TND’s beginner’s guide to Formula One racing

Formula One is in town.

Formula One is in town. Photo: Formula One

Melbourne is about to be engulfed by Formula One mania – but for one of the most popular sports in the world, there are still a lot of people who know little to nothing about it.

If you’re keen see what all the roaring engines are about, or just need a quick refresher, read on to get to grips with the basics of F1.

How does a Formula One race work?

Each F1 racing event, referred to as a grand prix, sees 10 teams compete with two drivers each, meaning 20 cars are racing overall.

Every team designs and manufactures their own cars, which must meet F1 regulations.

The 2024 season will consist of 24 rounds across the world; this year, Australia is round three, following the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

Each grand prix consists of three days of racing, typically from Friday to Sunday, which encompass practice, qualifying and race day.

The qualifying round will take place over three short sessions on Saturday, and the driver who drives fastest in the third session will get to begin Sunday’s race at the start of the lineup (pole position).

The rest of the grid positions are likewise determined by qualifying results.

Starting in pole position gives the driver the significant advantage of not having to overtake other cars at the start of the race – but that doesn’t guarantee them a win.

Each car must complete enough laps to have driven 305 kilometres in order to finish an F1 race, unless the race ends up exceeding two hours.

Maintaining a lead for the majority of the race is extremely tough, with 19 other cars speeding at hundreds of kilometres per hour trying to overtake each other.

Additionally, every driver must make a pit stop at least once during a race to change tyres – which can be done in as little as two seconds – and what tyres are used can help determine the outcome of the race.

Teams often have to choose between tyres that will help the car go faster versus tyres which will last longer.

After the race, points are awarded from first to 10th place according to a specific scale.

The points are then added to overall driver and team scores.

At the end of the season, these accumulated points are used to award the F1 World Championship driver’s title, as well as the F1 World Champion constructors’ title.

And it is here where the dynamics of the competition are a bit different to other sports; it’s not just the individual driver that stands to win, but also the team as a whole.

That means at times, drivers can be asked to hold back to allow their teammate to get ahead if that benefits the team’s strategy.

This has led to some questionable moves, such as the 2008 ‘Crashgate’ controversy during the Singapore Grand Prix, which saw Renault stage a win for their driver Fernando Alonso by ordering his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr to crash.

Source: YouTube/Formula One

Last year, Max Verstappen won his third World Drivers’ Championship, driving for Red Bull Racing, while Red Bull Racing scored its second consecutive constructors’ championship.

Notable names competing in Melbourne during this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix include Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton in his final Australian outing for Mercedes, as well as Australian drivers Oscar Piastri with McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo with RB.

If you’ve snagged a ticket to the Australian Grand Prix this year, your best travel option is probably going to be public transport.

More than 4800 extra tram services will be running throughout the event, with Yarra Trams operating a shuttle service between Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations and Albert Park.

This shuttle service will be free with your Grand Prix ticket.

For more transport information, head to Public Transport Victoria’s website.

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