I began following F1 Racing in 2020. My interest started from watching a race on a Sunday morning and then watching the Drive to Survive documentary on Netflix. I tuned in to several races in 2020 and started playing the video game. My interest in the sport continued to grow as I became more familiar with the drivers, rules, and terminology.

This season I am tuning in for the practice sessions and qualifying in addition to the race. Here are some things I learned in my first year of watching F1 Racing. If you are interested in this sport, perhaps this will help get you up to speed. You can watch the races on ESPN in the United States.

Grand Prix Format

The Grand Prix takes place over the weekend.

  • Friday: Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2
  • Saturday: Free Practice 3 and Qualifying Session
  • Sunday: Race Day

The first two practice sessions (FP1 & FP2) are 90 minutes each and the third practice session (FP3) is 60 minutes. The qualifying session lasts 60 minutes and is divided into 3 knock-out stages (Q1, Q2, and Q3). The first knock-out stage (Q1) lasts 18 minutes and all 20 cars race on the circuit. The 5 slowest cars are eliminated. The second knock-out stage (Q2) lasts 15 minutes and the 5 slowest cars are eliminated. The 10 remaining cars complete the final stage (Q3) for a 12-minute session to determine the starting positions.

Point System

So, how do you win a championship? By having the most points. How do you get points?

  • 1st: 25
  • 2nd: 18
  • 3rd: 15
  • 4th: 12
  • 5th: 10
  • 6th: 8
  • 7th: 6
  • 8th: 4
  • 9th: 2
  • 10th: 1
  • Fastest lap: 1 (if car finishes in top 10)


The cost cap for 2021 is $145 million. The cap applies to marketing costs, driver salaries, and the cost of the team’s 3 highest paid personnel. The cap budget will be reduced in following seasons in an effort to create competitive balance.

Race Terms

  • Box: pit stop (from the german “boxenstopp”)
  • Slipstream: the car in front provides drag reduction for the following car
  • DRS (Drag Reduction System): driver opens the rear wing to increase speed
  • Speed Trap: static point on the track to measure top speed
  • Undercut: making a pit stop ahead of the cars in front
  • Out lap: first lap coming out of the pit lane
  • In lap: first lap going in to the pit lane
  • Formation lap: warm-up lap prior to the race start
  • Lights out: the race starts
  • Sector: the lap is split into three sections


The tyres last less than one race and play an important part in the race strategy. Pirelli supplies the tires in 7 different compounds. The slick tyres are referred to as hard (white), medium (yellow), or soft (red). The treaded tyres are referred to as intermediate (green) for light standing water or wet (blue) for heavy standing water.

  • C1 Hard
  • C2 Hard or Medium
  • C3 Hard, Medium, or Soft
  • C4 Medium or Soft
  • C5 Soft

There is only one hard, medium, and soft compound chosen per grand prix. The range depends on the circuit. The hardest tyres are the most durable and have the least grip. Pirelli has supplied the tyres since 2011.


  • Green: normal racing conditions
  • Yellow: overtaking is prohibited due to danger near the track
  • Red: session is suspended
  • Blue: driver must let faster cars pass
  • White: slow moving vehicle ahead
  • SC board: drivers must stay behind safety car for incident blocking the track
  • Black: driver is disqualified
  • Yellow & red striped: the track is slippery
  • Black with orange circle: driver must return to pit area
  • Black & white: driver is warned for unsportsmanlike behavior
  • Chequered: session is complete

Driving Terms

  • Apex: middle point around a corner at which drivers aim their cars
  • Blistering: tyre overheating
  • Oversteer: the rear end of the car comes out while turning
  • Understeer: the front end of the car does not want to turn into a corner

Car Parts

  • Chassis: main part of car where engine and suspension are attached
  • Cockpit: where the driver sits
  • Front wing: fundamental for aerodynamic performance
  • Rear wing: provides downforce and aerodynamic performance


The 20 cars are driven by 20 drivers who range in age from 21 to 41 years old. The drivers compete for the Drivers' Championship by winning the most points for the season.

