Home Rules Sports › Formula 1 Motor Racing
Formula 1 Rules: F1 Motor Racing Regulations

Fact: Formula One motor racing is a technical sport full of speed and excitement. But, learning the basic rules of Formula One will soon place beginners in pole position.

F1 RULES: The FIA and FISA make and enforce Formula One regulations.

The first Formula One World Championship took place in 1950. But, the global sport of motor racing has seen some dramatic changes ever since.

Each new season introduces some new car and rules’ changes in one way or another. But, keeping Formula One rules and regulations updated is part of racing sport safety.

Formula 1 is without doubt the standard bearer of modern motor racing. There is no other international race series that draws huge crowds the way F1 does.

It combines a unique diversity of the best car drivers and exotic race locations. The most advanced high-caliber cars race each other on 20 different tracks. What’s more, they do so in a race series which extends for 9 months around the world each year.

What is Formula One Racing?

Fans and supporters describe Formula One racing as the top tier of global motor sport – and we would agree! Each team, with their drivers and mechanics, travel 1000s of miles to race against each other. They do so in Grand Prix style, meaning ‘great prize‘.

The ‘Federation International de L’Automobile’ sanctions the sport as its governing body. The name ‘Formula‘ gets shortened to ‘F1‘ for most followers. But, it is in fact based on a set of rules that all participating cars and drivers must follow.

The most coveted prize in professional motorsport is the F1 Drivers’ Trophy. It denotes a champion at the highest level of single-seat open-cockpit motor racing.

If you think that is everything you need to know about Formula One – there is more! That was a beginner’s quick guide into the ‘nuts and bolts‘ of F1 racing. So, buckle up and steer your way through these in depth rules and regulations of Formula 1.

Formula One Rules


Objective in Formula One Championships

There are two objectives in each Formula 1 contest. The car driver has the first objective which is to win the race. He achieves this if he is the first to cross the finish line after racing a pre-determined number of laps.

The second aim is to collect points in the Team and Driver Championships. Amassing points throughout the season will determine the final champion team and driver.

Formula 1 Car Specifications

A Formula One car is an open-wheel, open-cockpit, single-seat racing car. The two main components that compose every F1 car are the chassis and the engine.

All Formula One cars deploy the same specification power unit. It is a 1.6 litre four-stroke turbocharged 90 degree V6 reciprocating engine.

Each power unit also encompasses an Energy Recovery System. The ERS harvests extra heat energy from the brakes and the exhaust.

  • The engine produces around 600 horsepower and ERS adds another 160 hp for the short bursts.
  • The chassis is mostly made from carbon fiber and other ultra-lightweight components. The whole unit must not weight less than 722 kg (1,591 lbs) including tyres and the driver. The minimum weight excludes the car fuel.
  • The maximum dimensions of a Formula One car must be no more than 180 cm wide and 95 cm high. Despite having no specified maximum length, most cars tend to be around the same length.

Gearbox: The transmission is a semi-automatic sequential carbon titanium gearbox. It is rear-wheel drive and has 8 forward gears with 1 reverse gear.

Steering Wheel: The Formula 1 steering wheel performs many different functions. It can change gears, brake pressure, call the radio, and adjust the fuel.

Brakes: Modern Formula One cars deploy disc brakes with a rotor and caliper at each tyre.

Tyres: Since 2009, F1 cars have used smooth thread, slick tyres with dimensions of:

  • Front Tyres: 245mm (width)
  • Rear Tyres: 355mm and 380mm (width)

Fuel: Formula One cars use a controlled mixture of ordinary petrol. It can only contain commercial gasoline compounds (not alcohol compounds).

Formula One Safety Equipment

Formula 1 safety gear is a high priority for the engineers, as in all motor sports. There have been a few tragedies including spectators and some famous drivers.

Helmets: F1 race helmets are fire resistant and compulsory equipment. They are strong and light (1.2 kg) to reduce weight at high speeds. Even though they are hand painted they must meet FIA standards.

HANS: In Formula One terminology HANS stands for Head and Neck Support. The device protects the driver’s vertebrae inside the cockpit. It also and reduces the risk of a head collision on the steering wheel in an accident.

