The Unofficial Alt+F1 Beginner's Guide to Formula 1! — Introduction

Y’all excited for the new F1 season? Damn right you are! Especially since Drew and Gamespot’s own Danny O’Dwyer will be starting a weekly podcast, Alt+F1, dedicated to the sport. I figured that since the podcast is likely to bring in new eyes and ears to the sport, I’d make a guide of sorts to get people ready for the new season.

Why? Well a recap’s always nice but more importantly: 2014 brings a lot of new changes to F1 that are worth going over. Additionally, a lot of the excitement in Formula 1 has to do with pit lane ~drama~, so I’ll go over the biggest stories from last year and how they’ll likely affect this upcoming season. I’ll also explain a bit of the technical terms for those that aren't too familiar with stuff like what KERS is or why you can only use DRS in small stretches of track.

(Sorry for splitting this into multiple blogs. It was the best way I could make this work.)

Also feel free to join in on the discussion at the Giant Bomb Formula 1 Discussion thread!

The 2014 Formula One season officially starts this Friday, the 14th of March with Free Practice in Australia. The first race of the season will be on Sunday, the 16th of March, 2014.

Contents

First of all, it’s not “F1”, it’s “Formula 1” you commoner. … Nah, I’m just messin’ with you. We’re all too lazy to say the whole thing.

Overview

For those of you completely new to the sport, F1 is the highest and brightest of worldwide racing events. Formula 1 cars are the fastest circuit-racing vehicles in the world, often reaching speeds in excess of 200+ mph. (Sometimes even through corners!) It is, in many ways, the apex of engineering and technological efforts from engine and automotive manufacturers alike. Technology developed and tested in Formula 1 has often made its way into consumer products, a most recent example being the KERS system. (More on that later.) If anything, Formula 1 is currently the closest we have to WipEout being a reality.

A Crap History Overview

Mmm yeah girl look at that wing mmm yeah gurl yeah

With its roots as far back as 1950, Formula 1 has long had the reputation of being the hoity-toity, exclusive rich-man’s sport. There is a lot of history and glamour associated to F1, particularly during the 80s and 90s where drivers were held as cultural icons. You’d be hard pressed to find a racing fanatic who doesn’t know the name Senna or Schumacher. Formula 1 fans come in all shapes and sizes, from the die-hard, facepaint wearing ones to the collared-shirt rich guy with his far-too-young girlfriend who indulge in what is the polo equivalent of the automotive world.

Quick Race Weekend Overview

The F1 grid is split into 11 teams of two drivers, totaling 22 drivers in a race, who will compete this year on 19 tracks. A race event, named “Round”, consists of three practice sessions, a qualifying session, and the race. There are two practice sessions one the first day (Friday) to test car setups for the race, one more session before qualifying on the second day, (Saturday) and the race on the third and final day. (Sunday)

Qualifying is split into three sessions: Q1, Q2, and Q3. In it, drivers go onto the track inside a set period of time and set the fastest laps possible to avoid elimination. Q1 lasts for 18 minutes and knocks out the last 6 racers. Q2 lasts for 15 minutes and also knocks out the last 6 remaining from Q1. Q3 lasts 12 minutes and the remaining 10 drivers fight for pole position. The order determined in qualifying sets the grid for race day on Sunday.

GOD DAMMIT GROSJEAN

Races last for a pre-determined set of laps, which varies track by track. Races also have a maximum time limit of two hours. Weather conditions can sometimes halt the race and increase its duration, as can major crashes. (Anything that incites a red flag, which halts the race completely.)

In the event of an accident, a Safety Car to patrol the circuit and force drivers to lineup behind it at a reduced speed, as to allow track workers to clear any debris off the circuit. Once the track is clear, the Safety Car returns to the pit lane and the race resumes. On rare occasions, the race is stopped completely and restarted from the grid when the track has been cleared of debris/parts.

Pit stops are a requirement in F1 races and will often vary in number. Certain tracks require multiple pit stops while others don’t and this is a key component of race strategy. Ultimately, teams want to have as little pit stops as possible so that they can stay out on the track longer. Pit stops are a large part of strategy during a race, sometimes opting for multiple stops as a part of countering another team’s performance during the race weekend.

Once the race is over, the top 10 drivers are assigned points in order of their finishing position. These points are then tallied at the end of the season and the driver with the most points wins the coveted Drivers Championship title. The team with the most tallied points also gets the Constructors Championship title.

~

Contents

Worth mentioning: I was unable to make an Off-Topic wiki guide (duh) so the guide has to remain on my blog as of this writing. However, I would like it to be a community thing so if you're an F1 nut that's got some extra knowledge you'd think would be helpful for beginners, give me a shout in the comments or in a PM and I'll add it to the guide. Similarly, if you're a newbie who's got some questions that didn't get answered, feel free to ask and if it warrants a new section/inclusion in the guide, I'll be sure to add it!

