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The Guide

The Guide

00. F1Newbie the beginners guide to F1

Welcome to F1Newbie.com’s guide to Formula 1

F1Newbie.com is a website dedicated to sharing easily accessible, simple and concise information about the world of Formula 1. The site is for all fans of the sport but with a particular focus on informing those with an emerging interest – Newbies.

Having read The Four Hour Work Week, the plan was to write a book and live off the royalties. But I soon realised it was unlikely that my writing skills or my chosen subject would get me onto the best sellers’ lists and fund my retirement. Having thought about it a lot, I realised that there is a massive emerging fan base, and maybe I could provide a resource to help these Newbies navigate the highly complex sport of Formula 1. 

I decided to give it a go so next was the decision about the delivery method. And given the rapidly changing dynamic nature of F1, a website seemed like the ideal format. I imagined a place where I would organise and construct posts that delivered entertaining and informative insights. To which, I imagined, the internet would ‘blow-up’ with likes, follows, shares and comments. “Build it and they will come”. Well, six months and countless hours into the build, I can report that this is not the reality. 

The reality is that the internet is largely apathetic, people will give you a few seconds to deliver or they move on. Our stats show a global audience (that’s good right), averaging around 25 visitors and 50 views per day. A very low return on the time invested… 

As an aside, one of my very first posts was to promote Max Verstappen as the 2021 World Champion. A significant event and worthy of special mention. Within a few short hours, a notification popped up that I had a new comment. I was beside myself, my first post, and the internet is responding. All I could think was “This thing is going to be huge“… Well, this is the reality. The comment was from a very angry and bitter person who believed Lewis deserved the title and Michael Massey was a cheat. 

I genuinely wish to encourage discussion about the sport and would love nothing better than to have people commenting on the site, but this guy was too intense for the intended audience of F1Newbie.com. Since then, I have had the pleasure of moderating one further comment, which happened to be from my wife. “Build it, and they will come” continues to be my mantra.

So here we are; despite the lower-than-expected uptake and considerable time commitment, I’m 100% committed and cracking on… 

F1Newbie.com is a website constructed around a step-by-step Beginner’s Guide and an F1-based FAQ, with the sport’s most extensive Glossary* linking names, phrases and terms for immediate reference. Hover over any underlined word to preview the link or click to open in a new window. 

We employ a powerful search engine to deliver the most relevant results for your search terms. 

To be a complete ‘go-to’ reference, we maintain current data on Teams, Drivers and Tracks, and we share relevant updates such as Race Reviews and Podcasts. We are not a media outlet, and we don’t deliver day-to-day news. There are screeds of established resources for that, and where relevant, we provide links to these sites.  

We will do our best to provide updates on ticket sales and point you in the direction of cool F1 stuff like merch, wallpaper or playlists.

So whether it’s an introduction to F1, a question like “why did the car have green lights at the back”? or if you want to know what a particular term means, F1Newbie.com is your comprehensive beginner’s guide to the sport. 

The F1Newbies.com guide comprises

00. F1Newbie.com. The Beginners Guide To F1.

01. How to. An introduction into what to watch and how. 

02. F1 Overview. A high-level overview of the sport.

03. The Tournament. The Drivers and Constructors World Championships.

04. Teams, Cars and Drivers. Who competes?

05. Practice. What is happening during practice? 

06. Qualification. How does Quali work?

07. Race Day. Before, during, and after. 

08. Pit stops. Pit stops are critical.

09. Power and Aero. How can F1 cars be so fast?

10. Wheels and Tyres. Super sensitive and critical to success.

11. Rules and Regulations. The FIA and their rule book.

12. Safety. Integral to everything F1 – drivers, teams, marshals and fans. 

13. The Road to F1. Progression of young talent.

*   This status is self-proclaimed, but with over 800 terms in our Glossary, we doubt there is another that will be able to take the title. 

If you do like what you are reading, please like, share or comment. 

KiwiF1Fan 

 

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The Guide

01. F1 how to…

F1 how to…

Whether it was binging Drive to Survive through Covid lockdowns, an increase in social media presence or talk around the cooler at work, something has sparked your interest in F1. And now you find yourself daunted by a hugely complex sport, entwined in copious rules and riddled with strange jargon. 

F1Newbie.com is here to help you find your way, answer your questions and unravel the jargon. Our goal is to do this in short, simple and concise bites. 

