Dummies Title

Guide to a Race Weekend

In terms of track action, each Grand Prix weekend is split over three days; Friday, Saturday and Sunday (the only exception is Monaco which runs on Thursday instead of Friday). But what exactly do the teams and drivers do over those three days?

Off-track the weekend begins on Thursday, when teams must present their cars for scrutineering, to check on their legality, and selected team personnel and drivers must attend a pre-race press conference held by the sport's governing body, the FIA. Team managers must also attend a meeting with the race director.

However, the crux of the weekend begins on Friday, with the usual schedule of track action being as follows:

11.00-12.00 Free Practice Session One
13.00-14.00 Free Practice Session Two

09.00-09.45 Free Practice Session One
10.15-11.00 Free Practice Session Two
13.00-14.00 Qualifying Session

08.30-09.00 Warm-up Session
13.00 Race

On Friday the teams get two hour-long free practice sessions; one in the morning from 11.00 until 12.00, and one in the afternoon from 13.00 to 14.00. During these sessions drivers may complete as many laps as they like in their race cars, but use of spare cars is prohibited.

All complete laps are timed and a list of each driver's best time is released by the FIA at the end of each session. The second release is cumulative, showing each driver's best time of the day.

Teams traditionally use the Friday practice sessions to work on their race (rather than their qualifying) set-up, running varying fuel loads, and to familiarise themselves generally with track conditions.

If the circuit is a new one, or one that has been revised, drivers will use Friday's sessions to learn the layout, calculating their braking points and establishing the best lines through corners. The engineers will use them to gather valuable data for the new track.

After the day's sessions, selected drivers and team personnel will be required to attend an FIA press conference at 15.00. All drivers must then attend a meeting with the Race Director at 17.00.

On Saturday morning the teams get a further two, shorter free practice sessions; one from 09.00 to 09.45 and one from 10.15 to 11.00. Again all laps are timed and a cumulative list of the best times issued at the end of practice.

The teams will normally use these sessions to work on qualifying set-up, running minimal fuel loads. They will also use them to make a final decision on the tyre compound they will nominate to be used in qualifying and the race.

The one-hour qualifying session begins at 13.00. Drivers may complete a maximum of 12 laps, using either race or spare cars. That 12 includes out-laps (as they leave the pits) and in-laps (as they return to the pits), so drivers normally do four runs of three laps, each consisting of an out-lap, a flying lap and an in-lap.

A driver's best time determines his position on the grid for the race, with the fastest qualifier taking pole position. Any driver who fails to set a time within 107 per cent of the pole-position time does not qualify and is not allowed to race.

It is up to the teams to decide when is the best time to send their drivers out during the session, as track conditions and the amount of traffic on the circuit varies. Often the top teams will resist going out early in the hour, preferring to wait and let the slower teams test the waters first.

A chequered flag is shown to signal the end of the session. Any lap commenced before the flag is shown may count towards qualifying, even if it is completed after the hour is up.

Should the session be red-flagged (stopped) for any reason, the lost time will not count towards the hour. The clock will be stopped and restarted when the session resumes.

Immediately after qualifying session the three fastest drivers must make themselves available for television interviews and attend an FIA press conference.

On the morning of the race there is a final free practice session, commonly known as the Warm Up, which normally takes place from 09.30 until 10.00. Drivers use this time to fine-tune their race set-up and check that all systems on their race cars are functioning normally.

Those drivers allotted the team's spare car will also take this out, usually for a single lap, in order to carry out a systems check. Hence the sight of drivers quickly hopping from one car to another early in the Warm Up.

An hour and fifteen minutes after the Warm Up all drivers must take part in the drivers parade, when they are transported around the circuit to greet the spectators.

The Race
The pit lane opens 30 minutes prior to the start of the race and closes 15 minutes later. During this time drivers will complete a reconnaissance lap and then take up their allotted grid position. This lap allows the drivers to check for any last-minute problems with their cars. Any driver still in the pit lane 15 minutes before the start must begin the race from the pit lane.

All team personnel must clear the grid at least 15 seconds prior to the start of the formation lap, which normally begins at 14.00. The drivers will often switch off their traction control systems as they move away in order to spin their rear wheels and lay down rubber on their grid spot. This will provide valuable added grip for the actual race start.

During the formation lap drivers will attempt to bring all the systems on their cars up to full working temperature, in particular brakes and tyres.

After the race, the top three finishers and a representative of the winning constructor must attend the podium ceremony, before making themselves available for television interviews and an FIA press conference.