EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT F1 IN 2021
The Ultimate F1 Breakdown for Beginners
Written by: Humza Khan
With the 2021 season fast approaching there's no better time to get involved and start watching F1 then now! With plenty of new driver line-ups, three new rookies and almost certainly a couple of all new liveries there's tons to look forward to and a bunch of drivers and teams ready for your support. Now, I know that getting involved and learning about a new sport can be daunting, especially F1 with all its moving parts and it being so extra so I've done my best to make this simple and fun and to only include info you need! The rest will come to you naturally over time. Ready? Let's goooo.
What is F1?
F1 is the highest class of single seater racing cars in the world aka the coolest and the fastest, consisting of the best drivers, designers and engineers. The first World Championship race was held in 1950 at Silverstone in the UK. It is sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile or simply the FIA if you don't have all the time in the world.
There are 10 teams signed up to compete for the 2021 season, the grid is made up of Customer and Works teams. Works manufacturers supply customer teams with power units [Engines]. E.g. McLaren make their own cars but buy engines from Mercedes.
There are 4 'Works' teams in 2021, they are Mercedes, Ferrari, Alpine [Renault] and Red Bull [Honda].
The 'Customer' teams are; McLaren [Mercedes], Alpha Tauri [Honda], Alfa Romeo [Ferrari], Aston Martin [Mercedes], Haas [Ferrari] and Williams [Mercedes].
The Points System
The points system is pretty simple, the Top 10 finishers of every race are awarded points, it goes as follows;
1st 25 Points / 2nd - 18 Points / 3rd - 15 Points / 4th - 12 Points / 5th - 10 Points / 6th - 8 Points / 7th - 6 Points / 8th - 4 Points / 9th - 2 Points / 10th - 1 Point.
If the driver who has the fastest lap of the race finishes in the Top 10 they earn 1 extra point.
The Constructors Championship is the main priority for the manufacturers as the higher up the team finishes at the end of the season, the bigger the cheque they receive, in other terms, its all about securing the bag. The total of both drivers points are added up to find the teams total points in the standings. Ferrari are the most successful team in F1 holding the record for the most Constructors titles with 16, Williams are 2nd with 9 and McLaren 3rd with 8.
The final result of the 2020 FIA F1 Constructors Championship
The Drivers Championship is the title that the drivers and fans look forward to because its the more memorable title. Its what we're all invested in and it produces unforgettable rivalries. Its the peak of personal triumph and glory in motorsport. Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton share the joint record for the most Drivers titles in history with 7 apiece, Juan Manuel Fangio is 2nd with 5 titles and Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel share 3rd with 4 titles each.
The final result of the Top 10 finishers in 2020 FIA F1 Drivers Championship
An F1 race weekend is 3 day event. For the personnel in and around the paddock it starts on Thursday as the drivers do media interviews and teams set up. For the fans, the action starts on a Friday which consists of two Free Practice sessions more commonly known as FP1 and FP2.
On Saturday the third and final Free Practice session [FP3] takes place in the morning followed by Qualifying in the afternoon which determines the grid order for Sunday. Qualifying is decided by three individual knockout sessions [Q1, Q2, Q3] with the slowest 5 drivers being eliminated in Q1 and Q2 before a shootout between remaining drivers in Q3 to decide the order of the top ten.
Sunday is race day. Not much more to say than that. Overtakes, action, crashes. Winners and losers. Yay.
Some Exciting Things to Look Out For Ahead of the New Season
Lewis Hamilton gunning for a record breaking 8th drivers title
A possible Red Bull title challenge with the recruitment of Sergio Perez
Ferrari's youngest ever driver line-up in 2021 with Carlos Sainz  moving from McLaren to partner 23 year old Charles Leclerc
Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren alongside Lando Norris
Max Verstappen title challenge [hopefully]
Fernando Alonso attempting to be back to his best after being out of the sport for 2 years
Aston Martin's 'debut' and Sebastian Vettel's debut for the Silverstone based team after leaving Ferrari
Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda's rookie seasons
The return of Zandvoort on the calendar and the inaugural race in Saudi Arabia
Just to name a few...