So what are you watching? 

We’ll explain the sport in the next post, but here we’ll talk about what you’re not watching and how to best engage with the sport. 

While you see ten teams and 20 drivers take to the track, you need to understand that they are not all equal and technically, they are not all competing against each other. The field tends to default into three groups, the leaders, the midfield and the backmarkers. So, in 2022 the fight at the front was between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. The midfield was hotly contested between Alpine and McLaren and then a decent gap to the rest. 

How do you watch it? 

Pick a team and choose a driver (they don’t need to be in the same team). Work out who they are competing against and remember, a driver’s number one competition is his teammate. This is because they are in equal cars and their performance is measured against each other.

Engage with your driver, watch their interview, follow their social and listen to a podcast (Beyond the Grid) and as you ‘bond’ to your team(s) and driver(s), you will naturally become more engrossed. And you will be surprised about who will respond to your comments and becomes your new F1 buddy. 

I support McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo (2022) but cheer for Max at the front of the field. Nearer the back of the field, I always favour the Rookie

Pre-race 

Media commentary and interviews will provide a great insight into how the weekend is shaping up, what is expected and what variables might impact the weekend. 

Free Practice

Free Practice will give you a good idea of where the car sits going into Qualifying and how the teammates are placed. The results here are only indicative as the times recorded are affected by the team’s run plan – fuel loads, aero adjustments, long run and short run. 

Qualifying 

Qualifying is where you will see the cars at their absolute fastest, over 300kph. The pace exhibited here can only be sustained for one or two laps at a time. Consider the difference between a 100m sprinter and a 10,000m runners – athletes can’t run the 10,000 at the same speed they can over 100m. 

Qualifying is in three parts so as Q1 draws to an end you are willing your driver to be 15th or lower to make it into Q2, then 10th or lower to get into Q1 and then how high up the order they finish becomes their starting position for the race. How did your driver compare to his teammate? 

Watch the sector times where purple shows the best for the session; green indicates a personal best and yellow shows the sector has been completed but with no improvement. If you are supporting a midfield driver and their sectors are all green, they are improving on their last performance and should improve their position, although this can be short-lived. 

Race

An f1 race is approximately 305 km’s or two hours, whichever comes first. The cars will be in the grid for half an hour prior to the start, and at the scheduled start time they leave the grid, in order, to carry out a formation lap. This is the final chance to check the car and warm up the tyres. 

Once all the cars are in their grid box, the start procedure begins with a series of five red lights coming on, holding and then going out. The race is underway, and the next key part is the launch, followed by an acceleration to maximum speed before breaking heavily into the first corner

This is one of the highest risk areas of the race as all 20 cars arrive at the corner at virtually the same time and avoiding a collision while maintaining position, is crucial. The remainder of the first lap is also high risk, and often crashes are noted as “first lap incidents”. 

Hopefully, your driver has managed to avoid the chaos and early retirement. Now comes consistency, management and strategy. Teams will have decided before the race what their pit stop strategy will be, but there is always Plan B, C or even D…

Remember, the car’s position is not always its true position as pitstop timing will cause variances.

Points are awarded to the top ten finishers, and a single point is awarded for the fastest lap, provided the driver is in the top ten. 

Post-race 

Immediately following the race the top three finishers are interviewed to get their reaction to the race, and the rest of the drivers are interviewed in the pen. They are required to attend, so even if they had a bad day and don’t want to, they must complete their media duties.

Online…

There are many resources online to get your F1 fix; dive deep into the detail or follow your favourite driver. 

Where to watch and follow? 

  1. F1TV offers insights, race coverage and interactive content. You can select to follow your driver through his onboard camera – check it out here
  2. App – the F1 App is a great place to track progress during the session. See what tyres your driver has on, check lap times and listen to radio messages. Access the app here
  3. Broadcasters – This international sport is broadcast to every corner of the globe. Find your provider here
  4. Live – You can’t beat being trackside. Read our post on buying tickets here
  5. Podcasts – As with everything these days there are very informative podcasts. We have some favourites that you can find here
  6. Websites and Social Media – there are countless. Formula1.com is the starting place; it is comprehensive and always current. The teams and drivers have their own sites and social accounts. 
  7. Films and Documentaries – shows like Netflix Drive to Survive, Schumacker and Senna.
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The Guide

10 Wheels and Tyres

In 2022 the FIA applied a major overhaul to the regulations that define F1, and the cars adopted 18-inch wheels with a lower profile Pirelli tyre. The 305mm front and 405 wide rear tyres are matched to the track surface, and circuit type through a range of compounds and are run at pressures prescribed by Pirelli. 

