Everything You Need To Know About Formula 1

Everything You Need To Know About Formula 1
✍️ Written by
Sarah Ryan
🗓 Updated
Aug 23rd 2023

For a long time, American motorsport fans were primarily invested in Indycar, NASCAR, and purely domestic motorsports. But that trend has gradually been changing, and particularly so in recent years, as the public interest in F1 racing has effectively gone global. Part of the reason for this uptick in interest, beyond globalization and the internet, is due to the popular Netflix reality docuseries “Formula One: Drive to Survive.”

According to Nielsen statistics, this series alone increased the American viewership of Formula One races substantially. From 2019 to 2022, F1 saw over four million new U.S. viewers, as F1 racing viewership grew from 44.9 million to 49.2 million sets of eyeballs. Per this comprehensive analysis, conducted in tandem with Nielsen Fan Insights, a large number of respondents credited the Netflix series with getting them interested in this motorsport. About:

  • 34% of respondents said they became a fan after watching

  • 30% said it gave them a better understanding of the sport

  • 29% said they felt more engaged with the sport after watching

Nielsen credits sports as accounting for 98% of the Top 50 most-viewed programming on television, so this uptick in F1 viewership for live competitions, as well as other television programming, has been huge for the sport. Right now,  “Drive to Survive” is currently in its fifth season, and it will be sure to attract even more eyeballs and bettors to the sport.

If you’re one of the millions of new F1 fans who are thinking about getting in on the sport, trying to learn more ahead of the next annual World Championship, and possibly getting in on the betting market action surrounding the sport, here is what you need to know. Let’s answer some frequently asked questions!

What Is Formula 1?

Although F1 racing has grown especially popular in recent years, the sport’s inaugural season dates all the way back to 1950, and its roots arguably date even further back in time than that, beginning with the European Championship Grand Prix motor races of the 1930s. Many of the affiliates behind that series of races outlined plans for a World Championship around that time, but those plans were put on hiatus during World War II.

Grand Prix racing wasn’t formalized as a global sport until the period after the conflict, and the sport has come to see decades of evolution since its initial worldwide launch. Even though Formula One’s global Grand Prix races have become more popular than ever, the sport is still surprisingly small scale, currently comprised of:

  • Only 20 Drivers

  • Only 10 Teams

  • Only 10 Manufacturers

With only twenty players presently in the game, how much do Formula 1 drivers make? Further, with so few manufacturers, how much does a Formula 1 car cost? If you’ve had to bet the over/under between those figures and the dough you’d potentially make off an F1 bet, we would most likely have to lean over.

As reported recently by USA Today, modern F1 driver salaries can range anywhere from $750,000 on the low end, to as much as $40 million on the high end. Estimates on the average cost of Formula One cars will tend to vary, but they similarly tend to trend for upwards of six or seven figures.

We can’t promise that you’ll make that much wagering on F1; we wouldn’t recommend getting your hopes up for any lottery-jackpot sized payouts. But the most popular F1 betting markets you’ll tend to find on sportsbooks like FanDuel and BetMGM will pertain to outright racing; which driver will be fast enough to make the Top Five field, and which one could be fast enough to win it all?

How Fast Do Formula 1 Cars Go?

On average, the cars that Formula 1 drivers race in can clock in top speeds as high as 223 miles per hour. The aerodynamics of F1 cars are extremely conducive to extremely high top speeds; their front and rear wings are carefully, and deliberately designed to create downforce, safely grounding the vehicle through each sharp turn, bump,

Essentially, the aerodynamics of F1 cars are fundamentally designed to accomplish the opposite objective that the aerodynamics of aircraft are meant to accomplish. Rather than lift the vehicle off the ground, the unique design of F1 vehicles is meant to keep them firmly planted through 50-70 laps of high-speed race car action.