52 Comments
53 Comments
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Posted by onimonkii

i already read all of this and it's super interesting!

Posted by aurahack

@onimonkii said:

i already read all of this and it's super interesting!

Your cheque's in the mail.

Posted by Itwastuesday

thanks for this! i was interested in listening to the f1 podcast even though i have no knowledge of it, so this is right up my alley

Edited by juhoz

As marky mark would probably say, this guide was phat. Really excited for Alt+F1 after reading this. Good job duder!

Posted by aurahack

@juhoz: Thanks! I can't wait for the podcast either, if only to have more Danny content on the site, haha.

@itwastuesday: Awesome! Hopefully it leads you down the wonderful path of F1 fandom. c:

Posted by tourgen

Super awesome writeup and especially the extra links at bottom.

Edited by cclemon36

This is a pretty fantastic thread @aurahack! Looking forward to this weekend, and the podcast.

Posted by OleMarthin

Maximum race time is two hours, often they last 90-105 minutes. If all laps are not completed in two hours the race leader is the winner. A race can only last longer that two hours if the race is red flagged (stopped for safety). Otherwise a great introduction:) Glad someone made this.

Posted by aurahack

@cclemon36: Thanks! And ahhhhhh me too, I can't wait. It'll be so awesome to watch Free Practice and see what race pace will properly look like with the new engines.

@tourgen: Thank you!

@olemarthin: I went off memory for that one; I should have looked it up. I swear I've seen the Singapore race last way longer than two hours, though. Or maybe it just feels like it, haha. I did look it up and you are correct, however. I'll make the change. Thank you!

Posted by Chaser324

Thanks for this. Looking forward to reading through all of it in preparation for listening to Alt+F1.

Moderator Online
Posted by Vessel28

Just read of all it. As someone who knows almost nothing about F1, thank you very much!

Edited by Wlleiotl

Nice guide, however the qualifying times have changed from 20,15 and 10 minutes to 18, 15 and 12 minutes this year.

Edited by JamesJeux007

Read all of it. I knew some things about F1 already but not in much detail. That was a really great read. Thanks duder for this ! I wish mods would put it in the community spotlight. It could be useful once the Alt+F1 podcast comes out.

Edited by isomeri

You've done a pretty great job at condensing it all. Can't wait for this weekend.

Edited by granderojo

Looking forward to this podcast a whole bunch.

Posted by aurahack

@granderojo: Me too. It'll be super fun to hear Danny talk about it somewhere other than his Tumblr account. Dude knows some stuff about F1!

@isomeri: Thank you, and I can't wait either! So excited ahhhhh

@jamesjeux007: Thank you! I've linked to it in Drew's Alt+F1 blog but that's about all I can do on my end, haha. I should link to it on the first page of the F1 Discussion Thread.

@chaser324: Thanks! I can't wait either. :'D

@vessel28: You're very welcome!

@wlleiotl: Gah, I knew it! I swear I had read somewhere that the Qualifying sessions had changed but I couldn't find info where I was looking up stuff so I assumed I had misread. Thanks for clearing it up. Making the changes now!

Edited by Hassun

@aurahack You have put an amazing amount of effort into this. The headers are classy as a motherfucker (as F1 should be) and the text is informative and entertaining. Great work. This should be a close companion for all listeners of the Alt+F1 podcast.

who indulge in what is the water polo equivalent of the automotive world.

Did you mean regular polo?

Posted by aurahack

@hassun: As someone who knows as much about astrophysics as he does polo, yes, that is most likely what I meant, haha.

Edited by Hassun

Yeah that makes more sense. Water polo is not a sport for distinguished gentlemen.

Polo or Croquet are your best bets.

Posted by MightyDuck

@aurahack: Thanks for writing this up!

As somebody who hasn't watched a ton of racing, but enjoys the occasional racing video game, I'm pretty psyched.

Well done!

Edited by aurahack

@mightyduck: Thanks! Hopefully you enjoy the upcoming season if you plan on watching some of it. c:

@hassun: Really? Croquet seems oddly pedestrian next to... well, anything that involves horses, really.

Posted by MightyDuck

@aurahack: Yeah, definitely going to give it a look. I have the DVR set to record some this weekend.

Posted by dannyodwyer

@wlleiotl said:

Nice guide, however the qualifying times have changed from 20,15 and 10 minutes to 18, 15 and 12 minutes this year.

Really? Well I already messed that one up in the podcast we recorded today.

Posted by OleMarthin

@dannyodwyer: it's a strange change if you ask me. usually the last years Q3 has had a silent before the storm period with almost no action. so why make it longer?

Edited by Khann

@dannyodwyer: it's a strange change if you ask me. usually the last years Q3 has had a silent before the storm period with almost no action. so why make it longer?

