The Pinnacle of Racing Returns


Red Bull driver Daniel Riccardo practices for the fast approaching Australian Grand Prix.

Ethan Simmons, Staff Writer

Mid-March is fast approaching. To most, especially those in the United States, this holds no importance. However, to fans of the Formula One (F1), an international racing series in which open wheel cars compete on road courses, and it is the start of a new season. In the early Australian morning the first race of 2015 will start.

Formula one is an incredibly complex sport, requiring thousands of hours from both the drivers and the teams. The steering wheel alone has over 8000 components and costs more than $60,000. Each car has close to a mile of wires layered on the inside. However the most impressive face is the speed, these cars can do 0 to 60 in 1.5 seconds, and 0 to 200 in 4 seconds flat. Not to mention the cars develop enough downforce that they could, theoretically, drive on the roof of a tunnel using nothing but downforce to stick to the roof. No team has ever tried, mostly because it takes 15 million dollars to build one car, with the bigger teams will spending upwards of 100 million on research and development per season.

With over 20 races spanning 6 continents and a substantial international fan base, why is F1 not popular in the U.S.? The answer is not super complicated, in the past there have not been many F1 races in the states. F1 in America has been on and off since 1909, including a race held in Indianapolis from 2000 to 2007. Several ideas were thrown around about holding a race in New York or potentially going back to Indianapolis, and in 2010, a contract was awarded to Austin, Texas with the purpose of building a Formula One track. The first race was ran in 2012 and has been every year since. Although even with a race on American soil the sport has not taken hold, many argue it’s because race fans get a much better experience with other motorsports, like NASCAR.

At a typical NASCAR race, fans can be on the track, in the pits, and even drive some of the cars, all of which until, recently, would have been unthinkable at an F1 race. That is F1 has become more lenient, fans still are not allowed in or around the cars, but that’s not the only hiccup. Passing and collisions in a NASCAR race are not only frequent but the highlight of the event. In 2011 there were only 80 real overtaking maneuvers in all of formula one, as were in NASCAR there were 88 lead swaps in a single race. The overall comparison of the two is usually chalked up to this; NASCAR is brute force or “if it aint rubb’in, it ain race’in” (drafting, bumping and scraping other cars) as where formula one is all about precision and pushing not only the cars but the drivers to the edge.

Just like NASCAR, Formula One has teams that are more well known that others. The big contenders in the 2015 season, at least according to history, are Mercedes, Red bull, Ferrari, Williams, and McLaren. These are the elite of the elite in formula one, Mercedes driver Luis Hamilton was the 2014 champion and, back to back to back to back driver Sebastian Vettel won four consecutive years before that and is about to run his first season with the Ferrari team. Other drivers to keep an eye on include Nico rosberg (Mercedes), Daniel Riccardo (Red Bull), Felipe Massa (Williams) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams), and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).

With less than a month until the lights go out and the flag drops at the first race drivers and pit crews are working 24/7 to make sure everything is perfect and are doing anything to save thousandths of a second, not to mention regulation changes that have forced teams to redesign the front end of their cars. All of this put together should make for an exciting season. The first race is a trial by fire no matter how much prep the teams do. It is the first time the new cars, built from the ground up, have been run in a race environment, which is why myself and millions of other fans are counting down the days to the 15th of March.