How to Watch a Formula1 Race
Click on the link for steps to watch a F1 Race

Introduction
The Pilots
The Cars
Some finer details

Introduction
Formula 1 is truly a World Championship event, featuring races at 18 different circuits all over the globe. The season starts in Australia and ends in Brazil with stops in Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary, the United States and other locales in between. A person who races an F1 car is called a pilot. These pilots experience more g-force on the ground during a race than a fighter pilot in the sky.

Things You'll Need

  • Television Schedule
  • Television
  • Cable Connection or Direct Satellite System
  • DVD Recorder
  • Computer/Internet Access
  • And most importantly, a bunch of friends..!!

Step One
Familiarize yourself with the schedule. Most of the races are broadcasted in the late afternoons. However, some races are broadcast late in the night because of time zone differences. Many times, a race will be re-broadcast in the afternoon. Plan your race day viewing ahead of time.

Step Two
Don't just watch the race! Each race is preceded by a practice session and a qualifying session. Race position is determined during qualifying. Sometimes a pilot is penalized for making a mistake or for an unsanctioned modification to their car during qualifying, resulting in a starting position in the back of the grid. When this happens, a pilot will quickly try to advance during the race to compensate for the penalty--exciting racing!

Step Three
Learn the circuit. Each race circuit presents its own challenge. Sometimes the challenge is racing on a city street! Other times a quick turn has to be taken at the start of the race or at the end of a long straight.

Step Four
Check the weather. The temperature of the race track and the possibility of rain will affect the choice of tyre. Each team arrives with a hard and a soft compound set of tyres to run based on weather conditions.

Step Five
Follow the race storylines. Televised races feature storylines about something relevant to the race. Will a certain pilot make a comeback? Will a particular car have a bad day? Will a team run two different strategies for each car?

Step Six
Watch the celebration and press conference after the race. The press conference is an informative way to learn about the effort it took to win a race or to finish in the top 3.

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The Pilots

Step One
Know where a pilot stands in the points. A race winner is awarded 10 points. Second place is awarded 8 points. A pilot leading in the points might not race aggressively to reduce chances of an accident. Some teams and pilots race all season in the hopes of scoring a point when winning isn't within reach.

Step Two
Know something about the pilot's history. Jensen Button is considered a really great F1 pilot, but he did not win a race until after his 114th start. Knowing whether a pilot is defending a victory from the previous year lends to the excitement.

Step Three
Watch for errors. If the pilot doesn't make any errors it doesn't mean the team or another pilot won't make one which could take that pilot out of the race.

Step Four
Look for the pilots off-track. Mostly, these pilots are unknown outside of the world of F1, but many of them have paid endorsements. Michael Schumacher was the world's highest paid athlete for five years in a row prior to his retirement, earning more than well-known athletes like Tiger Woods, David Beckham, etc

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The Cars

Step One
Turn up the volume! The start of an F1 race is unlike anything in the world. Twenty cars accelerating from 0 to 100 MPH in 3 seconds is an incredible sight to see and even more thrilling to hear!

Step Two
Know something about the technical sophistication of the cars. The cars are powered by V8 engines running special fuel to produce 750 horsepower. The combined weight of the car and pilot is less than 750 kgs. But there's more to it than just horsepower. Notice when a pilot has an accident, he removes the steering wheel--the steering wheel in an F1 car costs USD 100,000 and has more computing power than a desktop computer. It is the inspiration for regular cars which feature "paddle shifting" on the steering wheel.

Step Three
Know where the manufacturer stands in the points total. F1 features two championships. One for the pilots and one for the manufacturers. The two teams with the best records each spend 400 million dollars a year and these two teams aren't the sport's biggest spenders.

Step Four
Watch the fans! Formula 1 fans are some of the most colorful in the world. The grandstands are usually a sea of Ferrari red. Other manufacturer's have their fans, too, including those who root for the underdog.

Step Five
Win a lottery and attend the historic F-1 race at Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco. No race speaks more to the essence of the sport, which is sophisticated, high-tech glamour rather than rough-and-tumble racing.

