I was talking to a friend the other day and he seemed surprised that I was a keen follower of F1 racing. “How can you sit there just watching cars whizzing around the track?” He asked.
This got me thinking. How many people out there are under the same misapprehension? Formula One is far more complex than just the drivers racing around the track.
The driving is a small part of it. Decisions have to be made, by the entire team, depending on the size of the track and the number of circuits that have to be raced. Should one elect for a one-stop strategy, a two-stop strategy, or with the longer races, a three-stop strategy? This simple decision could make a huge impact on your position at the end of the race. Then, if the safety car came out, should you take the opportunity — depending on your present position — of whether to go straight into the pits or continuing your position?
Then, prior to the race, which is always held on a Sunday, what should you do on the practice days (Friday and Saturday)? On the final day, the last practice set will depend on what position on the starting grid of the main race you are allotted. However, you have to have the same amount of petrol in your petrol tank at the beginning of the main race as you had in this final practice session. A bad decision could mean losing ground in the first few laps of the race which could hinder your performance throughout the rest of the race!
During the main race the entire team have to make decisions such as how hard do you push your car? The engine in your car has to be used for two races so, if you push your car too much in the first race, it will not perform quite so well in the next race! A bad decision could lose you overall points.
You also have to decide which tyres to use. Hard tyres? Soft tyres? And, if it begins to rain during the middle of the race you have to ask yourself: “Is this a shower?”; “Is this going to develop into heavy rain?” Or “How long will this last?”. Depending on your decision, will decide on which wet tyres you decide to put on. A bad decision could lose you the race!
In addition to all this, you need to have a strategy for the entire season as it is the driver with the highest points during the season who becomes world champion. However, this strategy has to be reassessed at the start of each race depending on the type of circuit you are racing on, the number of good overtaking points on the circuit, and whether you have your lucky rabbit’s foot with you! Of course, the last point is a little frivolous but I put it there to admit that, although all these decisions require great skill, there is always that element of luck needed.
I have covered some of the points on which to base F1 decisions upon, but hopefully only enough for you to realise it isn’t just about a lot of men whizzing around the circuit.