provide the least grip, and therefore is the slowest tyre.

If there is rain anytime in the qualifying sessions or the start of the race, all tyre rules can be ignored. There are 2 types of wet tyres, Intermediate and Wet. Intermediates are for lighter rain or a wet track surface, while Wets are for heavy rain or very wet track surface. Inters are marked with green and wets are marked with blue.

Pit stops are crucial parts of F1 races. If you have a really good pit stop, you might get out of the pits in front of the car you trailed entering the pits. If you have a bad pit stop, then you might lose a few places once you leave the pits. The current fastest pit stop world record belongs to Red Bull. Below are examples of good and bad stops.



Pit stops can also be used to repair damage on the car. Also, the stewards can close the pit lane due to unsafe circumstances near or in the pitlane, although this rarely happens.

Flags and Penalties

Below is a list of flags and penalties used in F1.

Yellow- Hazard on track, must slow down near incident

Chequered- The race is over, can also mean that the FP/Q session is over and drivers can finish the flying lap they are on

Green- Track is safe, drivers can resume racing

Red- Session/Race is stopped due to a dangerous hazard or heavy rain

White- There is a slower vehicle on track, drivers must watch out.

Red and Yellow- There is water, oil, or some other hazard on the track surface

Black- The driver is disqualified due to major rule breaking incidents

Black and White- Unsportsmanlike conduct warning

Black with Orange Disc- The car has a mechanical issue and must return to the pits

5-second penalty- Minor offense, penalty can be served by stopping for 5 seconds in the their pit box, or can have 5 seconds added to race time.

10-second penalty- Minor penalty, can be served the same way as 5-second

Drive-through- Driver must drive through the pit lane obeying speed limits within 3 laps after the penalty was accessed, if it's the final 3 laps, then the driver doesn't need to pit, he can add 20 seconds to his race time

Stop/Go- Driver must stop in his pit box for 10 second within 3 laps after the penalty was accessed, if it's the final 3 laps, then the driver doesn't need to pit, he can add 30 seconds to his race time

DSQ- Driver is disqualified from the race due to major rule breaking incidents

If a driver gets 12 penalty points in a 1 year span, they will be suspended for 1 round of the championship.


Drag Reduction System (DRS) is something to make F1 cars go faster. The back wing opens up when deployed. The driver may use DRS when within 1 second of the driver in front of him at a DRS Detection Zone. If your a new F1 fan, you won't really need to know this too much.

Season Structure

A normal F1 calendar consists of 22 races, all on contract. In 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the calendar was shortened to 17 races and additional one-off events were added to the calendar to fulfill and F1 goal of 15 races. There is a winter testing session usually in Barcelona every year for teams to test drivers and cars. Before 2020, there was a summer break test in August, when there is no races. In 2020, they removed that testing session. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, there was no events scheduled in August. 2 new tracks in Vietnam and the Netherlands were set to join the calendar in 2020, but were canceled due to COVID-19.

New races are added to Formula 1 as they see fit. The current race that is most likely to join the calendar is the Miami Grand Prix, held at a street circuit around Hard Rock Stadium.

Drivers and Constructors

Each team consists of 2 race drivers. Currently, there are 10 teams and 20 drivers. For a new team to join the grid, they must pay a $200 Million entry fee. Team Panthera Asia is looking to join the grid in 2022. Here are the current 2020 drivers:

Lewis Hamilton*+-

Valtteri Bottas*-

Max Verstappen*-

Alexander Albon-

Charles Leclerc*

Sebastian Vettel*+-

Lance Stroll-

Sergio Perez-

Carlos Sainz-

Lando Norris-

Daniel Ricciardo*-

Esteban Ocon

Pierre Gasly*-

Daniil Kvyat-

Kimi Raikkonen*+-

Antonio Giovinazzi

Kevin Magnussen-

Romain Grosjean-

George Russell

Nicholas Latifi

*race winner

+world champion

-podium finisher

Teams can change their lineup any time in the season. They can also allow test drivers to drive the car in a FP1 session. Reserve drivers can be used when a main driver is not available to race. However, the driver who participates in qualifying must participate in the rest of the events that weekend. If the driver is unable to do so, he cannot be replaced and the team will have to operate with 1 driver. Examples of reserve drivers being used this season:

Williams Test Driver Jack Aitken replaced Nicholas Latifi in FP1 of the Styrian Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo Test Driver Robert Kubica replaced Kimi Raikkonen in FP1 of the Styrian GP, and replaced Antonio Giovinazzi in FP1 of the Hungarian Gp

Williams Test Driver Roy Nissany replaced George Russell in FP1 at the Italian and Tuscan GPs

F1 Free Agent Nico Hulkenberg replaced Sergio Perez at the British and 70th Anniversary GPs after Perez tested positive for COVID-19.

Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott, and Robert Schwartzman are potentially set for FP1 outings with Haas at Abu Dhabi

Yuki Tsunoda is likely set for a FP1 outing with AlphaTauri at Abu Dhabi

Here are the 2020 Constructors:


Red Bull


Racing Point





Alfa Romeo


The technical regulations can be complex so I won't really get into them too much.

Renault is set to rebrand to Alpine in 2021, and Racing Point is set to rebrand to Aston Martin.

Safety Car

If there is a major hazard on track, the FIA can deploy the safety car. Under the safety car drivers cannot overtake and must decrease their speed. Often during safety car periods, teams elect to pit their drivers. Pitting under the safety car decreases the amount of time you lose when pitting. For instance, at Monza, you lose 25 seconds per stop under normal conditions. under the safety car, you lose 14 seconds. The Virtual Safety Car is the same thing as the Safety Car, except the car itself isn't present, the drivers must follow the normal safety car rules. The FIA can red flag a race if they deem the race too dangerous to continue.


Many different tracks are used throughout a season. Many people think that there is a set amount of laps that's the same for each race, but it's actually the distance that's set. Longer tracks have less race laps. The longest track is Spa (7.004 km, 44 laps), the shortest is Monaco (3.337 km, 78 laps). All tracks F1 race at must be an FIA Grade 1 track, with Monaco the only exception. The only reason Monaco is still on the calendar is because of its rich F1 history as it was included in the inaugural F1 season in 1950.

Finally, if you really want to get into F1, I suggest watching these fun videos:

There it is your F1 2020 guide. Make sure to watch F1 every weekend on wherever you get your sports!

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