There are 5 different tyre compounds in F1. Each driver has to use at least 2 different compounds in the race, for example if a driver qualifies in the top 10 with the soft tyre they must start on that same tyre and use the medium or hard tyre. Drivers qualifying in positions 11-20 can start on whichever tyre they please.
Softs: red ring, softest and fastest tyre but also the least durable.
Mediums: yellow ring, medium speed and medium durability.
Hards: white ring, hardest and most durable tyre.
Intermediates: green ring, used in light rain/damp conditions.
Wets: blue ring, wet tyre, used in heavy rain.
There is a lot of rules in F1 but I'm not gonna bore you with them all, instead I'll name the essential few as the rest of them you'll learn as time goes on.
Basically, you have to keep all four wheels within the boundaries of the track [white lines], drivers must use at least two compounds of tyre during a race, if an engine part is changed the driver will take a grid drop penalty [only 3 power units are allowed per year and some components either the same or twice], no speeding in the pitlane, only one defensive move allowed [e.g: if you're defending from another driver you can only make one move, no swerving or multiple direction changes allowed].
Pitstop: Pitstops are mandatory during a race, its when the driver enters the pits and the mechanics change the tyres and/or the front wing if it's damaged.
Downforce: Downforce is essentially what sticks the car to the track. For example, F1 cars produce about 5 G's of downforce at maximum speed, that is 5 times its weight pushing the car to the ground. The more downforce there is the more the grip the car has and the more it sticks to the ground. Team's can adjust this making it lower or higher. Higher downforce would result in high cornering grip and a lower top speed, great for tracks like Monaco whereas low downforce would produce the opposite effect which would suit circuits like Monza.
Racing Line: The fastest way around the circuit
Apex: The middle of a corner
Chassis: The base frame of the car
Undercut: When a driver or team makes a strategy call to pit a lap earlier than an opponent to gain an advantage, usually to come out ahead after the pitstops.
Overcut: When a driver or team makes a strategy call to pit a lap later than an opponent to gain an advantage, usually to come out ahead after the pitstops.
Dirty Air: Dirty air is when a driver is following close behind another car, usually making it harder to follow and creating turbulence and leading to a performance advantage.
DRS: When the rear wing opens like a letterbox and gives the car a higher top speed on straights.
Flatspot: When a driver brakes too hard and the tyre ends up with a flat spot which leads to vibrations.
Oversteer: Oversteer is when a driver turns in and the back of the car steps out because the rear wheels lose grip.
Understeer: When a driver turns into a corner but the car refuses leading to the car going wide, usually the result of the front wheels losing grip. Can also caused by being in the dirty air of another car.
Legendary Drivers You Should Know
The more you watch F1 the more these names will come up. These are the drivers are the Pele's and Maradona's of the F1 world, like, you don't watch the game but you still know the name. I'm not going to add a whole list, I'll keep it short, sweet and relevant for the newbies. For a deeper insight into some of the greatest drivers in history feel free to check out my article 'Who are The Top 20 F1 Drivers of All Time'. [shameless plug]
Otherwise known as the greatest to ever do it, its quite hard to disagree. He's literally the Michael Jordan of F1. He literally rewrote almost every record in the sport and changed the expectation of what a driver could achieve. Schumacher is also synonymous with Ferrari, winning 5 of his titles with the red team.
