A Student’s Guide to Formula 1

By Anna Muir |

For many people, Formula 1 represents something unattainable, something that is only for the elite. Typically a sport which is associated with the glitzy streets of Monaco and ultra-high net worth, I’m here to tell you why it’s a great sport to watch, especially if you’re a student.

What is Formula 1?
Basically, the fastest cars (and drivers) in the world, speed around race tracks all around the world in the hopes of clinching the prestigious Constructor’s Title and World Championship.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAPon Unsplash

The Basics:

●  20 cars on the grid total.

●  10 teams with 2 cars and therefore 2 drivers.

●  All teams are expected to build their own cars, although they can borrow engines and other listed parts from other suppliers.

●  You have a constructor (a fancy way of saying car manufacturer) and a driver.

●  F1 is one of the only sports to be both an individual and team sport. Drivers battle it out to win the Driving World Championship and constructors battle to win the Constructor’s World Championship.

●  Depending on how they finish on race day, the drivers (and the teams) are awarded points. Only the top ten score points so finishing is essential.

●  First position gets 25 points and every position thereafter gets a diminishing number of points.

●  These points are tallied up into the two separate contests mentioned above.

●  Every point counts for both drivers and constructor’s, however the constructor’s have more to lose. Depending on where they finish in the standings, they are awarded a certain amount of money from the FIA (the governing body). First place gets the most and last, the least.

●  Money talks in this sport. The more money a team has, the more they can do with their cars!

●  Races are typically around 90 minutes and in every race, the driver must do what’s called a pitstop at least once to change their tyres. Depending on the tyres they pick (there’s 3 main compounds that get progressively harder), the driver may gain speed (soft tyres) or gain longevity (hard tyres). These pitstops can mess up the order of the grid and if done incorrectly, it results in major on-track drama.

Photo by Tim Careyon Unsplash

Race Weekend:

●  This is where it gets a little complicated.

●  There are usually 3 days in a race weekend.

●  Friday is practice day! This is where the cars get to go around and build up their knowledge of how the car reacts at the specific race track. These sessions are called Free Practice (FP1 and FP2).

●  Saturday is primarily qualifying day! They have a final practice session in the morning (FP3) and then they get ready for qualifying.

●  Because cars are staggered at the beginning of the race (there’s no way you could fit20 two-metre wide cars on the start line), qualifying is when drivers try to get the fastest lap time possible. Depending on their lap-time, they are given a qualifying spot. The fastest driver gets pole position (a fancy way of saying first), the second fastest gets second and so on.

● Sunday is race day! This one is, thankfully, self-explanatory. All the cars line up in their qualifying orders and battle to get the most amount of points possible.

Photo by Marcel Heilon Unsplash

The Constructors:

●  Ferrari – An iconic team with a rich heritage in motorsport. They are currently having an unusually off season.

●  Mercedes – Have won the title the past 7 years in a row. They have Lewis Hamilton on their team who is arguably one of the greatest drivers of all time.

●  Red Bull Racing – A team which experienced great success in the early 2010s and is chasing Mercedes this year. Their number one driver (Max Verstappen) is widely considered to be one of the most exciting young talents and a future World Champion.

●  McLaren – Another iconic juggernaut in Formula 1.

●  Renault – A French team which is partly owned by the state. They are rebranding to Alpine next season.

●  Racing Point – Formerly Force India. A new team which will be rebranding to Aston Martin next season (clearly an iconic brand).

●  Williams – A legendary team which was family-owned until it was sold this year. A team that was once the pinnacle of Formula 1. Having trouble getting back to the top recently.

●  AlphaTauri – Sister team of Red Bull Racing. They won an unlikely race this year with a driver called Pierre Gasly who is arguably having the best drive this season. Look up his story over the past two years if you have time, it’s truly inspiring.

●  Alfa Romeo Racing – Ferrari’s junior team which benefits from their engine.

●  Haas F1 Team – An American owned team which burst onto the scene in 2016.

Photo by Reuben Rohardon Unsplash

Why should I watch?


This is a sport that’s truly thrilling. It’s a unique sport which caters to all. Whether you love engineering and want to witness the very best in car design, or whether you love adrenaline and want to see drivers battling at speeds of up to 300km, there’s something for everyone to love. It’s also cool to see a sport which is so incredibly international. Races take place all over the world including Australia, Russia, Singapore, Austria, Monaco, Italy and so many other amazing places.
It’s a sport which focuses on invention and engineering brilliance. The cars get quicker and more advanced every single year so no two seasons are ever alike. It’s exhilarating and who better to exhilarate than students?

How can I watch?

●  The 2020 season is three races away from wrapping up which is perfect to get an introduction to the sport before spending the short offseason getting more into it!

●  Sky Sports currently have the rights to the races although you can also subscribe to F1specific coverage on their app!

●  Channel 4 show replays and highlights of the races every week so you can still watch even if you don’t have access to Sky.

●  You can also go and watch it in a pub (COVID dependent). Mango’s has repeatedly advertised screenings of the Grand Prix so get yourself a group of 6 and head over when the pubs reopen!

Anything else?
I would highly recommend Drive to Survive on Netflix. It’s a documentary which focuses on the lives of the current drivers over the last 2 seasons and offers a good introduction (albeit a highly dramatised one) for any new spectator! It also lets you see into the lives of some of the best athletes in the world which is always a highly entertaining thing to see.

Happy watching!