A geek’s guide to Formula 1

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Formula One is the world’s favourite motor sport and is one of a few sports with a season that's contested all around the world. First introduced at British track Silverstone in 1950, F1 is one of the most watched sports in Europe and continues to grow at a rapid rate today.

Each season sees drivers contest multiple Grand Prix races across five different continents, and over a range of testing, diverse and unique tracks. Speeds of 257 mph have been recorded for cars, and the races can be both electrifying and intense as the world’s best drivers seek to become world champion.

When it first started almost 60 years ago, the sport benefitted leading car manufactures such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz who could showcase their pre-war industrial skills in creating the best car. This battle continued to grow, however regulations for car safety were forced upon them following a high number of deaths throughout the fifties.

Position Points
1st 25
2nd 18
3rd 15
4th 12
5th 10
6th 8
7th 6
8th 4
9th 2
10th 1

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel

Safety changes and the famous pointed front shape of the car was introduced as F1 became dominated by the British, as they landed the World Championship nine times between 1962 and 1973. Newer technologies came, and speeds rapidly increased into the 70s. F1 grew a big audience to watch Niki Lauda and James Hunt battle for the 1975 world title, which Hunt won on the final race.

Throughout the 80s and 90s the sport continued to grow, especially with the marketing expertise of Bernie Eccleston, but in 1994 the shocking death of popular driver and triple World Champion, Ayrton Senna, signified the need for stricter safety measures. The elite manufacturers such as Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault dominated before one German became the most famous name to ever contest the sport: Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher was a seven-time World Champion, enjoying five consecutive wins between 2000 and 2004 and remains one of the best to have ever driven. After his retirement F1 faced multiple changes for drivers, manufacturers and the rulebook as it continued to expand globally.

The F1 World Championships is formatted in a league table, which includes points aggregated from all 21 Grand Prix races which take place between March and November. Points are awarded to drivers based on their overall finishing position, with 25 points going to the winner of each race.

The constructors of the F1 cars are certain teams, with each team having two drivers representing them for each race. The points received by the two drivers are both totalled for the constructor’s championship which follows a similar model to the world title.

The F1 season will begin in just over two weeks’ time in Melbourne, Australia. Two of the last three winners of the season’s curtain-raiser have gone on to become World Champion that year so it could a useful indication for the rest of the year.

Other memorable dates in the calendar is the French Grand Prix, which takes place in Le Castellet; it will be the first competition held in France in ten years. The German Grand Prix also returns after it missed out on last year’s world championships.

One of F1's most famous tracks, Monaco One of F1's most famous tracks, Monaco

The Monaco and British Grand Prix races are held at two of the most famous tracks in Formula One - and are always prestigious prizes - whilst the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi is always an exciting end to the season.

Date Formula 1 Grand Prix Venue
25-Mar Australia Melbourne
08-Apr Bahrain Sakhir
15-Apr China Shanghai
29-Apr Azerbaijan Baku
13-May Spain Barcelona
27-May Monaco Monaco
10-Jun Canada Montreal
24-Jun France Le Castellet
01-Jul Austria Spielberg
08-Jul Great Britain Silverstone
22-Jul Germany Hockenheim
29-Jul Hungary Budapest
26-Aug Belgium Spa-Francorchamps
02-Sep Italy Monza
16-Sep Singapore Singapore
30-Sep Russia Sochi
07-Oct Japan Suzuka
21-Oct USA Austin
28-Oct Mexico Mexico City
11-Nov Brazil Sao Paulo
25-Nov Abu Dhabi Yas Marina

Last season British driver Lewis Hamilton lifted his fourth World Championship title, but the Brit didn’t have the best of starts as Ferrari faced significant dangers in the opening few races. Hamilton and his constructors Mercedes-Benz soon asserted their dominance throughout the summer period, as he took five Grand Prix victories from seven in the mid-part of the season.

As Hamilton appeared to have closed in on the title, Dutch driver Max Verstappen took two titles; he will come into this year with a great deal of confidence. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas also took three titles.

Yet the most obvious rival to Hamilton is Sebastian Vettel, a four-time World Champion who finished second in the standings last year. The German drives for Ferrari alongside Kimi Räikkönen, the team who are hoping to end Mercedes dominance of the Constructors’ Championship are seeking a sixth successive victory this season. Ferrari’s famous red colours haven’t won the title since 2008.

Finally keep an eye out for young driver, Charles Leclerc. The 20-year-old is being described as one of the hottest young prospects in F1, and he drives for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team alongside Swede Marcus Ericsson. This is Monte Carlo-born Leclerc's first season in the F1, and has already been described as ‘the future of F1’. Could he become the first native to win the famous Monaco Grand Prix?

Mercedes Wo9 at Silverstone Mercedes Wo9 at Silverstone

Betting tips for F1

Betting is available for the World Championships as well as the Constructors’ Championship, and for each Grand Prix there is a range of markets to bet on. Betting on a driver to win a race can often be tricky as the majority of favourites win, however head-to-head betting could be more valuable.

Another good value option is betting on a driver to reach the top three, known in F1 as the podium. Often races can be chaotic with both human and machine faults, and if there are a few crashes it could mean an unlikely driver reaches the pole position.

Lewis Hamilton is a hot favourite to retain his world championship title this year, and pundits strongly fancy his chances. He won by a fair margin ahead of Sebastian Vettel last season, and he may prove hard to beat once again. Hamilton has the class, experience and the backing of a very successful team, making him the leading candidate for the most prestigious prize in F1. His new car, the Mercedes Wo9, has already impressed in testing and he is expected to finish in pole position this year.

The constructors championship will most probably go back to Mercedes as it has in previous seasons. Their team of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were a long way ahead of their rivals last season, and the team are bound to improve their car for this year. Ferrari are hot on their tails, and reports indicate that they are expecting to form a good challenge to break the seven-year dominance of Mercedes.

It could also be worth betting on both Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in their head-to-head races, the pair are both improving significantly and could represent good value to have some wins inn their respective battles throughout the year.

Words: James Stevens

Images: PA

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