Formula Fun: Understanding F1 As An American That Didn’t Care About Formula 1 Until A Few Weeks Ago

Netflix has a new-ish documentary series that has turned me into a racing fanatic. Formula 1: Drive to Survive was an easy binge for me. It felt very much like Hard Knocks – maybe even better. The nice thing going into this was not knowing anything about the sport.

After completing the series in a matter of days I noticed that there was an upcoming grand prix on the calendar, the 1000th Formula 1 race of all time. This was the third race of a young 2019 season. To help others acclimate to the sport, here is what I have learned so far:

How The Sport Works

There are two competitions happening at the same time. Teams are vying for the top spot in the Constructors’ Standings, while Drivers are also competing for the Drivers’ World Championship. There are two cars per team, for a total of 20 cars on the track. For each of the 21 races, drivers are awarded points based on where they finish the race – with points being awarded to the top 10 finishers.


Last weekend Mercedes finished 1st and 2nd in the Chinese Grand Prix. That awarded Mercedes with 43 team points in the Constructors’ Standings. Their drivers, Hamilton and Bottas, took home 25 and 18 points towards the Drivers’ World Championship.

There is also a bonus point available to the driver that completes the fastest lap, but only if that driver is the Top 10 finishers.

  • This actually adds a cool wrinkle into the sport. Going into the last few laps last weekend, Vettel for Ferrari had the fastest lap time and was in 3rd place. Red Bull Racing is behind Ferrari in the overall standings. Verstappen, a driver for Red Bull, was in 4th behind Vettel. Red Bull had another driver securely in 6th place, Pierre Gasly. Red Bull had Gasly do an extra pit stop, which was unnecessary for him to keep his 6th place spot. They changed his tires to a faster compound for the last couple of laps. He hauled-ass and was able to secure the fastest lap time – essentially stealing a point from Vettel and Ferrari.

Teams And Drivers

Teams are essentially broken up into four tiers. You have:

