If you’re new to Formula 1, now is the perfect time to join in the fun ahead of the hotly anticipated 2022 season.
Following from the thrilling end to 2021, which saw Max Verstappen win his first world championship in controversial fashion on the final lap of the final race, there has never been more excitement ahead of an opening Grand Prix.
The sport is set for another year of drama, with new cars and regulations in place to create more action and produce closer racing with a revolution in aerodynamics around the cars.
To get you up to speed, Sporting News answers all the key questions for any F1 newcomer.
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and the highest class of single-seater racing. F1 races with open-wheel cars, and on both permanent race tracks and street circuits. F1 visits traditional racing hotspots such as the UK, Monaco, Italy and Belgium every season and has recently ventured into new territories such as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the Netherlands and Azerbaijan.
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F1 has a competition structure that involves 10 teams, with two drivers per team. It is effectively a league table format, with points racked up over the course of the season (more on that later).
The world championship was founded in 1950 and is sanctioned by the FIA, which sets the rules and regulations. The sport is unique as teams build their own distinct cars every year, following the rules and regulations set by the FIA. Often they create cars with high cornering speeds. On average, F1 cars generate a top speed over 200 mph (320 kph) on the straights.
Over its 70-year history, Formula 1 has been known to be a dangerous sport, with the drivers risking their lives while racing. Over recent decades, safety has improved drastically with car modifications — such as the halo over the cockpit — to protect the drivers.
Introducing the 2022 season opening titles! 🙌#F1IsBack #F1 pic.twitter.com/qFfWegNKXe
Formula 2 is F1’s feeder series and is the final step for junior drivers to compete in before jumping into F1. The series uses the same cars, tyres and engines across the board, which means it is down to the drivers to deliver on track.
F2 races alongside F1 during Grand Prix weekends and acts as its support series over the three days. F2 will host 14 rounds in 2022 and host two races per race weekend.
A sprint race takes place on Saturday afternoon after F1 qualifying. The top 10 drivers in F2 qualifying are reversed and the race is lights to flag. On Sunday morning, the feature race takes place. The results from F2 qualifying form the grid and a mandatory pit stop is in place.
F2 has developed young, talented drivers who have gone onto achieve great success in F1. Lewis Hamilton competed in the series in 2006 and won the competition then known as GP2 Series. Other stars such as Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Mick Schumacher have won the F2 championship, while the likes of Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Nicholas Latifi, Yuki Tsunoda and Guanyu Zhou all raced in F2.
Ten teams and 20 drivers will make up the grid for 2022. They will battle it out for the respective constructors’ and drivers’ championships.
Four world champions will be on the grid this year, with Max Verstappen the latest to make the list. He joins Lewis Hamilton, who will be aiming to clinch a record eighth world title, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
George Russell steps up to Mercedes this year to race alongside Hamilton. He is replacing Valtteri Bottas, who has moved to Alfa Romeo. Alexander Albon returns to F1 after a year out. He previously raced at Red Bull for two seasons. He joins Williams for 2022.
Guanyu Zhou has become the first Chinese driver in F1 history, racing with Alfa Romeo. Nikita Mazepin was to race in 2022 with Haas, but Haas canceled his contract because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It also cancled its Uralkali title partnership. Kevin Magnussen returns to F1 with Haas after racing for the team between 2017 and 2020.
Formula 1 drivers earn large salaries for their job in addition to endorsement deals. The current set of contracts ranges from $500,000 to $50 million a year.
In 2022, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will be the highest-paid drivers on the grid, with both earning around $50 million a year. Verstappen recently signed a new contract that keeps him at Red Bull until the end of 2028. His deal is the most lucrative in the history of the sport.
In contrast, rookie Yuki Tsunoda was the lowest-paid driver of 2021 with a salary of $500,000 from AlphaTauri.
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Formula 1 will race at 23 different circuits, in what is likely to be 22 countries, during the 2022 season. The current number on the calendar is 22 races in 21 countries, with the Russian Grand Prix having been canceled because of the invasion of Ukraine. A replacement race has yet to be confirmed.
The 2022 campaign begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir International Circuit on March 20. The season finale will take place at the Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov. 20, just as it did last season.
The Hard Rock Stadium has hosted the #SuperBowl SIX times! This year, we’re heading there for the first ever Miami Grand Prix
See you in May! 🗓 We. Cannot. Wait! 🙌@f1miami 💜 #F1 pic.twitter.com/9uDv7pWQ2H
Miami is scheduled to host its first F1 race this year. Drivers will race around Hard Rock Stadium on May 8. Australia, Canada, Singapore and Japan return to the F1 calendar after a two-year absence due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A race weekend takes place from Friday to Sunday. The weekend consists of three one-hour Free Practice sessions; two take place on Friday (FP1 and FP2), and the one takes place Saturday morning (FP3).
An hour of qualifying split into three sessions takes place Saturday afternoon. That forms the starting grid for the race Sunday, with the format detailed below.
The race is the main event of the weekend, and it’s where the points are delivered to the teams and drivers. The drivers race each other around the circuit for 190 miles (305 km), typically across two hours, but race can take up to four hours depending on red flags (that is to say, the race needing to be suspended due to a crash).
The race features elements of strategy, with pit stops and fuel management to consider. Incidents have a big impact, too; they lead to safety cars and virtual safety cars (meaning no overtakes and a limited speed).
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Qualifying is used to determine the grid positions for the race on Sunday and traditionally takes place on a Saturday — or on a Friday afternoon during Sprint weekends (detailed next in this guide).