It really does seem kinda unnecessary. I do like that everyone gets a throwaway set of tyres for Q3 now, though it is yet to be seen what silly games will be played with the tyre changes in Q2.

Posted by Rebel_Scum

As a F1 fan for over 20 years I can vouch for this blog. Well covered and fairly accurate. Goddamn I hope the Williams get up there with their new car (for Massa & Frank) and Red Bull/Vettel squander in the mid field for a change.

Posted by aurahack

@rebel_scum: Thanks!

And yeah, I'm rooting for Williams this year, too. Their pace in Bahrain testing was really surprising and I'd LOVE to see it continue into the season. There are few things I'd like to see as much as Williams returning to their former glory, haha.

Posted by Wlleiotl

@dannyodwyer: it's a strange change if you ask me. usually the last years Q3 has had a silent before the storm period with almost no action. so why make it longer?

i think the first two minutes of Q1 is less important than Q3, which as i remember usually had two flying runs from at least half of the runners, and therefore no spare time at all. 12 minutes gives the teams plenty of leeway to make two flying runs even at longer tracks such as spa, when you take into account refuelling etc.

the real reason is probably to shorten the time between the ad break before qualifying and the ad break after Q1 however

@dannyodwyer happy to be the first person to correct you about something you said on the podcast!

Edited by aurahack

@wlleiotl said:

@olemarthin said:

@dannyodwyer: it's a strange change if you ask me. usually the last years Q3 has had a silent before the storm period with almost no action. so why make it longer?

i think the first two minutes of Q1 is less important than Q3, which as i remember usually had two flying runs from at least half of the runners, and therefore no spare time at all. 12 minutes gives the teams plenty of leeway to make two flying runs even at longer tracks such as spa, when you take into account refuelling etc.

the real reason is probably to shorten the time between the ad break before qualifying and the ad break after Q1 however

@dannyodwyer happy to be the first person to correct you about something you said on the podcast!

It really varied on track conditions, too. I recall last season having a lot of dead time because they (perhaps ironically) waited for other drivers to warm up the track. Maybe this extra time, the new leniency on tire allocation, will change that.

Edited by aurahack

my best friend's mom got paid $14955 the previous week. she makes money on the internet and bought a $359800 condo. All she did was get fortunate and work up the guide exposed on this web page>>>------------------- click56.com

Holy shit! That's awesome! Thanks for letting us in on the scoop. Who're you rooting for this year?

Edited by Hone_McBone

Cheers for the post. I've been planning to go to the Montreal GP this year & while I watch motor sport I've never got into F1 so it's good to get a bit of info on the series before heading there.

Posted by aurahack

@hone_mcbone: If you're going to the Montreal GP, I'll see you there! I've been too busy with college to attend it in the past years but now that that's over, I plan on being there all three days. c:

Edited by nonekjr

Awesome write-up, thanks a lot! I used to watch F1 regularly when I was younger, but it's been a long while now. I was a meer teenager when I watched Senna make his last race and I remember being upset to the point of crying upon hearing the news that he hadn't made it. Also, wow, that was 20 years ago...

Think I'll give this season a go, sounds like it could be an exciting one. And the podcast was great!

Posted by AnjinM

This was amazing. Great job and thanks for the primer!

Posted by aurahack

@anjinm: Thank you, and you're very welcome!

@nonekjr: Thank you! And yeah, it certainly was a while ago. I came into F1 a couple years after Senna's crash but his impact still carries on today. I would have loved to have seen him race in person, or even live on TV.

Edited by Splodge

Quick question: how many cars end up in the actual race? Do 22 go through qualifying and get reduced to ten, or are there more than 22 and it gets cut down? Its been years since I have been into f1, it's changed so much! I watched back in the mid nineties to about 2001.

Edited by Khann

@splodge said:

Quick question: how many cars end up in the actual race? Do 22 go through qualifying and get reduced to ten, or are there more than 22 and it gets cut down? Its been years since I have been into f1, it's changed so much! I watched back in the mid nineties to about 2001.

All 22 will go to the race*, qualifying is just to determine the order they are lined up on the grid. All drivers will set a qualifying time in Q1. The slowest 6 of those 22 will have their grid positions set. The remaining 16 set a qualifying time in Q2, and the slowest 6 of those will have their grid positions set. The remaining 10 drivers set a time in Q3 to determine their grid position.

* There is a 107% rule, which means if a car can't qualify in a time within 107% of the fastest time set in Q1, they aren't allowed to race (though this can be overruled). The chance of this happening in modern F1 is very, very slim. The only team to have failed to qualify in the last decade was HRT. They were complete garbage. It used to happen far more often pre-2000.

e: quick correction after a look at Wikipedia. Marussia have also failed to qualify within 107% on a couple of occasions, but were allowed to race. I would assume this is because they set a time in the 3rd practise session that was within the 107%, proving that the car was capable.