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Now on to some finer details -
All races take place on Sundays with qualification on Saturdays and practice on Fridays. If not sure about what time the race is going to be in your time zone go to Formula1 .com and click on the particular race and "convert to local time".

Now, rules for F1 racing keep on changing every now and then ever so slightly. But as the 2008 is the upcoming season I'm going to talk about those.

So, after practicing around on Fridays, the teams try to qualify for the Sunday race by lapping the circuit/track individually, so as to set the fastest possible time (the fastest car in Qualifying will be the first one on the grid on the Race Day).

The actual qualification process is a little more detailed; there are 3 slots available for the Qualifying. The slowest cars in each slot will keep on getting eliminated. So the first 15 minute slot will see the 6 slowest cars eliminated, next 15 minute slot will result in another 6 and finally the last slot (20 minutes) will see the 10 cars (remember 11 teams = 22 cars = 6 + 6 + 10) on the grid eliminated.

The qualifying has another interesting significance on the actual racing day; the amount of fuel that a car uses while qualifying. (more on this below 'cause F1 racing has as much strategy behind it as the technology, which makes it interesting).

Something about the qualifying, in the last 20 minute slot, the cars have to qualify with the same amount of fuel load that they will have when starting the race on Sunday. So let's say a car has enough fuel for 5 laps (which is quite less). It puts a stellar performance in the qualify and beats all the cars to get a first starting position on the grid. But, as it has only 5 lap worth fuel (while other cars have typically 20-25 laps worth and usually races are 50-70 laps), it will need to make a pit stop earlier than other cars and the other cars will essentially overtake it while it's in the pit stop.

So, it's Sunday and you're sitting in front of the TV sporting your slick t-shirt. Now you can see the cars are all lined up as expected after the qualifying session. Right before the race there is a single prep lap where the cars can warm up the their tyres (gripping level reaches it's peak when the tyres are working their hardest) and after that they take grid positions and blast off.

Never miss the first lap of the race - it's usually the most exciting one as all the cars are trying to get into favorable positions which can make or break their final standing at the end of the race. Sometimes, if a strong car didn't make good times in the qualifying and is stuck at the back, one can see it leap frog 4-5 cars in the first lap itself! Plus, you wouldn't want to miss the carnage of the cars' wings or noses that sometimes ensues right after the start.

OK, now we have to worry about pit stops and fuel load. Overtaking in F1 is especially rare nowadays and essentially the problem is that when trying to overtake, the car in front causes the chasing car to lose its aerodynamic grip. So, the overtaking takes place usually in the form of pit stops. Typically there are 2 - 3 pit stops per race for each car. (Michael Schumacher did a record 4 pits stops in a certain race and still won the race by a huge margin)

Now, pit stops and fuel loads are crucial to F1 strategy. Let's say if a car has enough fuel so that it needs only a single pit stop during the race. Now, it won't have to stop as much as other cars but because it carries more fuel than the others, it will be slower each lap because of extra weight. As F1 cars are relatively light cars, fuel weight does play an important role. Now in the other case, 3 stops might be a lot of wasted time, but the car will be faster each lap. So the team has to change and anticipate which teams will be going for what strategy.

Hence, deciding on how much fuel to initially put in the car during qualifying can affect the actual race day results, to an extent.

However, passing does take place on track and some of the moves are pretty exciting. For example during the 2005 Suzuka (Japan) race, Raikkonen started on the back of the grid (I believe position 18 or 20 something like that) and made his way through the entire race eventually overtaking the leader on the final lap and that too on the outside of the track. In another one, Raikkonen was sure to secure first place but at the last lap his tyre + suspension spectacularly blew out and he was easily overtaken (luckily no harm came to the driver).

So things are never certain in F1.
Well, I guess that should help you hook onto F1. Also the drivers to look for are Kimi Raikkonen (Finland), Ferenando Alonso (Spain), Lewis Hamilton (England), Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy), Jenson Button(England). So go out there and root for your favorite!

For more information, just look around on the website. Read about the cars, the history, the rules & regulations, the technical aspects, the business aspects, how the drivers’ train, etc and enjoy the sport of Formula 1 like never before.

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