The pinnacle of automobile sports, Formula 1 features races between single seat cars on circuit racecourses (permanently built or on city streets). The first Formula car was built in 1885 by the German carmaker Karl Benz, and the first official race took place on a 126 km course between Paris and Rouen, in France, on July 22, 1894. Until 1906, a series of “city to city’’ races, linking European capitals, formed an international championship. The Fédération internationale de l’automobile was founded in 1904 and became the world governing body for automobile sports. The first Grand Prix was held in Le Mans, France, in 1906, while the first Formula 1 world championship was held in 1950; the champion was the Italian Giuseppe Farina, driving an Alfa Romeo. Over the decades, F1 has come to be heavily covered by the media, and high technology and money reign supreme in the sport.
Driving a F1 car requires more endurance than physical strength. Tolerance for heat is essential, since the temperature in the cockpit may reach 50 °C (122 °F). Drivers lose up to 4 kg (8.8 lb) during a race.
Training consists of muscle strengthening with a focus on the neck, forearms, abdominals and legs. Vision and coordination must be excellent.
A healthy cardiovascular system is essential; in a race, a driver’s heart rate is around 160 beats per minute, and up to 190 during an incident.
The event lasts 3 days. Friday and Saturday morning are devoted to testing, during which the drivers drive as many laps as they need to get their car properly adjusted. A one hour official qualifying period is held on Saturday afternoon. The drivers go on the course at any point during this hour and have a maximum of 12 laps to record a qualifying time that will determine their position on the starting grid.
The race itself takes place on Sunday. Thirty minutes before the start, the cars leave the pits, take a courtesy lap, and line up on the grid. Engines are started 1 minute before the warm-up lap, which is a lap of the course at reduced speed (no passing is allowed) to warm up the tires before the official start of the race. After completing the warm-up lap, the cars take their place at 1- second intervals. The race starts when all 5 lights go out together.
The Grand Prix courses are between 3 and 7 km (between 1.86 and 4.34 mi) long. A Grand Prix must be a total of 305 km (190 mi).
The Formula 1 world championship involves 16 or 17 races; 12 teams, each with 2 drivers, compete. The driver with the most points at the end of the season is the champion. Points are awarded to the top 6 drivers on the following scale: 10 points to the first, 6 to the second, 4 to the third, 3 to the fourth, 2 to the fifth and 1 to the sixth.