I'm an F1 enthusiast who has followed the sport since childhood. During all those years, I gained loads of knowledge about Formula 1.
1. Formula One Is Driven by Money
You can't be a Formula One racer unless someone has a lot of cash to invest in you.
To get into Formula 1, you must first get through many single-seater categories to learn and gain experience. Your usual start would be in karting, then junior formula categories, like F4, F3, and F2. You need exceptional driving skills to constantly position yourself at the very top, and you also need to pay for all those seasons, including a lot of equipment, and racing fees.
If you're not the one with tremendous amounts of cash, then you need someone else to fund your racing career. Of course, the sponsors get a lot of proposals to sponsor different drivers. The competition is massive. And, as with everything in the world, it's often not the talent or skills that define whether one gets a sponsor or not.
Racing is for rich people—that's the hard fact. Every driver currently racing in F1 had massive financial backing which provided them the chance to make it up there.
Therefore, it would be wrong to assume that F1 has the best drivers in the world. Some of those drivers are among the best, but about half of them are drivers that could easily be replaced with some other, more talented drivers from other series and racing categories.
The problem is that some of these drivers don't provide such lucrative sponsors, and since F1 is a money-intensive sport, the teams are only interested in drivers that will provide them with some financial gains to spend on the development of the car.
2. Most Common F1 Terms to Know
Some standard Formula 1 terms are good to know when watching an F1 session, whether it's practice, qualifying, or the race itself. Drivers use these terms when talking about a car's characteristics and performance.
When a car is understeering, it means that when the driver turns the steering wheel into a corner, the car turns less than what is needed. The tires continue to slide forwards, pushing the car off the track.
Oversteering is the opposite of understeering. When a driver turns the steering wheel, if the car oversteers, the wheels turn way too much causing the driver to spin as the car turns more than it should. It's always about the balance between the understeer and the oversteer. Some drivers prefer a more understeered car, while some prefer an oversteered car. There is a general opinion that an oversteered car is faster, but a lot of that is really up to the driver itself.
Lock-up is when the driver gets on the brakes, but the front tires do not respond. That forces them to lock up. Lock-up destroys tires, so drivers need to be very aware and use brakes smoothly and carefully.
The apex is the middle point of the corner positioned on the inside line. It is where you ideally want to be with your car. If you hit the apex then you have made the ideal line. However, there are exceptions. There are tracks where taking the long way around a corner (thus not hitting the apex) can be better for the car's overall grip. Taking more grip into a corner gives the car better speed when accelerating out of the corner.
Clean air is when a driver doesn't have a competitor's car ahead, making the air clean and not disturbed. The car usually behaves the best when in clean air. If you listen to drivers driving out from the pit stops, they usually complain about ending up sandwiched between slower cars which hurts their overall pace.
Tire deg refers to tire degradation. Tires used in F1 are vulnerable, not surprising when they are driven and pushed at speeds of over 300 km/h. F1 uses five compounds, or types of tire rubber. The most common—soft, medium, and hard—are used in dry track conditions on the track. "Soft" is the composition that degrades fastest but offers the most grip, thus giving the best speed. "Hard" is a compound that lasts the longest but offers the worst grip, thus resulting in slower speed. "Medium" is between soft and hard in characteristics. There are also "intermediate" and "wet" tire compounds, used only for wet conditions.
Every race track gets divided into three parts, so-called sectors. That makes it easier for drivers and teams to see how they perform in different sections of the track. It also makes it easier for the audience to see how a driver is doing during a lap, for instance, in qualifying.
3. F1 Drivers Are High-Performance Athletes
It's a misconception that Formula 1 drivers aren't in good physical shape. F1 drivers train very hard to withstand the massive G-forces they experience during racing.
While wrestling the car around a track, they also need to put massive pressure on the brake pedal, which can get pretty heavy. And, of course, having a race suit on and often racing during the warmest periods of the year in south-situated countries, they need to cope with extreme heat as well.
F1 racing is also a lot about mental strength. Going wheel-to-wheel at such high speeds requires a perfectly aligned mind that can quickly switch between different areas a driver needs to manage.
4. Learn the Most Important Flags Used in F1
There are a lot of flags to know about when watching F1.
A yellow flag indicates a hazard on or off the track. Drivers need to reduce their speed, drive safely, and not overtake other competitors.
If, for example, a car has crashed out or has stopped on the race track, the double-yellow flag is used as the danger is bigger than in a single-yellow-flag incident. Drivers follow the same procedure as with one yellow flag but need to be extra cautious. Speeding or overtaking under a double-yellow flag is taken very seriously and will result in a penalty.
The red flag indicates that there has been an accident on the track that needs to be cleared away. It means the race is paused and all cars have to drive back with caution back to the pit box.
A green flag means that the drivers can get back to full speed and start to race again.
The blue flag is more common during the later parts of the race when the leading cars are lapping the slower ones. When a slower car from the back of the pack receives the blue flag, then it needs to let the faster car through.
A white flag indicates a slower vehicle—a damaged F1 car—moving on the track.
The black-and-white flag is a warning to the driver that they have driven in a way that is not allowed. That is the very last warning a driver receives. Further abuse of the rules can result in a black flag or a penalty.
The worst flag that a driver can see. If shown a black flag, the driver is immediately disqualified from the race and needs to return to the pit box.
The checkered flag is displayed at the end of every race, showing drivers that the race is over.
5. Drive to Survive
Drive to Survive is an amusingly popular series on Netflix that have brought many new fans to the world of Formula 1. While it's a solid introduction to F1, it's not to be taken too seriously. A lot of things are mixed in mainly for entertainment, and situations tend to be over-dramatized to make a good show of it.
But Drive to Survive is without a doubt the very best commercial F1 has ever got. For that, the show deserves some credit.
- F1 is a sport where money talks - to the tune of over $8 million
- F1 Drivers Explain F1 - YouTube
- How To Train Like An F1 Driver - YouTube
- What do all the flags mean in F1? - YouTube
- Formula 1: Drive to Survive (TV Series 2019– ) - IMDb
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Jan Stepan