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The Race

As noted in the previous section, Formula 1 now runs two formats for race weekends. The standard is one feature race on Sunday afternoon, and for six weekends, we will see an additional Sprint Race on Saturday afternoon. Qualifying sets the Sprint Race starting grid, and the result of this race sets the grid for Sunday’s race.

Circuits 

The 2023 schedule was announced with 24 races at 24 different circuits. Subsequently, the Chinese leg has been cancelled due to ongoing covid concerns, with Formula 1 saying it will be replaced with a yet-to-be-announced alternative.

Formula 1 has always been an international sport, but recent popularity has seen its fan base grow significantly in the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. These audiences have fueled the demand for more events, with the US holding three in 2023 – COTA, Miami and Las Vagas. In recent years, covid has presented major challenges with the schedule but led to the return of Turkey and Imola

Circuits vary considerably from dedicated race tracks to temporary street circuits. The teams need to understand how these variances affect the car and find the optimum set-up to counter the conditions. Tracks will be referred to by the level of downforce, and this will dictate the car’s aerodynamic set-up.

A high downforce track is one with more emphasis on corners so the set-up of the car will sacrifice straight-line speed. Straights, corners, climate, altitude, track surface and whether the race is day or night all play a part in how the cars work. All this information, along with the data collected through Free Practice and Qualifying will inform the overall race strategy. 

Find out about specific tracks under our tracks tab – here 

(tracks listed are based on 2022 and will be updated as 2023 progresses)

Strategy

Strategy plays a role throughout the weekend; car set up, which tyres to use for practice, how to approach Qualifying and when to introduce new parts. Concerning the race, the strategy will focus on pit stops and tyre options. The strategists will run thousands of scenarios through their simulators and consider variables like weather or the likelihood of a safety car and a cheap pit-stop

Pit stop strategy is about getting to the finish line in the shortest time possible. The regulations require a minimum of one pit stop, and teams must run at least two different tyre compounds. So, a “one-stop strategy” is the minimum. 

Pirelli, F1’s tyre supplier, play a significant part in influencing pitstop strategy by bringing tyre compounds to the track that will be on the limit. This forces teams to decide whether they can push the car on old tyres with reduced grip or whether an additional pit stop and fresh tyres will give them an advantage. New softs could be a second per lap quicker than another team on old mediums. 

Where a team needs to take engine parts over and above their allocation, they will receive a grid penalty. There will be occasions where they may take the parts and the penalty early where they have had a bad qualifying or they know that they are weak for a particular track, and the penalty will have a lesser effect on the championship. 

Tyre allocations

Teams are provided with an allocation of 13 sets of dry weather tyres for the weekend – two hard, three medium and eight soft. They also receive three sets of intermediate tyres and four sets of wets.

If FP1 and FP2 are wet and FP3 looks like it will be wet, then the teams may return a set and take an extra set of intermediate tyres.

Pre-race

On race day, the drivers and teams will have media duties, hosting duties and the driver’s parade, but they will be clear of this and left to focus on the race and prepare well before getting into the car. Pre race routines will include mental preparation, physical warm up, stretching and reflex exercises. 

The hour before the race starts is a busy and precisely organised period. The following is a breakdown of how the hour is structured.

60 Minutes Out…

The pit lane opens for teams to start their pre-race preparation. They begin the process of shifting all the equipment needed to complete the car set-up and start the race, including toolboxes, generators, tyres and computer stations.

The team in the garage spend this time completing their set-up and running through their pre-race checks, including radio checks and confirming that the telemetry is working.

40 Minutes Out…

The light at the end of the pitlane goes green, indicating that the track is open. Cars leave their garage on a used set of tyres and carry out installation laps on their way to the grid.

Depending on the track, they may have the opportunity to pass through the pits to do more than one lap to check the car and gather data from last-minute setup changes. There may be an opportunity for a practice start at the pit lane exit.

Cars pull up to the back of the grid and are lifted onto trolleys for the pit crew to roll them through the throng of teams, media and others.

30 Minutes Out…

The pit lane closes, and anyone not on track at that time must start from the pit lane.

On the grid, the driver exits the car to run through their prestart ritual. This might include a bathroom stop, a last-minute briefing with the engineer, focus and reflex work as well as hydrating and keeping cool.

The car is in parc ferme, so there is very little that can be done on the car. Tyre pressures can be adjusted, and electronic settings like the engine map can be altered. The engineers will run through final checklists, carry out fire-ups to run the fluids and place custom fans around the car to keep specific components cool.

17 Minutes Out…

Around the 17-minute mark, the drivers will assemble at the front of the grid for the national anthem of the host country.

10 Minutes Out…

The driver will don his helmet and get into the car to be securely strapped in, and a final test fire-up may be carried out.

5 Minutes Out…

Race tyres, still in the tyre blankets, are fitted, and the team begin to disperse as only eight are allowed to stay on the grid from this point. They take as much equipment as possible with them.

Start procedures

1 Minute Out…

With a minute to go, the engine is fired-up. The blankets left on the car until the last possible instant are now removed.

30 Seconds To Go…

The crew move off the grid, and with 15 seconds to go, they have to have their feet behind the white lines marking the edge of the track.

Formation Lap

The grid sets off on a single lap to prepare the car while the crews remove everything trackside. The drivers spend the lap warming the brakes and tyres, cooling the engine, learning various gears, and preparing the clutch.