Clothing: Formula 1 driver clothing helps to protect them from fire accidents. The multilayered suit matches the same fire safety specifications as NASA suits. Nomex material can survive temperatures around 700°C for more than 10 seconds.

Formula One Start Rules

As a rule, team pit lanes open 30 minutes before the actual start of the race. A pit lane is a special track area located a short distance away from the grid. Formula One rules for pit lanes state they must be parallel to the start and finish line.

The start of a Formula 1 race always begins with a warm-up lap. The purpose of the formation lap is to warm their engines and tyres.

The drivers find their position on the grid and come to a complete standstill in formation. They wait for a series of 5 lights to light up in progression. When the fifth light illuminates green they get turned off and the race begins.

Formula 1 Pole Position

F1 pole position is the number one spot on the starting grid for each individual race. Only one driver can achieve pole position. He wins the right by setting the fastest time in the previous qualifying round.

General Rules and Regulations of Formula One

  • Drivers can take any number of warm-up drives providing they do not go on to the grid.
  • They must take up their place on the grid in their qualifying order once the pit lane closes.
  • The race begins when all the cars have taken up their grid positions. The starting lights comprise 10 red lights in 5 pairs of columns.
  • Each column lights up one after the other and at 1 second intervals from left to right direction.
  • Once all 5 columns are lit up they stay that way for a few seconds. Without warning, they all get extinguished at once and the race gets underway.
  • Any interruption to the start means the 5 red lights illuminate once more. But, this time they do not get extinguished. Orange lights are lit up instead and the race restarts.
  • Formula One rule and regulations govern the race distance and duration. The race length must be 305 km (260 km for the Monaco Grand Prix).
  • It gets defined as ‘the smallest number of complete laps that exceeds 305 kilometers‘.
  • The governing body obtains the number of laps in a race by dividing 305 by the length of a full lap. According to the rules of F1 the lap distance will be different at each race track.
  • The duration of any Formula One race cannot exceed 2 hours. The race gets considered as finished at the end of the ongoing lap if it exceeds 2 hours.
  • A Formula One Grand Prix is a 3 day event taking place over a weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). But, different racing events will take place on each of these 3 days such as:
    • Friday: Free Practice Sessions.
    • Saturday: Free Practice Session plus Qualifying Session.
    • Sunday: Race Day.
  • Each Grand Prix has 3 free practice sessions. Two 90 minute sessions take place on a Friday. There will be one in the morning and the other tales place in the afternoon. The third and final practice session goes ahead on a Saturday.
  • F1 rules allow ‘third drivers‘ to take part in Friday practice sessions. They are not regular drivers but they can take the place of a regular driver. As a rule, a third driver is a newcomer looking to gain experience and racing exposure at Grand Prix events.

Penalties in Formula 1

All F1 races get monitored by a panel of race stewards. They can give out penalties if they determine that a rules infraction occurred. Penalties in Formula 1 include:

  • Jumping the start
  • Causing an unnecessary collision
  • Corner cutting
  • Passing under caution
  • Speeding in the pit lane
  • Blocking another driver as he attempts to pass

There are many different punishments for breaking the rules of Formula One. But, two of the most common are:

  • Drive-Through Penalty: A driver must drive through the pit lane within three laps.
  • Race Disqualification: A driver gets black flagged. That means he is not permitted to continue in the race.

Formula 1 Pit Stop Rules

As a rule, unless the regulations change (again), F1 cars do not refuel during the actual race. Refueling cars during a race got banned in 2010. The official Formula One sporting regulations state:

Teams are not permitted to add or remove fuel from a car during a race. In some cases, they can refuel during the weekend practice sessions. But, only inside their team garage and at a rate of 0.8 litres per second.

Fuel and tyre management has always been a major consideration in race strategy. Tyre and brake wear are critical for pit stop planning during each race.

F1 Qualifying Rules

As a rule Formula One qualifying sessions take place on the second day, Saturday. They are one hour sessions beginning with the 3rd practice session of the morning. The afternoon qualifying session determines the starting order for race day, Sunday.