Posted by Splodge

@khann: Aha! I get it now. Thanks =) I think this might be the year I get back into F1. Its great to have a companion pod to go along with it.

Posted by gaggle64

Nice, neat little guide. Life-long F1 fan and I am so happy this is spreading on the GB community. Join ussssssssss.

Posted by Hone_McBone
@aurahack said:

@hone_mcbone: If you're going to the Montreal GP, I'll see you there! I've been too busy with college to attend it in the past years but now that that's over, I plan on being there all three days. c:

Yeah for sure, my Montreal friends aren't the biggest racing fans so I was just going to get tickets to the practice for the experience but maybe I'll grab a weekend pass. Going to book the flight from Vancouver fairly soon so I'll be getting F1 tickets soon too.

Edited by Wlleiotl

this is really good to show the changes this year

Posted by Sessh

I highly approve on the commentary of Grojean's "driving."

Posted by aurahack

@wlleiotl: Wow, this is really great! Thanks for the link.

@sessh said:

I highly approve on the commentary of Grojean's "driving."

It pains me to even make the comment considering he's my favorite driver at the moment. :<

Edited by Littleg

@aurahack: Awesome work, thanks for pulling this together.

Richard Porter at SniffPetrol (he's the script editor for Top Gear don'tchaknow) has also produced a handy preview for the 2014 F1 season. If you can get all the in-jokes in that article, you're well on your way to becoming an F1 nerd...

Also, the BBC guide to the major rule changes for 2014 is quite helpful as it goes into more detail, particularly on the engines/ERS changes and the aero tweaks that have resulted in a) the weird new noses on the cars and b) the loss of the blown rear diffuser which was one of RBR's main advantages over the last few years.

I must confess, I've been confused about this talk about a second ERS which harnesses thermal energy (T-eng?) from the exhausts. Reading that BBC article, it seems it's more about capturing some of the energy from the exhaust gasses that are passing through the turbo impellers that would otherwise be lost as heat. Dunno why, but that seems like quite a big distinction to me.

Posted by Sessh

@aurahack said:

@wlleiotl: Wow, this is really great! Thanks for the link.

@sessh said:

I highly approve on the commentary of Grojean's "driving."

It pains me to even make the comment considering he's my favorite driver at the moment. :<

Yeah, well, it's at least gonna be interesting to see how he handles himself now that he is in the number 1 driver's position this year. He did improve over the course of last year's season.

Also, there's always Kimi Räikkönen. ( = He's the best.)

Edited by aurahack

@littleg: I tried to sum up the new KERS system in the "2014 Changes" part of the guide but I'd like to re-write to make that as clear as possible. It's really weird. I understood it a lot more after watching Ted's Notebook on Sky during Bahrain testing when talked about it with Giedo Van Der Garde. It captures excess heat from the turbochargers and turns it into energy, which is then directly fed into the engine as a boost when the driver is on the throttle.

... I think? Maybe we'll never know, haha.

@sessh: He certainly did improve himself last year but it did feel like he was restraining himself at times. He needs to find a balance between his willingness to risk and his track awareness.

And yeah, I also can't wait to see how Kimi does at Ferrari... even if the idea of cheering for Ferrari is foreign to me. D:

Posted by Sessh

@aurahack said:


@sessh: He certainly did improve himself last year but it did feel like he was restraining himself at times. He needs to find a balance between his willingness to risk and his track awareness.

And yeah, I also can't wait to see how Kimi does at Ferrari... even if the idea of cheering for Ferrari is foreign to me. D:

Yeah, you are right, he did seem a bit more restrained towards the end of the season. Probably because he was told off by the team, after some of the penalties he got. I don't think it's gonna be much of an issue, now that it's a new season.

Then we are in the same position. I pretty much hated on Ferrari right from the first time I watched F1 and especially during the Schumacher reign (I'll never forget Schumacher's complete halt in the Monaco qualifying, just to ruin everyone else's final lap. Also I still think Kimi should have won the championship in 2003). Anyways now Kimi is back, and Alonso has come to be my second most favorite driver, so yeah, here we are. I just hope the two of them won't end up colliding, on and off the track.

Edited by Khann

Here is a great spotter guide for those still trying to get up to speed while watching:

(GB actually kinda butchers that image. Original image link here, link to artist's page here)

Posted by aurahack

@khann: This is super great! Thanks for the link. Also oh my goddddddddddddd I can't get over how much I like the McLaren livery. Anything to take me back to the Hakkinen era.

@sessh: It'll be super interesting to watch, at least. Neither Alonso or Kimi are the type to take shit from others, so seeing them butt heads as teammates can only mean good racing.

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