Guest Author - Christine Blachford
Each Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place over an entire weekend. They used to be fortnightly, but with more and more additions to the calendar, the schedule has meant some consecutive weekends must be included. For 2007, the calendar stands at 19 Grand Prix.
A Formula 1 weekends starts on a Friday. The teams will have arrived at some point during the week, and they will be all set up to go. There are two practice sessions on the Friday, called Free Practice 1 and, quite predictably, Free Practice 2. The teams and drivers get to grips with the track, with conditions, such as weather and humidity, and they make sure that their cars are set up right.
Although it is only a practice, the teams want to be at the top of the timesheets in both sessions, so that they can grab the headlines and get the free publicity.
On Saturday the real racing begins, with qualifying. The format of qualifying has taken various forms over the years, with the most recent incarnations being a one-shot, all-or-nothing, give-it-your-all timed single lap, and a timed stint where everyone is all on track at the same time, practically racing each other. The qualifying for 2007 is more like the latter. There are three timed sessions. The first features all the cars trying to put in as fast a lap as possible. The slowest six are knocked out. Another session follows exactly the same, with the next slowest six being knocked out. The remaining ten then take part in a longer session, where the fastest laps denote the finishing order.
After that, there’s a press conference where the lucky person on "pole position" gets to talk about what made his lap so special, and the other two get to say how they almost pipped him to the post.
Sunday is race day - the most important day, and the starting point for any new Formula 1 fans. The cars line up on the grid in the order they qualified yesterday, and the teams gather round them to make their final preparations. When the parade lap is about to start, the teams clear the grid and the cars go off, once round and back to their starting position. There are five red lights that indicate the start, they go off one at a time, and when they are all out – it's go, Go, GO!
Races can last anywhere between 50 and 80 laps. The number is determined by the length of the track, as the race must be finished within two hours, and so only a certain amount of kms can be completed in that time.
When the final cars make it over the finish line, everyone wants to know who is on the podium. The first three positions receive a trophy and get to attend the press conference. The positions from 4 down to 8 receive a diminishing number of points. The others don’t go away with anything, except the knowledge that they will have to try harder at the next race weekend.