Things you ought to know on a F1 weekend…

The first ever Indian Grand Prix is just around the corner and there is quite a buzz among media and Indian race enthusiasts. It is really an honor for India to host such a sporting extravaganza. No doubt those who have bought tickets of this carnival will not be disappointed. However, F1 is not a big craze in India (at least for now) and many of the people attending the event would not be sure of the chi-kens and turns of the event. So here is a small summary of how the 3 day speed festival unfolds for those who, let’s just say, are not “F1 junkies” yet…

The inaugural Indian GP is the 17th out of the 19 races scheduled in this year’s F1 calendar. 12 teams and 24 drivers (2 per team) will take part in the race. Sebastian Vettel of the Red-Bull Racing has already been crowned the new world F1 champion for this year as he has got insurmountable lead over his nearest opponent – Jenson Button of Mclaren
racing team.

Red-Bull Racing has also already won this year’s constructor championship (the team title) so, in terms of championship
Indian GP doesn’t carry much of importance. Having Said said that the race for 2nd place in driver’s standing is far from over as 4 drivers are still in contention.

Free practice sessions:
F1 weekend starts with 2 free practice sessions on Friday followed by a 3rd one on Saturday. Teams can test the track, change car balance/settings, try new upgrades and let the driver get the feel of his car as well as of the track by these practice sessions. The lap times recorded in these free practices do not count for anything in the final race but, can sure help teams get a psychological edge over their opponents. No team or driver lays down his actual cards on the table during these sessions.

On Saturday qualifyings takes place. Now your performance in qualifying determines your position in the starting line- up for the main race on Sunday. Qualifying is split into three small elimination rounds called Q1, Q2 & Q3 which have a timetime duration of 20mins, 15mins and 10mins respectively. Each driver tries to clock lap time faster than other 23
drivers in qualifying. At the end of Q1 & Q2, and 7 slowest cars of that round are eliminated and the remaining cars move to the next round.

Cars eliminated in these rounds start the race in same position as they were atin, at the end of qualifying round in which they got eliminated. However, in Q1 if a car is slower than 107% of the time set by the fastest car in Q1, that car in not allowed to taketaking part in Sunday’s race.

10 cars race in Q3 and the starting lineup gets finalized after 10 exiting minutes of racing. The fastest driver after Q3 is said to be on “pole position” for the race.

Race day:
The main event takes place on Sunday where all the cars that who have qualified race each other in a 2 hour speed war around the track. Race is divided into a number of laps with each circuit having different number of laps depending upon circuit length and nature of circuit. The Indian GP has 60 laps in all with a track length of 5.13 Kmskilometers.

The race goes on uninterrupted except for “the pit stops”. Each driver must stop at least once during the race to change the tyre ware. These very quick stopsstops (car remains stationary for approx. 4-5secs) where all the 4 tyres are replaced by a brand new set are termed as pit stops as there are separate pit garages for each team at the sidelines of the main track.

Each driver applies a different strategy and takes different number of stops. Generally in most races 2 or 3 pit stops are taken by most of the drivers. The driver who completes the designated number of laps first takes the Chequered flag to win the race. The top ten drivers get championship points as follows:
1st= 25 : 2nd = 18 : 3rd = 15 : 4th = 12 : 5th = 10 : 6th = 8 : 7th= 6 : 8th= 4 : 9th = 2 : 10th= 1.
The teams get points equal to sum of the points scored by their respective drivers in the race.

There are many nuances, rules and technicalities of the race but those are better learned by watching this lovely sport than reading in an article. This is just a sneak peakpeek into the race weekend but, the actual experience with deafening engine sounds, crashes, drama, overtakes and the blistering breath taking speeds of F1 mean machines leaves you mesmerized. The party atmosphere, the thrill, the glamour and above all the racing spirit can’t be described in words; one has to experience it to feel and get charmed.

Coming soon: “ABC… of F1” with many of the important terms associated with “the F1 lingo”.

Vikas Mulchandani