How much does a Formula One car weigh? Currently, the minimum weight allowed for your modern F1 car is 1,759 pounds - or just shy of a ton, minimum! That’s a lot of weight that a Formula 1 vehicle needs to keep down, so it’s understandable that aerodynamics is such a huge priority in their design.

You might see buzzwords and acronyms like “DRS” floating around in relation to these cars’ aerodynamics. What does DRS mean in Formula 1? Standing for “drag reduction system”, DRS refers to an adjustable rear wing on an F1 car’s body. This wing can be adjusted accordingly by the driver to limit drag and reach faster top speeds.

(For a more academic, comprehensive examination of F1 car design, this University of Miami news article is a good read.)

So it makes sense that drivers have occasionally clocked in record high speeds exceeding that average of 223 MPH. The average top speed was broken twice in 2016: Valtteri Botalas clocked in 231 MPH in that year’s Mexican Grand Prix, and he would then go on to break his own record in 2016’s European Grand Prix, clocking in at 234 MPH.

However, the record for the fastest average speed over an entire lap currently belongs to Lewis Hamilton. The driver clocked in an average 164 miles per hour over one of the qualifying laps for the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. When you consider how long the typical F1 race spans, even being the fastest for one lap is an impressive feat in its own right.

How Long Is A Formula 1 Race?

At a minimum, F1 races are required to span 305 kilometers, or 190 miles. It typically takes between 50 to 70 laps to reach that distance, though races have certainly gone over or under that length in the past. In the typical Formula One event, drivers are afforded a two-hour timespan to reach this distance limit.

If drivers fail to reach it within that time limit, then the race will be called off after two hours. However, that rule of thumb primarily applies to just your standard, average F1 contest. Other races have exceeded this time threshold in the past, with the all-time longest F1 event being the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix.

That race clocked in at 4 hours, 4 minutes, and 39.537 seconds, and no Formula One race has matched or exceeded that length of time since then.

How To Become A Formula 1 Driver

Presently, there is only a very limited number of drivers racing in Formula One racing competitions. Those top 20 slots can only be filled by the world’s best of the best, so only a very, very, very, very, very small pool of talent will be talented enough to break into the sport’s highest echelon.

If you had to bet on the average driver’s odds to break in, it would be a very longshot odds wager. But drivers who are able to make their big break into F1 usually first make their bones in kart racing, before transitioning into the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile F2 and F3 sub-divisions.

These second and third tiers provide a functionally similar path to the minor leagues in American sports, sub-premier organizations where the best of the best talent can work their way up to the majors. If an F1 team deems an F2 or F3 driver worthy of one of the Top 20 spots, they’ll then need to test for an FIA Super License before they can qualify to drive Formula One.

That test is dictated by a complex points system, which you can learn more about via the FIA’s official Formula One website. Unfortunately, the sport isn’t as easy to break into as it is to wager on and watch. But with the sport’s growing popularity in America, where can you even watch it?

How To Watch Formula 1 In The US

Though “Formula One: Drive To Survive” has found international success on Netflix, races are strictly broadcast on only two cable channels in the US: ESPN and ESPN 2. It’s possible that the sport’s growing popularity in the United States could lead to live programming coming to more domestic networks in the coming years, but currently, those are the only two that broadcast live F1 races on American cable television.

If you cut your cord, you can also live stream or rewatch F1 races on demand via the ESPN+ app. So, there is only one network to watch F1 at the moment, but multiple online sportsbooks where you can wager on racing futures. 

Who Is The Owner Of Formula 1?

As of now, the current owner of Formula 1 is Stefano Domencali. The former Ferrari team boss has served as chief executive officer since September 2020, and hasn’t left since. Like the other 20 drivers in Formula One, Domencali’s net worth is widely believed to exceed upwards of seven figures.

While we can’t guarantee that you’ll walk away with that much betting on F1 futures, we can help point you toward promos to stack up bet credit on promos for popular online sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM.

F1 Betting Markets

Read our online sportsbook reviews to learn more about each one’s F1 markets and promotions.

Wager responsibly.

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