Following the knock-out stages Q3 begins with 10 remaining cars. The final qualifying session is 12 minutes long. The result confirms the remaining 10 positions on the starting grid.

The fastest driver from Q3 occupies ‘pole position‘ on the grid. P1 is always the best position to begin a race.

Formula 1 Motor Racing Flags

Racing flags get used in all motor sports and racing competitions. Formula One motor racing flags send out various signals and messages to the car drivers. For example, flags indicate the race start, lap indication, bad weather, and the finish.

The 3 flag categories used in F1 motor sport racing are:

  • Status Flags: There are 5 status flags used in Formula 1 racing.
  • Instruction Flags: 5 instruction flags communicate with one specific driver at a time.
  • The Chequered Flag: A race marshall waves the black and white chequered flag at the finish line. This flag indicates that the race has officially ended.

Formula One Racing Points System

Formula 1 rules changed its points system for the Formula One World Championship in 2010. Since then, drivers only get points if they finish in the top 10 places. The points contribute towards the outcome of the World Drivers’ and World Constructors’ Championships at the end of the F1 season.

As a rule, there are 20 Grands Prix in each racing season. The Grand Prix race winner receives 25 points. Getting the win also awards 25 points towards the Constructors’ Championship. Both ‘team cars‘ contribute to the Constructors’ Championship points if they both finish in the top 10.

Drivers do not receive any points unless they get classified as a ‘finisher‘. That means completing 90% of the distance covered by the race winner. This F1 ruling applies no matter whether the driver completes the race or not.

Further Formula One rules apply to the racing points system. There may be times when a race gets stopped or cannot restart due to bad weather conditions. In this case, the top 10 finishers would get half the points shown in the F1 points table. That is providing the winner covers at least 75% of the full race distance.

F1 Points Table

  • 1st Place: 25 points
  • 2nd Place: 18 points
  • 3rd Place: 15 points
  • 4th Place: 12 points
  • 5th Place: 10 points
  • 6th Place: 8 points
  • 7th Place: 6 points
  • 8th Place: 4 points
  • 9th Place: 2 points
  • 10th Place: 1 point

Note: If drivers finish tied on points the positions get decided on results count-back. Wins get compared and the driver with most wins gets classified ahead. If wins totals are equal then it goes to second places and so on.

Any driver can change teams during the season. In this case, his points with the previous team get added to his Drivers’ points tally. But, the Constructors’ points tally goes to the respective teams.

Winner of Formula 1 Race

Sunday afternoon is race day and is always the top event of any Grand Prix. Huge crowds gather at purpose-built racing tracks to watch F1 races. Even so, some of the circuits take place on closed public roads, such as the Monaco Grand Prix.

The winner of a Formula 1 race is the driver who finishes first and in front of the other drivers. The chequered flag waved at the finish line confirms that he won the race.

Those who finish first, second, and third positions stand on a podium after the race. That is where they get awarded their prize trophies – and a huge magnum of champagne. The F1 race sponsor also presents a trophy to the car constructor of the winning team.


A to Z Sports Regulations: A concise list of popular indoor and outdoor sport categories.
Formula One FAQ: Find the answers to the most asked questions in Formula 1 racing.
Formula One Terminology: A comprehensive list of Formula One terms and phrases from A-Z.
Wacky Sports Rules: A complete list of weird and wonderful sports games around the world.
FIA Formula 1 2022 PDF: [Free Download Option]

Car Racing in the News…

Car Changes for 2022 F1 Season: Check a snapshot of key rule changes for aerodynamics and fuel.
F1 2019 Rule Changes Explained: In case you missed 3 big rule changes for 2019 Formula One season.
F1 Demonstration Events: Formula One racing slackens the rules on demo events from 2018.
F1 Aero Rules: New rules ratified on car aerodynamics to promote closer racing and ease overtaking.
F1 Radio Rules: Nico Rosberg penalized for rule breach while Hamilton races ahead at Silverstone.
F1 Rule Changes 2017: Why head of Formula One Mercedes motorsport says no more changes needed.
Track Day Car Regulations: A safe way to test car speed and handling away from public highways.

Formula One Rules and Regulations: F1 Motor Racing Rules for Beginners