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

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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.


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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.


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
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.


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.



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!