The session is split into three parts. In Q1, all drivers take the track to set the fastest lap time possible in 18 minutes. The slowest five drivers are dropped from the session and will start the race from their finishing position. Q2 repeats the process, but with 15 drivers and in 15 minutes.
The top 10 in Q2 progress to Q3, where they battle for pole position in a 12-minute shootout session. The fastest time earns the pole and will start the race on Sunday in first place. Second through 10th place are determined by the next-fastest laps.
For the 2022 season, drivers will have a free choice of which tyres they can use to start the race. They no longer have to stick with the compound they use in Q3.
Qualifying during a Sprint weekend alters the structure. The session takes place Friday afternoon, replacing FP2. Those results determine the grid for the Sprint, where the drivers will race Saturday afternoon for their grid slot for the main event on Sunday.
In a bid to improve the entertainment value of a race weekend, F1 proposed and trialed a sprint format in 2021 at three race weekends — and the format has returned for 2022. Sprints are designed to create more racing action and change up the grid ahead of Sunday with an extra, shortened race on Saturday.
Traditional qualifying, normally held on a Saturday, will take place on Friday and form the grid for the sprint. The drivers will compete at a one-third race distance; the top eight finishers will earn points toward their championship standing. During a sprint weekend, the driver who finishes first in qualifying will earn pole position, but the driver who finishes first in the sprint will earn the right to start the race from first.
The sprints in 2022 will take place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy, the Austrian Grand Prix and the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil.
Pirelli supplies the tyres and produces three compounds for the teams to use over the weekend: softs, mediums and hards.
Softs are the quickest tyres, but they also wear away quickly, while the hards are the slowest but have a longer durability. Teams use the practice sessions to form their strategy and understand the tyres for the race. In qualifying, the teams use the soft tyres to produce the quickest lap times.
Softs, mediums and hards are the dry, slick tyres, while the intermediates and wets are used for wet conditions. During a dry race, everyone must use at least two different compounds of the slick tyres. If it rains, they’re permitted to use any compound.
During the race, teams must make at least one pit stop to change tyres, where 23 mechanics all work on the car, change tyres and make any changes on the car, generally in under three seconds. The fastest pit stop recorded in F1 was by Red Bull Racing, which managed to execute a pit stop in 1.82 seconds at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
How many pit stops F1 teams decide to take is up to them, but they use free practice sessions to get a feel for the tyres and understand the level of tyre degradation on their car. Teams will run race simulations over the three sessions before finalizing a strategy for the race: whether they want to do one stop, two stops or even three stops. A team’s strategy can change over the course of the race with incidents, safety cars and red flags playing a part.
In the event of an incident where the driver may take damage to the tyres, the mechanics can replace them with a new set of tyres. If there is a broken front wing, they can change the wing in under eight seconds. Damage to the rear wing, suspension, engine and more require further work in the garage and F1 teams will often retire the car for events such as those.
F1 cars are very expensive. They cost millions to create, develop and race yearly. F1 cars are often created to race for just one season and are given upgrades and new parts over the year to maintain top performance and stay close to the field.
The cost of an F1 car varies from team to team depending on their budget for construction and development of new parts. For example, the chassis of an F1 car can cost up to $700,000 while the halo around the driver is around $17,000. The most expensive piece of the car, however, is the engine. A new engine for an F1 car and all its components can cost up to $18 million.
In total, an average F1 car costs around $20 million per year.
Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers in a Grand Prix. The winner receives 25 points, second place collects 18 points and third place gains 15 points.
An additional point is awarded to the driver with the fastest lap, but the driver needs to finish in the top 10 to collect that point.
For the sprint, additional points will be on offer for the top eight drivers, with the winner earning eight points. P2 through P8 will earn seven, six, five, four, three, two and one point, respectively.
For 2022, a new points system has been introduced for races halted during the Grand Prix due to an incident, bad weather or a situation where a race can’t go ahead. This was a reaction to the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, where the race was canceled after two laps because of torrential rain and half-points were awarded.
If more than 75 percent of the scheduled race distance is completed, then full points will be awarded to the top 10.
The points are added up over the course of the season and go toward the drivers’ and constructors’ championship. The driver and team with the most points at the end of the season are crowned champions.
Thirty-four different drivers have won the world championship, with icons Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton both having won seven, tied for the most in the history of Formula 1.
Schumacher clinched titles in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton before moving to Ferrari, where he won five consecutive titles from 2000 through 2004.
Hamilton won his first title in 2008 with McLaren before switching to Mercedes in 2013. He went on to win titles in six of the next seven seasons.
Max Verstappen won his first championship in 2021. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are the only other drivers on the grid who have won titles. Vettel won four in a row with Red Bull from 2010 through 2013; Alonso achieved his in 2005 and 2006 with Renault.
Long before the arrival of Schumacher and Hamilton, Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio held the record for the most titles with five. He won them in the early years of F1 in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957. Alain Prost won four titles in the 1980s and 1990s while also forming an iconic rivalry with Brazil’s Ayrton Senna, who won three titles during that period.
ESPN will broadcast Formula 1 for viewers in the U.S., with fuboTV also carrying the action via live stream.
UK viewers can watch every session live on Sky Sports F1. Channel 4 will broadcast qualifying and race highlights.
Viewers in Australia can watch on Fox Sports channels and on Network Ten.
Now you know the main ins and outs of Formula 1. You are prepared for the new season and for the season opener in Bahrain. With new cars and regulations in place to create closer racing, there is no better time to join the action and follow the season ahead.