Description of the competition

Formula One (also known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and owned by Liberty Media, an American mass media company, through its wholly owned subsidiary, the Formula One Group. The World Drivers’ Championship, which became the FIA Formula One World Championship in 1981, has been one of the premier forms of racing around the world since its inaugural season in 1950. The word “formula” in the name refers to the set of rules to which all participants’ cars must conform. A Formula One season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix (French for ”grand prizes’ or ‘great prizes”), which take place worldwide on purpose-built circuits and on public roads.

The results of each race are evaluated using a points system to determine two annual World Championships: one for drivers, the other for constructors. Drivers must hold valid Super Licences, the highest class of racing licence issued by the FIA. The races must run on tracks graded “1” (formerly “A”), the highest grade-rating issued by the FIA. Most events occur in rural locations on purpose-built tracks, but several events take place on city streets.

Formula One cars are the fastest regulated road-course racing cars in the world, owing to very high cornering speeds achieved through the generation of large amounts of aerodynamic downforce. The cars underwent major changes in 2017, allowing wider front and rear wings, and wider tyres, resulting in peak cornering forces near 6.5 lateral g and top speeds of up to approximately 370 km/h (230 mph). As of 2019 the hybrid engines are limited in performance to a maximum of 15,000 rpm; the cars are very dependent on electronics and aerodynamics, suspension and tyres. Traction control and other driving aids have been banned since 2008.

A Formula One Grand Prix event spans a weekend. It begins with two free practice sessions on Friday (except in Monaco, where Friday practices are moved to Thursday), and one free practice on Saturday. Additional drivers (commonly known as third drivers) are allowed to run on Fridays, but only two cars may be used per team, requiring a race driver to give up his seat. A qualifying session is held after the last free practice session. This session determines the starting order for the race on Sunday.

Modern Formula One cars are mid-engined, hybrid, open cockpit, open wheel single-seaters. The chassis is made largely of carbon-fibre composites, rendering it light but extremely stiff and strong. The whole car, including the driver but not fuel, weighs only 740 kg (1,630 lb) – the minimum weight set by the regulations. If the construction of the car is lighter than the minimum, it can be ballasted up to add the necessary weight. The racing teams take advantage of this by placing this ballast at the extreme bottom of the chassis, thereby locating the centre of gravity as low as possible in order to improve handling and weight transfer.

The cornering speed of Formula One cars is largely determined by the aerodynamic downforce that they generate, which pushes the car down onto the track. This is provided by “wings” mounted at the front and rear of the vehicle, and by ground effect created by low air pressure under the flat bottom of the car. The aerodynamic design of the cars is very heavily constrained to limit performance and the current generation of cars sport a large number of small winglets, “barge boards”, and turning vanes designed to closely control the flow of the air over, under, and around the car.