Formula 1 is one of the most popular sports in the world. Analytics company Nielsen projects that it will have 1 billion fans in 2022. It hasn’t been as popular in the U.S. as the rest of the world, but recent years have seen tremendous growth in the U.S. fan base. This year, the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas was attended by 400,000 fans over the course of the weekend, over 40% of whom were attended their first Formula 1 race. The growth in the U.S. has been largely driven by the hugely popular Netflix show Formula 1: Drive to Survive. If you haven’t watched it, you’re missing out.
My wife and I have become F1 fans — we watch all the qualifying and Grand Prix races (which surprises me because neither of us has ever been remotely interested in racing). Becoming a brand new F1 fan has brought with it a lot of questions. Here are some of my top ones with answers:
1. Logistics – How do the cars, equipment, and people get to each Grand Prix?
There are 10 teams, each consisting of two race cars, two drivers, hundreds of personnel, and tons and tons of equipment. When it comes to traveling between Grand Prix sites, usually about 100 people and 50 tons of cargo travel for each team. How does all that stuff and people get moved from place to place?
There are three categories of stuff that get transported: (1) people, (2) car-related cargo, and (3) non-car-related cargo.
For travel between European races, both car-related cargo and non-car-related cargo is usually shipped by road, and some of the personnel will fly and some will also go by road (depending on the distance).
For non-European races, the logistics are a lot more complicated. Non-car-related cargo is usually shipped by sea. F1 and the teams have a few sets of their non-car-related cargo and ship it well in advance of the races. The people and car-related cargo are flown to each location. The cargo is hauled by DHL:
Formula 1’s official carrier, DHL, says six of its Boeing 747 aircraft clock up 132,000km during a nine-month F1 season, as they carry the paraphernalia of 10 teams and 20 drivers to five continents. That’s a hefty 50 tons on average of freight per team, 30 freight containers of hospitality equipment, 150,000kg of media equipment and 10,000kg of electronics per F1 team.Source
2. How does Formula 1 make money?
Formula 1 is owned by U.S. media giant Liberty Media. Its main sources of revenue are:
- broadcasting fees or TV commercial rights,
- advertising and sponsorships,
- race promotion fees or fees for hosting races and
The ten teams receive payments of various amounts from Formula 1 based on where they finish in the rankings, plus there are bonus payments to some teams for various achievements, and teams also get paid additional sums for being “long-standing” teams. The payments from Formula 1 don’t fully fund team operations, however. In 2019, payments ranged from $35 million to $143 million. So, to make money the teams need other sources of revenue like sponsorships, marketing revenue, and merchandising.
Like in other pro sports, Formula 1 has a budget cap. In 2021 the cap was $145 million. But there are all sorts of exclusions and loopholes resulting in some teams greatly outspending others.
3. How big are the teams?
Formula 1 teams have hundreds of people and some have over 1,000. The teams include:
- The drivers and test drivers
- Team principal and management
- Data analysts
- Media personnel
- The factor team who design and manufacture the cars
4. How Fast are the Cars?
Formula 1 cars are crazy fast. They have a top speed of about 230 mph and go from zero to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds.
Since 2014, Formula 1 engines are 1.6 liter V6 turbo hybrids that produce up to 1000hp. Some speculate that in the not too distant future F1 cars will be fully electric.
Four companies currently produce F1 engines: Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda. Each of the ten teams are “constructors” meaning that they have to design and build their cars but they can buy the engines from one of the four manufacturers.
5. F1 Drivers are subjected to a lot of g’s
“G Force” is a measure of the force of gravity or acceleration on a body. A one g force what we all experience every day when we sit or walk around. Two g’s feel like you weigh twice your weight, and so on.
Formula One drivers usually experience 5 g while braking, 2 g while accelerating, and 4 to 6 g while cornering. That’s a ton of g’s! As a comparison, top-end sports cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the Corvette Z06 can only hold about 1.2g’s on a turn.
Due to the crazy amount of g’s each driver experience during an F1 race, they need to be in great physical condition.