F1 Primer: The basics

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Are you just discovering F1 for the first time? Today we’re running a series of F1 Primer articles which will cover all the key knowledge you need. Let’s start with the basics.

What sets F1 apart from other racing series is that each team has to build its own cars. While some parts such as engine and gearboxes can be sourced from manufacturers, the majority of the chassis has to be the team’s own design and construction.

This year there are 19 races which count towards the world championship. There are two titles up for grabs: the drivers’ championship and the constructors’ for teams.

Points are only awarded based on race finishing position, to the top ten drivers. Any points they score also count towards their team’s total in the constructors’ championship:

First | Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth | Sixth | Seventh | Eighth | Ninth | Tenth
25 18 15 12 10 8 6 4 2 1

Each race weekend consists of five sessions. Two 90-minute practice sessions take place on Friday (Thursday in Monaco) and a further 60-minute session on Saturday.

The serious business begins on Saturday afternoon with a three-part qualifying session to determine the grid. This runs in three parts of 20, 15 and 10 minutes named Q1, Q2 and Q3 respectively.

All 22 cars participate in Q1: the six slowest are eliminated and take places 17-22 on the grid. The process is repeated in Q2 to set places 11-16. That leaves a top-ten shoot-out for pole position and the remaining nine places.

For the race on Sunday the top ten qualifiers must start on the same tires they set their quickest Q3 time on. Two different types of dry tire are available for each race from a selection of four: hard, medium, soft and super-soft. Every driver must use the two different dry compounds at some point during the race, unless rain tires are used.

The races last for 189 miles (305km) or two hours, whichever comes first, except in Monaco where the slow track means the distance is reduced to 161 miles (260km). Drivers cannot refuel during the race.

You can read the rules and regulations in full on the website of the sport’s governing body, the FIA.

F1 Primer

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.