What Are The Rules of Formula 1?

Formula 1

Formula 1 is the highest level of car racing in the world and is one of the most global sports in history. In over 70 years of history, F1 has provided people with unforgettable races, interesting characters, and historical performances, gathering a legion of fanatics around all corners of the globe. 

Although the essence of it is pretty simple, Formula 1 has lots of rules and regulations that ensure drivers are safe and that races are run in a fair manner. In addition, technology is very important in the sport, and as it evolves, so do the rules and regulations. Therefore, new rules in Formula 1 are released every year, especially those related to the cars and their engines. 

Formula 1 Drivers

Formula 1 Drivers

The path to becoming an F1 driver is not an easy one. There are only a few seats available, and it takes a lot of effort and talent to make it into the highest category in motorsport. To race, Formula 1 drivers must have an FIA Super License. Being eligible for one is not as simple as heading down to the DMV and filling out some paperwork, as there are strict rules to getting a Super License. To be eligible to get a Super License, drivers must complete all of the following:

  • Be at least 18 by the start of their first Grand Prix Weekend.
  • Pass a written exam about Formula 1's rules and regulations.
  • Have completed a minimum of 80% of two seasons in other single-seater racing categories.
  • Have at least 40 “Super License Points” over the last three years of racing.

Super License points are awarded based on a driver's performance and vary according to what position in the racing championship they finished in which category those results were achieved.

Formula 1 Qualifying Rules

The qualifying session is when drivers do timed laps, which will ultimately determine the starting grid in the race the following day. The driver who sets the fastest lap in qualifying starts from pole position, and the one with the worst starts from the last. Since the qualifying session’s results have a direct impact on the race, drivers are under constant watch by race stewards. In qualifying, you must be careful to not slow down others who are trying to set their fastest laps. If they do so, penalties can be applied. 

In qualifying, drivers must also follow the 107% rule, which states that a driver must be within 107% of the pole sitter's time. In the event that a driver cannot set a time in qualifying (and thus it is not within 107%), they can still race on Sunday, provided the race stewards authorize it, and they will start in the last place in the grid.

Race Rules

Formula 1 Tires

Naturally, the race on Sunday is the main event of a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend. Drivers line up on the starting grid according to their qualifying times, and off they go! The race ends when the predetermined number of laps is completed by the drivers, and whoever finishes first wins it all. Different races have a different number of laps, as circuit length varies. All F1 races must be at least 305km (around 190mi) long.

An important part of Formula 1 racing is the tires. They provide grip and are a big part of strategy in Formula 1. F1 uses the Pirelli Tire Company as its official tire supplier for all teams. Teams have five different types of tires to use:

  • Soft tires: provide the most grip and the least durability.
  • Medium tires: provide intermediate grip and durability.
  • Hard tires: provide the least grip but are the most durable.
  • Intermediate tires: used in wet track conditions when there is not a lot of water or rain is not constantly falling.
  • Wet tires: used for driving under heavy rain to prevent aquaplaning.

Teams change tires at least once during a race and may do so more times depending on how the race develops. One of the rules that teams must consider when thinking about their race strategy is that drivers must use at least two different types of tires.


Penalties are very common in Formula 1. There are several rules that drivers must follow to ensure the sport is safe and fair, and if one of those is broken, drivers get penalized.

There are many things that can lead to a penalty. In addition, the application of penalties can be subjective, as stewards (who are the "referees" in F1) change from race to race. Such inconsistency has been criticized by drivers and fans. Nonetheless, they are still an important part of the sport. The most common penalties drivers get are:

  • Grid Penalties: Drivers drop positions in the starting grid.
  • Added Time Penalty: The driver gets a few seconds added to their final race time, which can lead to position drops at the end of the race.
  • Stop and Go Penalty: Drivers must enter the pit lane, and stop for a determined amount of time in the boxes, usually 5 or 10 seconds.
  • Fines: Teams and drivers can also be fined for their actions on and off the track.
  • Pit Lane Start: Drivers must start the race from the pit lane, following its speed limit, and thus losing the opportunity to overtake early in the race.
  • Disqualification: Although not as common as the ones cited above, drivers and teams can be disqualified from a race or even a whole year in more extreme cases.


In Formula 1, flags are used to signal something to the drivers. The most common flags used in F1 are:

  • Yellow Flag: The most commonly used flag, it signals to drivers that there is an accident or something similar, and thus slowing down is necessary.
  • Green Flag: It signals that the track is clear and racing can resume. Used after a yellow or red flag.
  • Red Flag: It signals that the race or qualifying session must be interrupted due to dangerous conditions.
  • Blue Flag: It signals to slower drivers that they are being lapped by faster cars and thus must give them space to overtake.
  • Black Flag: It signals to a driver that he has been disqualified from the race and must return to the pits
  • Checkered Flag: It marks the end of the race. When the driver who is in 1st place completes his last lap, the checkered flag is waved.

Mandatory Pit Stop Rules

Drivers are required to use two different tire compounds during a race, making pit stops effectively mandatory, as they must pit to change tires. These rules do not apply to races that begin in the rain. Thus if a race starts in the rain, drivers will not be required to pit.

Pit stops are when drivers enter pit lane, stopping in their pit box so their team can change tires and repair the cars when needed. Historically, teams would also re-fuel during pit stops, but that was banned in 2009. Quick pit stops are very important, as just a few extra seconds spent in the boxes can break a driver's race. There are around 20 people per team who work a pit stop, called the pit crew. 

When entering the pits, drivers must follow a speed limit of 80 km/h and receive penalties and fines if they go over it. Once the team is done changing tires, they are responsible for releasing the driver. One of the most common infractions is an "unsafe release," which is when a driver is released when another car is passing by.

Car and Engine Rules

Formula 1 Car

Formula 1 teams must be constructors; that is, they must build and design their own cars, although some parts, such as the engine and gearbox, can be purchased from outside. There are strict rules as to how cars must be built, including size, chassis (frame), dimensions, engine, brakes, and much, much more. Keep in mind Formula 1 cars are not all the same; there are different ways to achieve the speed and downforce necessary to be competitive; however, all must follow the rules.

Such rules are always evolving, making racing safer and more competitive. 2022 was a big season for F1, as car and engine regulations faced major changes that scrambled the grid, giving teams that hadn't been successful a shot to be better and compete.


Has any driver been excluded from the entire Driver's World Championship?

In Formula 1's long history, there has only been one driver to be excluded from the Driver's Championship, Michael Schumacher. Schumacher, who is also known for being a seven-time F1 World Champion and arguably the best driver ever, was banned from the 1997 championship and was stripped of his second place championship finish. He was accused of intentionally colliding with Jacques Villeneuve to take him out of the race, which would've given Schumacher the World title.

How many pit stops are allowed in F1?

There is no limit to how many pit stops a driver can take in a race, but they must make at least one to change tire compounds. In an uneventful weekend, a driver will stop at the pits at least once and two times tops. However, in races with changing weather and lots of chaos in the track, drivers will stop more. In 2011 British driver Jenson Button stopped a total of six times during the Canadian Grand Prix and still won the race.

Is it mandatory for drivers to use wet tires when it's raining?

The only time it is mandatory to use wet tires is when a race is started using a rolling start under a safety car as a result of rainy conditions. Otherwise, there is no rule that says drivers must use wet or intermediate tires in the rain; however, it wouldn't be smart not to. Tires for wet conditions are made so that cars are still fast, despite the conditions. In addition, it is impossible and unsafe to use slick tires (dry track tires) in the rain.