The Pinnacle of Motorsport - Formula One

Both an iconic and still growing sport, Formula One is full of exciting races that sports fans should keep their eyes on.

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The sports we all know and love are considered “the peak of human performance.” From football players colliding with each other with the force of a car accident, to track stars running a mile in less than 4 minutes, to swimmers swimming from Cuba to Florida, humans have achieved some extremely impressive feats in sports. While these sports show incredible human ability, they leave out a major part of human performance: technology. We live in a world where planes can fly a mile in five seconds, and boats can go from Cuba to Florida with ease. These accomplishments in sports seem less impressive when you compare them to what we have been able to do with technology. However, there is a sport that uses technology to achieve a genuine “peak of human performance”—Formula One.

Formula One is the highest level of car racing in the world. It combines the incredible skill of their drivers with some of the most technologically advanced cars in history, made by some of the world’s best automobile manufacturers. These cars all have to follow a specific set of rules though, or “the formula.” These include limits to weight, width, height, engine type, car shape, and much more. The sport currently has ten different teams, each with two drivers, who score points based on placement in races. At the end of the season, the driver with the most points wins the Drivers’ Championship and the team with the most total points wins the Constructors’ Championship. The sport is composed of races, known as Grand Prix, that happen at race tracks and even through city streets around the world.

The sport has a deep history, beginning back in 1950. Back then, motorsports were still very young, undeveloped, and notably dangerous. Furthermore, the cars were fast, with an average speed of about 100 miles per hour, quick acceleration, and a strong ability to turn. However, manufacturers competing with each other fought hard to make these cars quicker, and over time, they succeeded. Through technological developments like more powerful and efficient engines, smoother aerodynamics, and lighter bodies, cars not only got faster, but turned better and became safer. With this, Formula One sponsorships were born. With all of this technological development in racecars as well as the physical engineering it took to build these cars, motorsports became expensive. As a result, racecars, which were originally clean and just one color, have become plastered with any brand imaginable, including sponsors such as Red Bull, Chipotle, Google, and Visa. Furthermore, most teams in the sport are owned by car brands, including Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercades. Those brands not only sponsor the teams, but also use their technological innovations for their regular cars. 

F1 is a complex sport when compared to other, more popular sports, but that is part of what makes it fun. One thing that makes it complicated is the team vs. individual aspect. Each team has two drivers that participate in each race, and to some degree the drivers have a common goal of success for the team. At the same time though, the drivers are also trying to do the best for themselves individually, which sometimes means competing against their own teammate. This mix of team goals and individual goals can, and has historically, led to some interesting drama. Another complicated part of the sport is the race weekend. Unlike other sports where the game occurs over a few hours, the race weekend is a multi-event, three-day long affair. Each race-weekend contains a few different parts. First are the practice sessions. During these three sessions, teams get to test and practice using their car on the track and see what small adjustments to make for performance. Next are the qualifying sessions which determine the very important order in which the cars line up for the race. The goal of the drivers in the qualifying session is to get the single fastest lap time possible. There are three rounds in this session. In the first, the slowest five are eliminated, then in the second, the next five slowest are eliminated, and finally in the last session, the order of the top ten is the order of the lap times from fastest to slowest. Lastly, there is the race where the drivers drive for a set number of laps, which vary depending on the track, and the first person to finish the race wins. Points toward the drivers and Constructors’ Championships are given out to the top 10 finishers, with 25 points going to the winner, 18 to second, 12 to third, all the way down to one point for 10th. Also, the racer with the fastest lap in the race gets a point.

Formula One is an iconic sport, but in recent years it has been growing massively. This is in part due to the Netflix show Drive to Survive, which has brought mainstream popularity to motorsports. With the growth in popularity worldwide, the sport itself is expanding. Currently, there are 24 different races in the 2024 season, each happening at a different venue across the world. Some are iconic circuits like Silverstone in the UK and the Monaco street circuit, which have been a part of F1 since the very beginning, and some are new additions like the Miami street circuit and the Jeddah circuit. The 2024 season just started a few weeks ago in Bahrain, but from what we have seen so far, it seems to be a continuation of the previous 2023 season. Dutch phenom and 2023 champion Max Verstappen hasn’t just been winning but absolutely dominating, winning the first two races by 22 seconds and 13 seconds respectively—two massive margins in F1 terms. It’s not just him though, as Sergio “Checo” Perez placed second in both races as the second Red Bull driver, proving the strength of the car. Below Red Bull though, the fight for second between Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes has been tight and fun to watch. There have already been dramatic moments in the season with Lewis Hamilton announcing a move next year to Ferrari and rookie Ollie Bearman, a Formula Two driver, filling in for an injured Carlos Sainz and scoring points in his first ever race. Hopefully the season continues to find ways to be interesting, despite the lack of competition at the top, and make all Formula One fans happy.