The last part of the formation lap, after the last corner, is critical and when drivers test the bite-point with their clutch control and do a sequence of burnouts to get heat into the rear tyres.

The cars line up in their grid positions, and once the last car is in, a marshal signals to the starter by crossing the rear of the grid with a green flag.

Lights Out…

The start sequence is initiated, the drivers build the car’s revs and set the clutch to the bite point.

Five lights over the start line come on progressively, followed by a short hold of 1 to 5 seconds at the starter’s discretion, to prevent the drivers from anticipating the start.

Then “It’s lights out, and away we go…” 

Sunday Race

The feature race is 305 km, give or take, and runs for approximately 90 minutes. The number of laps will depend on the length of the circuit. Monaco is the exception where the tight winding circuit is slower than the rest, so the race length is set at 260km, and the time remains the same.

The FIA regulations stipulate that the race must end within two hours of starting or three hours from the scheduled start time. 

The race starts when the lights go out, and the action begins. The run down to the first corner is critical, with the drivers jockeying for position and seeking the best angle to defend their position and optimise the exit. For those in the midfield and back, this is a perilous phase, as the chance of a shunt is high. 

The race stewards allow a high tolerance for the start of the race and the first lap, with clashes often being noted as a racing incident. The safety car follows the field for the first lap and returns to the pits, and the DRS is activated after two laps have been completed. 

As the field settles down, drivers will focus on their strategy, managing their tyres and looking for opportunities to move up the standings. 

Teams will monitor the driver’s progress and their rivals, tyre wear and track conditions to determine the best strategy. They may switch to Plan B or Plan C, which refers to shortening or extending the first stint. Competing cars follow their competitor or do the opposite, depending on the team’s strategy. The call to the pits in ‘box’ or “box, box, box”. 

Pit stops take, on average, 25 seconds, meaning when a driver pits, they will drop down the standings, which can artificially show a car as being in the lead. The trick is to watch the number of pit stops and adjust for the driver’s relative position. This may differ towards the end of the race with lead drivers on different strategies. And remember, if the race is stopped for any reason, the driver at the front at that time is the winner, regardless of pitstops served. 

Teams will also look at the likelihood of a safety car providing an opportunity for a cheap pitstop, where the total time lost during a pitstop is less than under normal circumstances. 

Each track will have a time loss for a visit to the pits. When the car enters the pit lane, its speed is limited to 80kph, down from 300 plus. With the 2 – 3 seconds it takes to change the tyres, the total pit stop will cost around 22 seconds. This differs from track to track due to the length of the pit lane. 

During the latter stages of the race, the lead cars will close in and pass the slower cars at the back of the field. These cars are referred to as back markers, and they must let the faster cars through as they are not racing for position.  

Occasionally, a team will order a driver to let their driver through, where it looks like the chasing driver has a better chance to make gains. Where this happens but the driver does not make the anticipated gains, they may be ordered to give the position back.

Drivers must follow the directions of the stewards with immediate effect. If Double Yellow flags are being waved, drivers are required to reduce their speed to 60% and prohibited from overtaking until the obstruction is cleared. 

Racing resumes once a green flag is waived, usually at the marshal station immediately after the obstruction has been passed. 

In addition to the flags, tracks often signal with flashing LED lights.

The first driver to cross the line with the finish flag waving is the winner, and the rest of the positions line up behind. Overlapped cars finish on the same lap but are classified in their actual position, so if they cross the line immediately behind the winner but they are a lap down and at the back of the field, they finish in 20th. 

Points are allocated as follows, 1st – 25, 2nd – 18, 3rd – 15, 4th – 12, 5th – 10, 6th – 8, 7th – 6, 8th – 4, 9th – 2 and 10th – 1. A further point is awarded for the fastest lap, providing the driver is within the top ten.

A driver that fails to finish due to mechanical issues or damage is classified as DNF (Did Not Finish). 

Sprint Race

As previously noted, there will be six sprint races in 2023. Sprints are designed to create more racing action and change the grid ahead of Sunday with an extra, shortened race held on Saturday. The sprint race is 100 km, approximately 30 minutes, with no mandatory pitstop or tyre change. 

Points are awarded for the Driver’s and Constructor’s titles as follows; 1st – 8, 2nd – 7, 3rd – 6, 4th – 5, 5th – 4, 6th – 3, 7th 2, and 8th – 1. No fastest lap points are awarded.

During a sprint weekend, the driver who finishes first in qualifying will earn pole position, but the driver who finishes first in the sprint will earn the right to start the race from first, and the rest of the field will follow in their finishing order. 

Post Race

Immediately following the conclusion of the race, the cars are placed in parc fermé for scrutineering, and a fuel sample is taken for testing. The cars can not be touched by anyone, with Max Verstphen recently receiving a $50,000.00 fine for feeling Mercedes rear wing and Sebastian Vettel was disqualified, from third, as the car could not yield a minimum 1.0-litre fuel sample.

The drivers will be weighed to ensure the weight, combined with the car, is not below 798kgs. You will often see drivers, on the cooldown lap, run off the race line to pick up the marbles and add weight back to the car as a ‘factor of safety’ with the car’s weight.  

The first three drivers will be interviewed before heading to the cooldown room and the podium for prize giving. The rest of the field will head to the media pen for post-race interviews before heading back to the team’s facilities for their debrief. 

Andrew Burden

The author Kiwi F1 Fan

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