7 World Drivers Titles [Joint 1st All-Time]
91 Wins [2nd All-Time]
155 Podiums [2nd All-Time]
Ayrton Senna is the soul of F1. Arguably the most charismatic, naturally gifted racing driver of all time. He had a once in a generation gift and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. I would highly recommend watching the film 'Senna' which would give you a wonderful insight into his story, its extremely fascinating and a brilliant watch. Senna won all 3 of his titles driving for McLaren. Unfortunately Senna's life was tragically cut short in an accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
3 World Drivers Titles [Joint 4th All-Time]
41 Wins [5th All-Time]
80 Podiums [7th All-Time]
Juan Manuel Fangio
Juan Manuel Fangio is the O.G. Otherwise known as 'El Maestro' he started racing in the 50's and won 5 titles, dominating F1's opening decade and establishing the record for most Championships for an unprecedented 46 years. The Argentinian is the only to driver to win a title with 4 different teams [Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati].
5 World Drivers Titles [2nd All-Time]
24 Wins [11th All-Time]
35 Podiums [26th All-Time]
Alain Prost is another legend of the 80's. Ayrton Senna's fiercest rival and strongest teammate. The Frenchman was nicknamed 'The Professor' due to his calculated driving technique, not the outright fastest but for sure one of the most smartest drivers ever. Prost won 4 titles in his career and held the record for the most Grand Prix wins in Formula 1 from 1987 to 2001.
4 World Drivers Titles [Joint 3rd All-Time]
51 Wins [4th All-Time]
106 Podiums [4th All-Time]
Current Teams and their Drivers
Now, I'm not going to try and influence you to support one driver over another, once you start watching you'll decide for yourself, I'm just going to point out the significant accolades or potential of every driver.
7 times and reigning World Champion, the brit equalled Michael Schumacher's titles record in 2020. He could take record for himself in 2021 but faces fierce opposition from his teammate and Red Bull.
Valtteri has it all to do this year as he enters his 5th season with Mercedes, he aims to put the pressure on Lewis this year and stop his run in his tracks. Cool, calm and collected is the Finn's trademark attitude.
Max is one of the most promising youngsters in the field. At only 23 years of age he's already entering his 7th season in Formula 1, so really he's basically a veteran. The Dutchman is supremely quick, having debuted at only 17 years old, making him the youngest driver to ever compete in a Grand Prix. He has a fiery driving style and is hungrier than ever for that first World title.
Sergio is finally at the sharp end of the grid, having debuted in 2011 the Mexican has only far only spent his 10 year career in the midfield until now. After coming painfully close to having to sit out the 2021 season after being dropped by former team Aston Martin, Perez had the season of his life finishing a career best 4th in the standings, having seen this Red Bull swooped in to offer Perez the opportunity he's been waiting for.
The meme King, 1/4 of the Twitch quartet and 1/2 of the wildly popular Norris/Sainz bromance. Lando Norris is entering his 3rd full season in F1 and probably his toughest, since Carlos Sainz left the team McLaren have decided to bring in superstar driver Daniel Ricciardo. Norris will be fighting to make the team his own and boost his reputation even more.
The Aussie is one of the most loved drivers on the grid, always smiling but also super determined and super quick. He's entering his first season with McLaren and looks to be in the prime form of his life heading into 2021. Last year he probably had his most competitive season since 2018 at Red Bull.
[Racing Point livery]
Sebastian Vettel is coming into the 2021 season with a vengeance after a disappointing final year with Ferrari. Although, the man is a 4x World Champion and dominated the sport in the early 2010's from 2010 to 2013 and is loved by many fans around the world. We're all eager to see what he can achieve in this new chapter at Aston Martin.
Lance is coming off the back of his best season to date, with competitive outings at the Hungarian and Italian Grand Prix and also a brilliant maiden pole position at the Turkish GP. Heading into the 2021 season he faces possibly his toughest challenge to date in the form of his hungry new teammate, it will be interesting to see if he's up for it.
2021 signals the return of one of the all-time GOAT's. Fernando Alonso. The 2005-2006 Champion makes his return to F1 racing after 2 years away with the team he won his double world titles with, well, the rebadged version. But still, the same team. It's very exciting stuff and I can't wait to see how well he gets on and if he's lost any of his speed.
Esteban has had a rough couple years, having to take a year out in 2019 and making a comeback with Renault only to find out he has to partner Daniel Ricciardo and now Fernando Alonso but having said that the Frenchman has the talent to take on all comers and really came into his own in the last phases of the 2020 season.