  • The Contenders – Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull.
  • The Midfield – Renault, Haas, McClaren.
  • The Bottom – Alfa Romeo, Racing Point, and Toro Rosso.
  • Last – Williams.
Mercedes – 5x Champion – Comparison: Patriots
After being out of the sport for decades, Mercedes returned in 2010. They are now the top dog in the sport. Mercedes has been the Constructors’ Champions the past five years. Mercedes has produced the last five World Championship drivers (Hamilton 4x, Rosberg 1x).
Lewis Hamilton – #44 – United Kingdom – 5x World Champion – Arguably the greatest driver of all time. He won a title with McClaren and then won four more with Mercedes. Hamilton is currently on pace for his third world championship in a row.
Valtteri Bottas – #77 – Finland – Not too much to say about him. He is the other driver for Mercedes. He used to drive for Williams.
Ferrari – 16x Champion
The most successful team in F1 history. Their last team championship was in 2008. Ferrari has also not produced a World Champion driver since 2007.
Sebastian Vettel – #5 – Germany – 4x World Champion – Vettel won his 4 World Championships with Red Bull in four consecutive years. He also had a fantastic mustache earlier this season.
Charles Leclerc – #16 – Monaco – Leclerc is a promising youngster – 21 years old – transitioning to Ferrari after racing for Alfa Romeo last year. He was good friends with the late Jules Bianchi, who passed away in 2014. Bianchi died as the result of a crash in Japan while driving for Ferrari.
Red Bull – 4x Champion
While they were involved with Formula 1 prior to 2005, that was the year in which they took ownership of a team. Red Bull has the swagger and cockiness that you’d like to see in a team. They have some on-going drama with the team at Renault. The Red Bull cars used to have and engine contract with Renault, and spent much of last season complaining about the performance. This year they are going with an engine from Honda. Red Bull won four-straight team championships from 2010-2013. They have placed 3rd the past three seasons.
Max Verstappen – #33 – Belgium – He came over to Red Bull from Torro Rosso. He started racing in Formula 1 at seventeen years old. The youngest driver ever. He is also holder of just about every “youngest” in Formula 1, except for youngest World Champion. Red Bull really seems to have a lot of faith in him- even at just 21 years old. However, Verstappen kind of seems like a dick. He reminds me of the villain from an OK action movie hailing from a nondescript Eastern-European country.
Pierre Gasly – #10 – France – Another driver that moved from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. One of the many young drivers in F1 this year – 23 years old.
Renault – 2x Champion
The team from France has claimed two Constructor’s Championships (2005, 2006). They are also an engine supplier for other teams. Red Bull complained often about the engine performance from Renault last year, so how did Renault respond? They signed Daniel Ricciardo away from Red Bull.
Daniel Ricciardo – #3 – Australia – The best personality in F1. He came up through the Torro Rosso – Red Bull pipeline. After spending his entire career with Red Bull he decided to make the change to Renault this season.
Nico Hulkenberg – #27 – Germany – Great name. He has raced for many midfield teams dating back to 2010. Hulkenberg holds the record for the most race starts without finishing on the podium (in the top 3).
A relatively new team, making their debut in 2016. The only team based in the United States. Their Team Prinicipal – Guenther Steiner – is quite the character with an amazing accent. They have been pushing their way through the midfield in recent years and seem to do more with less.
Romain Grosjean – #8 – France – This guy is a head-case. He has the driver’s yips.
Kevin Magnussen – #20 – Denmark – Previously drove for McClaren and Renault.
McClaren – 8x Champion
McClaren has been in the sport since 1966. They have been Constructors’ Champions eight times, with their last championship coming in 1998. They have been a midfield team for a few years and are trying to find a way back to the top.
Carlos Sainz – #55 – Spain – He spent last year driving for Renault, and previously came into F1 through Toro Rosso. Sainz is replacing his childhood hero, Fernando Alonso, on the McClaren team.
Lando Norris – #4 – United Kingdom – The youngest driver in Formula 1 – just 19 years old. McClaren is hoping to make a big splash with him this season.
Alfa Romeo
This team has won all of one race since their debut in 1993. They are another team that produces young drivers for the contenders. This year is a bit different, with Raikkonen returning to the team after many successful years away.
Kimi Raikkonen – #7 – Finland – A former World Champion – in 2007 with Ferrari – Kimi finds himself at Alfa Romeo this year. He began his F1 career and has raced for Sauber (Alfa Romeo), McClaren, Ferrari, Lotus (Renault) and now Alfa Romeo. Kimi also took a break from F1 to try out rallying and NASCAR from 2010-2011.
Antonio Giovinazzi – #99 – Italy – Not too much to say about him. He was a reserve driver for Ferrari a couple of years ago. Italians are pumped to have an Italian driver in F1 again.
Racing Point
What’s the coolest thing your Dad has bought for you? Oh cool, well Lance Stroll’s daddy bought him a Formula 1 team. Last year, they were known as Force India. The previous owner of the team was involved in some shady stuff – and was forced to sell. Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll stepped in to buy the team. Stroll, formerly an investor for Williams’, now brings his money and his son over to Racing Point.
Sergio Perez – #11 – Mexico – Kind of a dick. Not a team player, a rather selfish driver. Can be a dirty racer at times. Essentially kept his seat at Racing Point over another driver because Perez was able to bring in more sponsors from Mexico. Previously drove for Sauber and McClaren
Lance Stroll – #18 – Canada – Comes over to Racing Point this year after driving for Williams last year. He began driving for Williams at just 18 years old, and is still one of the youngest drivers on the grid at 20 years old.
Toro Rosso
Torro Rosso actually means “Red Bull” in English. They are pretty much Red Bull’s B team. All their best drivers get called up to Red Bull Racing. This is a way for their young drivers to gain experience prior to being called up to the big squad.
Daniil Kvyat – #26 – Russia – He has bounced around a bit – Toro Rosso, to Red Bull, to Torro Rosso, to Ferrari (backup), and back to Torro Rosso.
Alexander Albon – #23 – Thailand – Another driver that is new to Formula 1 – the first Thai driver since 1954.
Williams – 9x Champions
Williams has fallen a long way since their last championship in 1997. Last year they were only able to acquire 7 total points – for the entire year. They have had a difficult time keeping pace on the track with the big-budget teams.
Robert Kubica – #88 – Poland – One of the older drivers on the track, at 34 years old, Kubica has won a single race over his lengthy career. He began his time in F1 with Sauber, and then moved to Renault. In 2011, he suffered numerous serious injuries after crashing in the Ronde di Adora Rally. Kubica continued racing outside of Formula 1 after the accident – but finally returns to F1 with Williams this season
George Russell – #63 – United Kingdom – Another young driver, just 21 years old. Russell has had a lot of success at the lower levels.

Coming Up

Next week we have the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – taking place on April 28th at 5:10 AM (Pacific). This will be a 51 lap race. This is a street circuit – it actually takes place on the real streets of Azerbaijan. What else do I know about this track? Not much, it kind of looks like a penis though.

See you out on the grid!

– Buzz

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