Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix: 10 Fast Facts
1 Formula 1 is not only one of the most glamorous and spectacular sports in the world, it is also one of the oldest. The first ever motor race was run between the French cities of Paris and Rouen more than 100 years ago, as car manufacturers showed off their cars to prove which was the best.
2 It’s much the same today as firms such as Ferrari and Mercedes use motor racing to not only improve their in-house engineering expertise but also to sell cars. The difference is that the machinery is a thousand times more sophisticated than a century ago and the racing itself has become highly organised, each race being known as a ‘Grand Prix’, translated from French as ‘Grand Prize’.
3 The introduction of a World Championship in 1950 brought the laying down of rules defining the size and performance of the cars in order to make the racing more equal and competitive. This became known as ‘Formula 1’ which is exactly what it claims to be - the number one formula, the very best motor sport in the world. At first, there were only four or five teams competing in a handful of races in Europe. Over the years the sport grew in stature with countries vying for the honour of staging a Grand Prix.
4 In 2013, 11 teams (two drivers per team) compete in 19 Grands Prix around the world. Formula 1 has become truly global, with a television audience in excess of 500m spread across 180 nations. Abu Dhabi has joined an elite list of more than 25 countries or regions to have staged a Grand Prix.
5 In F1 the races are held between March and November and always take place over the course of a weekend. Twenty-five points are awarded to the winner of each Grand Prix, 18 points to the second placed finisher, down to one point for the driver who finishes 10th. At the end of the season, the driver with the highest number of points is declared World Champion.
6 Drivers are allowed to practice for two 90-minute sessions on Friday evening, followed by another hour at 2pm on Saturday. During this time the drivers will prepare themselves and the cars for the specialised demands of the only race in the calendar that starts at dusk and races into the evening on the floodlit 5.554-km Yas Marina Circuit track.
7 The excitement really starts at 5pm on Saturday when qualifying determines starting positions for the race. Drivers lap the track, the fastest being awarded Pole Position at the front of the starting grid with the slowest at the back.
8 The tension really ramps up on Sunday as the 5pm start time approaches. The noise as 22 F1 cars leave the grid is unbelievable (ear plugs are essential, no matter where you are sitting) and the race continues for almost two hours. The stunning performance of an F1 car becomes clear as drivers reach 325kph on the back straight and corner at anything up to 250kph during the 305km race. It is physically and mentally demanding, which is why F1 drivers are among the fittest athletes in the world.
9 Each driver will make at least one pit stop for new tyres, his mechanics changing all four wheels in less than three seconds; something that has to be seen to be believed. The racing is so close that a fumbled pit stop can cost a driver a position and, possibly, victory.
10 The competition at Yas Marina Circuit promises to be intense as rivals go all-out to topple Vettel, the reigning champion, and his Red Bull team. Mercedes will field Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the young Englishman who won this race in 2011. Blond-haired Rosberg is the son of a former World Champion, while Hamilton has generated headlines off the track in recent years with his on/off relationship with pop star Nicole Scherzinger. Ferrari, the longest established team in F1, would like nothing more than to win this race on the doorstep of the lavish Ferrari World complex on Yas Island. They have just the man to do it in the moody, but very fast Spaniard, Fernando Alonso.