Charles Leclerc is one of the most exciting drivers on the grid, after driving a notoriously tricy Ferrari in 2020 his stock has risen dramatically after comprehensively outperforming Sebastian Vettel and finishing in places his car shouldn't have been finishing. It'll be interesting to see if Ferrari can get their act together but whether they do or not, one things for sure, the Monegasque will be providing us with entertainment nonetheless.
Carlos Sainz' career has been on a steady incline since he left Toro Rosso in 2017. The Spaniard has been performing better and better every year and his last two years at McLaren, to say impressive would be an understatement and its no surprise that he is the one Ferrari decided to sign to replace Vettel. He is so impressive in fact that according to a lot of fans and experts Leclerc's number one status could definitely come under threat at points during the season.
Pierre was a serious nominee for Driver of The Year 2020. Not only has he had the greatest comeback story on the grid, going from being dropped by Red Bull back into the 'junior team' at Alpha Tauri after a miserable 2019, he got his first podium in Brazil 2019 and took his maiden win at the Italian GP in 2020 with an Italian team. I highly recommend watching the highlights back. Goosebumps.
Yuki is the first rookie on this list, finishing P3 in the junior category F2 in 2020, the Japanese superstar already has a ton of supporters due to his likeable personality and raw speed. It's super exciting to see what he can do against Pierre.
The Iceman is notorious for being a man of a few words and doing his talking on the track. Probably the driver who gets the most love in all of F1, he doesn't force it, he says what he thinks, period. Also the oldest driver on the grid at 41 years of age the 2007 World Champ is still on it even if his car isn't. Check out his first lap at Portimao. Stunning.
Antonio has had a topsy turvy time in F1 since his debut but it seems as if he's finally coming into his own, more often than not matching Kimi in Qualifying and in the race, I would be lying if I said he wasn't under pressure to perform this season with a few Ferrari juniors waiting in the wings.
The 2020 F2 Champion is making his debut 30 years after his father made his. It's a very exciting moment for all F1 fans to have a Schumacher back on the grid and Mick who is an extraordinary talent. This year is also a little weird as Haas have two new drivers and both are rookies, meaning technically Mick is the team leader, it'll be interesting to see how he handles this role.
The King of Controversy. Definitely the most disliked driver on the grid despite not even having turned a wheel yet... you know what, just Google him, it's easier.
George is another one of the most exciting youngsters on the grid, entering his 3rd season and coming off the back of a super sub performance for Mercedes in Sakhir last season he'll be looking to put supreme pressure on Merc to sign him for next season, he's hungry and he's super fast and talented. Hopefully Williams can provide him with a car that can earn him some points.
The Canadian has had a relatively quiet couple years compared to George but the he showed excellent race pace last season, he'll be looking to build on that this season and cement his place in the team by challenging George more, especially on a Saturday.
There are a lot of media outlets that share exciting bits from all over the F1 world that will wet your appetite for this new season. As well as the incredibly informative articles on DriveTribe I would recommend watching
Drive To Survive [Netflix] - The series on Netflix is one of the most exciting things to happen for F1 fans in a long time, a dramatic recap of the season just gone, the behind the scenes imagery, fiery quotes and the craziest racing. DTS is the content that as brought in the most fans over the last two years
Race Highlights [F1 YouTube Channel] - The shortened race highlights are a great way to get the adrenaline pumping, it's free and cut down to the most exciting bits of action. Off the top of my head I'd recommend '2019 British GP', '2014 Bahrain GP', '2019 German GP', '2020 Turkish GP' just to name a few.
F1 TV [App] - If you have a bigger budget the F1 TV app is brilliant for literally everything. Radio, onboards, classic races, lap tracking, data etc, it's very fun.
Rush / Senna [Movies] - If you wanna sit back and understand more about some of the legends there are no two movies more epic than these two.