  • Lewis Hamilton (United Kingdom)
    • Drives for Mercedes
    • 98 career wins
    • 7-time World Champion
    • Considered the best driver of all time
    • Began career with McLaren in 2007 and has been with Mercedes since 2013
    • World Champion each of the past 4 seasons
  • Sebastian Vettel (Germany)
    • Drives for Aston Martin
    • 53 career wins
    • 4-time World Champion
  • Fernando Alonso (Spain)
    • Drives for Alpine
    • 32 career wins
    • 2-time World Champion
    • Hamilton’s first teammate at McLaren
  • Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)
    • Drives for Alfa Romeo
    • 21 career wins
    • 1-time World Champion
    • Elder statesman of the drivers at 41 years of age
  • Max Verstappen (Netherlands)
    • Drives for Red Bull
    • 15 career wins
    • Front-runner to succeed Lewis Hamilton as the best driver in the world
    • Youngest driver to start a race (17 years, 166 days) back in 2015
    • Finished 3rd in the Drivers' Championship in both 2019 and 2020
  • Valtteri Bottas (Finland)
    • Drives for Mercedes
    • 9 career wins
  • Daniel Ricciardo (Australia)
    • Drives for McLaren
    • 7 career wins
  • Charles Leclerc (Monaco)
    • Drives for Ferrari
    • 2 career wins
  • Sergio Perez (Mexico)
    • Drives for Red Bull
    • 2 career wins
  • Pierre Gasly (France)
    • Drives for AlphaTauri
    • 1 career win
    • Former teammate of Max Verstappen at Red Bull
  • Lando Norris (United Kingdom)
    • Drives for McLaren
  • Nicholas Latifi (Canada)
    • Drives for Williams
  • Nikita Mazepin (Russia)
    • Drives for Haas
    • Son of billionaire Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin
    • Referred to as “Maze-spin” for tendency to spin out
  • Lance Stroll (Canada)
    • Drives for Aston Martin
    • Son of billionaire Lawrence Stroll (part owner Aston Martin)
  • Yuki Tsunoda (Japan)
    • Drives for AlphaTauri
    • This is his rookie season
  • Esteban Ocon (France)
    • Drives for Alpine
  • Mick Schumacher (Germany)
    • Drives for Haas
    • Son of 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher
  • Carlos Sainz, Jr. (Spain)
    • Drives for Ferrari
  • George Russell (United Kingdom)
    • Drives for Williams
    • Rumored as a potential future driver for Mercedes
  • Antonio Giovinazzi (Italy)
    • Drives for Alfa Romeo

The least experienced drivers make a salary of less than $1 million USD per year and the highest paid drivers (Hamilton $60m, Leclerc $30m, and Alonso $20m) make considerably more money.


There are 10 teams with 2 cars each.

  • Ferrari
    • 16 Constructors' Championships
    • Drivers are Leclerc and Sainz
    • Based in Maranello, Italy
  • Williams
    • 9 Constructors' Championships
    • Drivers are Russell and Latifi
    • Based in Grove, Oxfordshire, England, UK
  • McLaren
    • 8 Constructors' Championships
    • Drivers are Norris and Ricciardo
    • Based in Surrey, England, UK
  • Mercedes
    • 7 Constructors' Championships
    • Drivers are Hamilton and Bottas
    • Based in Brackley, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
  • Red Bull Racing
    • 4 Constructors' Championships
    • Drivers are Verstappen and Sainz
    • Based in Milton Keynes, England, UK
  • Aston Martin
    • Drivers are Vettel and Stroll
    • Based in Silverstone, England, UK
  • AlphaTauri
    • Drivers are Gasly and Tsunoda
    • Based in Faenza, Italy
  • Alpine
    • Drivers are Alonso and Ocon
    • Based in Enstone, Oxfordshire, England, UK
  • Alfa Romeo Racing
    • Drivers are Raikkonen and Giovinazzi
    • Based in Hinwil, Zürich, Switzerland
  • Haas F1 Team
    • Drivers are Schumacher and Mazepin
    • Based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, United States

The teams compete for the Constructors' Championship by winning the most points between their two cars for the season. Mercedes has been dominant in the current era with 7 consecutive championships.

See the current team standings.

Circuits for 2021 Season

Circuits are tracks specifically build for racing. There are 2 types of circuits in F1 racing: street and road. Circuits are either clockwise or anti-clockwise and are typically a distance of about 3 miles per lap.

Follow the 2021 schedule.