Formula 1 is much more than sitting in a car for a few hours and driving
For the uninitiated, Formula 1 (F1) racing may just seem like any other racing sport, where people sit in a car and, if they’re skilled enough, they’ll turn the steering wheel before they hit a wall or two. This (granted, it is a solid portion of it) is not all the sport is.
F1 racing is the pinnacle of land-vehicle engineering. With vehicles passing each other at over 250 mph, the chance for failure is ever present, with even a small collision possibly losing millions of dollars.
No, you didn’t misread that. Millions. The front end of the car, which if even slightly damaged must be completely replaced, costs usually over $2.5 million USD, with some teams spending over $300-400 million USD on their car.
The sport, however, is not just a game of how much money can be lost. With great risks come great rewards.
F1 Grand Prixs are some of the most popular events in modern Europe, with people often paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to see cars for fractions of seconds at a time in person, and with over 450 million viewers worldwide. For instance, on Sept. 8, the annual Italian Grand Prix at the Monza Eni Circuit sold tickets for an average of $300 a ticket and the stadiums were full all the way around.
This Grand Prix, however, was special not for the price of the ticket, or for the amount of people attending, but for the race itself.
The race consisted of 53 laps around a track designed to have some of the fastest straightaways in the sport, with some vehicles going almost 300 mph, often followed immediately by sharp turns that demand a drop in speed and insane precision. Every split second matters when you move over 30 feet every time you blink.
To these racers, every muscle movement, every blink, every glance at the side view mirrors is the difference between finishing a race and possibly something far worse than not finishing it.
A component of the race that is often overlooked, however, may actually be one of the most important. Pit stops can be the life and death of a race, with even four seconds stopped meaning losing several positions. These pit stops are important.
In F1, the tires are completely treadless, meaning that the wheels are completely flat to gain the most friction and forward pull.
The cars are actually only held down by force created by engineering on the car far too complex to explain here. What happens is that these tires are melted up and become bumpy and uneven throughout the race, causing the driver to lose surface area and thus pull.
So, they replace the tires during the race, along with other damaged components, in the pit stops. The goal is generally to only have one pit stop per race, as they are major time losses, but sometimes a car gets damaged and they must pull a pit stop to replace the component, or risk losing a very large amount of time.
At the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc, driving for Ferrari, won. Due to amazing strategy and even more phenomenal driving, he was able to bring home the first Italian victory on their home track in nine years.
This marvelous feat brought onlookers and team members to flood into the track for one of the most massive celebrations possibly ever to occur in F1.
I have never in my life seen so many people in one place. With the three top contenders standing on a raised platform over the audience, a beautiful, amazing moment occurred as thousands of people came together to sing the Italian national anthem.
Leclerc, along with Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and superstar Lewis Hamilton, then performed the obligatory champagne spray, throwing away most of a bottle that is probably worth more than me onto the audience far below. This was truly an event worth experiencing and remembering for thousands of people, likely for many years to come.
Now, you may think that I must be extremely involved to write an entire piece on this seemingly unimportant European sport, and quite frankly, I might be, but there’s something you should know: I only started watching F1 two weeks ago.
It is unbelievably easy to get sucked into the culture and life lived by many that is known as Formula 1 racing, and I hope that you, too, may give this multi-billion dollar love-child of the car industry a chance.
~Matthew Traversa, Staff Writer~