Consider this, F1 involves a driver in a $3.0m car (chassis, aero, technology and safety system) powered by a $10.0m power unit, producing 1000 hp and setting speeds over 330 kph, while cornering at 310 kph and up to 5.0 g’s. 100% dependent on a small contact patch from four $700.00 tyres (a set costs $2,700.00).

Assembly

The wheel assembly is a critical part of the car set-up, holding in the track and enabling it to corner at astonishing speeds. The wheels must withstand immense forces of acceleration, braking and cornering. Fixed to the car with wishbone suspension they are adjusted through push-rod or pull-rod systems and dampers. Ride height, rake, toe, camber and castor can all be adjusted to fine-tune the car and gain those critical fractions of a second.

Safety

Safety is as important here as any other aspect of the sport. A wheel ripped from the car in a 300 kph impact is a potentially devastating missile threatening the lives of other drivers, marshals and spectators. To combat this, the cars have two tethers within the wishbones, significantly reducing the chances of a wheel flying off. 

Brakes

F1 cars use carbon fibre brakes on all four wheels that don’t begin to work effectively until they reach 400 degrees C and are optimal around 1000 degrees C. To keep weight at a minimum, there is no mechanical cooling so F1 cars must move forward to push air through the brake ducts. When stopped, you will see cooling fans placed on each hub and in very hot climates, dry ice is added.
The brakes on an F1 machine will slow the car rapidly from 315 kph to 80 kph with the braking point less than 50 meters from where the driver initiates the corner. Experienced drivers from F2 or Indycar are often surprised by how late they can brake at such high speeds. But, get this wrong, and the car could understeer, lock up or crash, costing valuable time.

Contact Patch

Contact patch size is incredibly important in F1. The size of a contact patch is the area of the tire physically contacting the track. The larger the contact patch, the more grip the car will have, which is affected by the tyre pressure. As tread decreases the size of contact patches, a slick tyre is the most effective. 
 
Slicks are completely ineffective when there is water present, so tread is used in the form of Intermediates (i and Full Wets. These tyres will move 30 and 60 litres of water per second respectively so a set of four will shift a whopping 120 and 240 litres respectively. The team’s race engineer needs to judge when to make the change from one tread style to another very carefully as an extra pitstop is costly.

Compounds

The compound is a reference to the rubber that the tyre’s wearing surface is constructed from. Pirelli has developed a suite of compounds from C1 (hardest) to C5 (softest), from which they select three for each race weekend. Referred to as Hard, Medium and Soft, the tyres have different performance characteristics. The soft will be the fastest, but it will not last as long, whereas, the hard will have longevity but a second a lap slower. 
The selection is based on factors such as track surface, track temperature, speeds, corners and number of pitstops targeted
The compounds are designed to degrade at different rates, and the shredded rubber can be seen accumulating off the racing line.

Tyre Allocation

Teams are provided with an allocation of 13 sets of dry weather tyres for the weekend – two set of hard tyres, three sets of medium tyres and eight sets of soft tyres. 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 of slicks and take an extra set of interest.

Pitstop

F1 regulations state that each car must use two different tyre compounds during a race, enforcing a mandatory pitstop. Teams will assess the tyre combinations to calculate the optimum combination to get to the finish line in the shortest time.
The new tyres are preheated to help ‘switch them on’ as quickly as possible. This means getting them up to their optimum temperature, and as sticky as possible, to maximise grip.

In a pitstop, all four tyres are replaced in a little over 2 seconds but the total time lost is around 20 seconds due to the reduced speed in the pit lane (generally 80kph).

In the Window

Looking after the tyres is a critical part of a driver’s racecraft. If the tyre is not hot enough, there is a lack of grip, and if they are overhead, they will deteriorate too quickly.
The cars have sensors that measure the tyre’s temperature in several locations. Under current regulations, tyres are preheated using tyre warmers, and then the driver will drive in a certain manner to induce additional heat. It is easier to heat the rear wheels, using power from the PU, than it is to heat the fronts, as they can’t be spun up. 
When the tyres are at their best, they are considered to be “in the window”. 

