The formula behind the fastest cars

What is Formula 1?

Formula refers to a single set of rules/specifications that all competing cars must comply with in terms of car design and technology. Formula 1 is revered as the pinnacle of motorsport and the highest class in single-seater auto racing.

There are 20 Grand Prix (grand prize in French) races in the 2012 season, where 24 drivers (two each from 12 teams) compete. The Airtel Indian Grand Prix is the 17th race this year, followed by Abu Dhabi, US and Brazil. Results of each race are combined in a points-based system, according to which the leading driver and team are awarded points at the end of the year. It's an expensive affair; the biggest edge is with carmaker-backed teams such as Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren, who have the support of a company's entire R&D infrastructure.

What is a race like?

The F1 race weekend runs from Friday to the final race on Sunday. Two practice sessions on Friday are followed by another on Saturday to let drivers understand the track conditions. Saturday then has three qualifying runs that determine who starts from which position. The first qualifying session eliminates the slowest 7 drivers, followed by a second session where 7 more are eliminated. The 10 fastest drivers fight to start from pole position in the last qualifier.

What is the India connection?

One of the biggest and fastest-growing economies in the world, India's success is believed to be critical for F1's future. The expensive sport needs a large market in order to attract big-ticket sponsors and investments. With a single sportócricketódominating the mindspace of Indians, F1 organisers see immense potential in the country. The liquor baron Vijay Mallya-led Sahara Force India team was the first to put Brand India on the F1 map in 2008 and the team has been performing consistently ever since. Three years later, infrastructure major Jaypee Group brought F1 home with a dedicated race circuit it built in Greater Noida. Jaypee has an initial contract to hold the race for 5 years.

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