Tyre Management

Each tyre compound will have a predetermined level of performance unique to the track surface and temperature and teams will match this to a “pit stop strategy”. Pundits will talk about the “pit window”, which is the optimum lap range before a pit stop is required and new tyres are fitted.
A driver will greatly improve his strategic options if he can manage his tyres and extend their effective life. Running longer on one set may be the difference between a one-stop, two-stop strategy or even three-stop strategy, with each pit stop costing roughly 20 seconds.
As the tyre age builds, you will hear drivers tell their engineers that the grip is dropping off and the car is starting to slide. Pundits will note the tyre is blistering or graining, contributing to its decline in performance.
The call to come in for fresh tyres is Box or Box, Box.
Pit stop strategy is complex and needs to be flexible to changing conditions throughout the race. Faster tyres over shorter distances or an undercut may be the ‘secret sauce’ to get the car to the finish line first…

Logistics

Pirelli is the exclusive supplier to F1. 20 teams, each with 21 sets per weekend and 23 races equates to 9,660 sets or 38,640 tyres for the races plus spares. They also need to supply tyres for testing and media days
As part of Pirelli’s ‘green technology’ programme for the betterment of the environment, the tyres are ‘ecologically disposed’, which means they are recycled. The tyres are crushed to fit more of them in fewer containers and then shipped to a cement factory near Didcot, Oxfordshire after each Grand Prix.
There, the tyres are finely shredded, along with other road car tires. The shredded tyres form small pellets, which are then burnt at extremely high temperatures as a fuel-source for cement factories. Moreover, the extremely high temperatures mean that no harmful fumes are released during the process, and the only particle that remains is non-poisonous ash.
 
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The Guide

02. Formula 1, what are we watching?

Formula 1, what are we watching?

The Pinnacle of Open-Wheel Racing

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of open-wheel, single-seat car racing. Today the sport is a global phenomenon where hundreds of millions of people watch ten teams and 20 drivers compete for two world championships over a season. 

The competition for the Drivers World Title and the Constructors Title are run in parallel and will be held over 24 race weekends (2023), with six having added sprint races. 

Drivers and teams compete for points based on where they finish each race, with points awarded for places 1 – 10. And 1 – 8 in the sprint with a bonus point awarded for the fastest lap during the race, provided the recipient is in the top ten.

The Drivers Title is sought for individual prestige (although the driver will always credit a whole team effort), whereas where the teams rank in the Constructors Title also determines their share of the prize money

The owners

Liberty Media Group bought the rights to run the tournament and the associated media rights for $4.6b in 2017.

Since then, they have set about to actively widen and grow the audience base. They initiated the Netflix series Drive to Survive, which has significantly increased the sport’s popularity over recent years. Along with an increase to 24 events in 2024.

F1 can’t turn up and race anywhere, the tracks must be graded, and the host country bids for the rights from Liberty to hold the event. Most likely a much more lucrative endeavour in recent years due to the sport’s growth in popularity and sell-out crowds at every event in 2022.

Liberty manages the logistics, and races are clustered into regions as much as possible to assist with turning around the paddock in two weeks for the next event, and often one. The entire event is moved by the road where possible or where that is not possible; they use a fleet of jumbo jets and refer to the event as a fly-away

The sport has seen huge growth in the Americas, with three races scheduled for the USA in 2023 – Miami, Las Vegas and COTA in Austin. 

The FIA is the governing body for all Formula racing and is responsible for setting and enforcing the rules, as well as running the event. Their focus is on delivering entertaining and close racing with a focus on safety for all parties, which fuels Liberty’s ability to build their business and deliver more racing… 

Money

F1 is a big-money sport. BIG MONEY. In 2021, Liberty Media introduced a cost cap to try and close the gap between the well-funded teams and those smaller teams nearer the back of the field. The cost cap is in the region of $145m, with a downward sliding scale but then adjusted back up for the number of races, added sprint races and inflation. To put the cost cap into perspective, Ferrari’s 2019 budget is estimated to have been $450m, so that’s quite a cut. 

Outside of this cost cap sits the supply of the Power Units (another $95m per team) and the salaries of the Drivers and top three executives. For the top three teams, that could feasibly equate to another $100m (Max and Lewis are rumoured to receive $50m.

Liberty Media shares profit from the season between its shareholders and the teams, 50/50. The team’s share is distributed under a prearranged matrix. Each team receives a $35,000,000 base fee and then a share based on the total points earned during the season. Finally, the top three teams receive a bonus, and a small number of teams receive legacy payments. Of note, Ferrari receives an extra 2.5% of the team’s fund. In 2018, Mercedes won the constrictors title and earned $177,000,000.00, while Ferrari came second and was paid out $205,000,000.00

Sponsorship

Further income comes from teams selling sponsorship space on their cars, clothing and merchandise. With nearly 1 billion people tuning in to watch the 2021 final, you can well imagine the value of the advertising. While many factors affect how a deal is structured, various articles suggest sponsorship starts at around $100,000 and heads into the millions. A top-tier team could reasonably value their rear wing at over a million and side pod at 15 times that (this is indicative).

Drivers also come with title sponsors, and in some cases, drivers pay for the seat as opposed to being paid to drive the car. Known as a ‘paid seat’ and usually in one of the lower-ranking teams where there is an advantage in contracting a driver with funding behind them. 

And teams do pay an entry fee. This is based on a sliding scale reflecting their results from the previous year with a team at the back of the field paying around $500,000 and the winner paying closer to $5,000.000. 

Teams and drivers 

Ten teams, each with two cars and two drivers, enter the competition and accumulate points over the duration of the tournament. A driver’s points go towards his own tally, and the same amount of points is applied to the team. If a driver can’t compete, as we saw recently due to covid, the reserve driver will take over the duties and any points gained will be stated against his entry as well as the team. 

Teams are referred to as constructors or customers. Constructors design and build their own Power Units, such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault. In contrast, customer teams purchase their Power Units from one of the constructors. 

Ferrari has a rich history that goes back to the early days of Formula 1. McLaren joined in the ’60s when a bunch of guys built their own car on a shoestring and did whatever they could to get it to the start line. Today a new team will need to pay $100,000,000 to get a seat at the table before they even start to work on their entry.

The cars

Today’s F1 cars are mind-blowing machines designed to accelerate to 200kph in 4.5 seconds. They can reach speeds of around $350kph and corner at over 200kph. When the speed limiter comes on in the pits, they are ‘trundling along’ at 80kph.

F1 cars use downforce to stick to the road when cornering at high speed and you will see changes to the car depending on the track type. A track with long straights is referred to as low downforce and requires a smaller rear with less drag, whereas a track with more corners is high downforce and a larger rear wing. 

An F1 car produces more downforce than its own weight, so technically, it could drive upside down in a tunnel and not fall off the roof.

In 2022 a new set of regulations was enforced, changing the fundamental aerodynamics of the car and shifting it to a ground effect model. This is done to reduce the dirty air coming off of the lead car and allow closer racing from the car behind. This has proven to be very successful, with the 2022 season delivering wheel-to-wheel racing and action-packed passing.

Race Weekend. 

A race weekend takes place from Friday to Sunday. The weekend consists of three one-hour Free Practice sessions; two take place on Friday (FP1 and FP2), and one takes place Saturday morning (FP3).

An hour of qualifying split into three sessions takes place Saturday afternoon. That forms the starting grid for the race Sunday, with the format detailed below. 

The race is the main event of the weekend, and it’s where the points are delivered to the teams and drivers. The drivers race each other around the circuit for 190 miles (305 km), typically across two hours,  but race can take up to four hours depending on red flags (that is to say, the race needing to be suspended due to a crash).

The race features strategy elements, with pit stops and fuel management to consider. Incidents have a big impact, too; they lead to safety cars and virtual safety cars (meaning no overtakes and a limited speed).

The future of F1

F1 is always evolving, and Liberty Media appears to have a strong focus on delivering entertainment, inclusion and the environment. Rule changes are producing more exciting racing, a bolstered race calender, greater participation from feeder series, the introduction of Formula W and a female driver academy and a target of carbon zero by 2030. 

The next big change for F1 is the new 2026 Power Unit. 1000+ horsepower from biofuel (fossil fuel is banned), three times the battery power of today’s PU, increased safety and reduced costs (currently around $15m per unit). 

So that’s F1 in a nutshell. We will expand on the above in the following Guide posts, in addition to our general posts, FAQ’s and comprehensive F1-specific Glossary.

 

 

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