I’ll just come right out and say it: if you don’t watch F1 this weekend, you’re an asshole.

I can hear it already, “Blah blah blah, F1, cars driving round in circles, who gives a shit about NASCAR, whatever, boring, blah blah blah.”  And you’d be a millionth-and-one person who’s given me shit for spending far too much time with this fucking sport.

And that’s because you conveniently dismiss this sport because you have not even a vague idea of how brilliant it is.  Let’s change that, shall we.  Have an open mind, for fuck’s sake.

The thing is, F1 is for everyone.  (Hey, that rhymes, I should copyright that shit.)  Man, woman, child, dog, whomever, it’s for you.  If you have a fucking pulse, no matter how cloddish, you need to take a look at F1.

Jalopnik tried to pull together a helpful guide for F1 noobs, but I found it uninspiring and tedious.  The whole thing felt like a lot of fucking work and it told you NOTHING about F1.  So fuck it, I figure I’d give it a go.

Here’s the gist of the sport.  I’ll give you the meat-and-potatoes, and then I’ll throw in some garnish afterwards.

F1 is car racing.  All the cars look like winged rockets with wheels.  They’re not steel tanks like NASCAR because they have open wheels and open cockpits – neither is covered.  They’re also made largely of featherweight carbon fiber.  And they have big fuck-off wings that create downforce that keep the cars pressed onto the track.  They also have massive fuck-off tires.

In F1, every team has to build their own cars.  If you’re a car racing noob, it might surprise you to know that most other car racing series have teams buying their cars from suppliers, and all they need to do is tweak the car and go racing with it.  Not F1: each team needs to design and build their own chassis.  That’s part of why some of the top F1 teams have annual budgets in excess of $300 million.  In comparison, you can run a shitty NASCAR team for about $10 million.

These cars are the single-most sophisticated machines for sport, and are probably the closest thing to having a NASA space rocket mate with one of James Bond’s Q gadgets.  They’re the coolest fucking thing in the world, alright.

Inside each car is a V8 engine that generates something like 800hp and revs up to 18,000rpm.  Your average 4-door sedan probably sports a 4-cylinder engine that generates 200hp and you’d never rev it higher than 3,500rpm.  Do the math.  These engines can take these cars to over 200mph.  Try that in your shitwagon.  These engines sound like a dragon being put through a paper shredder.

Each team runs two cars – the two cars will look identical; easiest way to tell the two drivers apart is to by their helmets.  But TV commentators do that for you.

Enough about the cars.  Let’s talk about the race itself.  The race starts at 2pm Austin time.  In fact, with a few exceptions, all F1 races start at 2pm local time no matter they race in the world.  You can use that in your dinner conversation this Thanksgiving, you’re welcome.  Each race lasts between 1.5 hours (often) to 2 hours (rarely).

This is the track in which they’ll be racing in Austin: the Circuit Of The Americas.

(from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbonvouloir/)

As you can see, it’s not a goddamn oval.  Because these drivers actually need to have two key skills lacking in NASCAR drivers – knowing how to brake for corners, and turning right.

Let’s get to the drivers.  There are 24 of them.  You don’t need to know all of them.  There are dipshit drivers in the back of the pack that if you got hit by a bus tomorrow and never knew their names, you’d still have lived a full life.  Don’t waste your time trying to learn everyone’s name.  Just the ones who are worth keeping an eye out for:

  • Fernando Alonso.  Drives a Ferrari (the only all-red car in the pack).  He is, by leaps and bounds, the best all-round driver of the lot.  Even if the Ferrari is not even close to being the best car out there.
  • Sebastian Vettel.  Drives a Red Bull (blue car with a yellow tip – yes, the energy drink company own an F1 team).  One of the best drivers driving arguably the best car of them all – that’s a hell of a combination.
  • Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.  Both drive McLaren cars (silver cars with red wings).  Both a brilliant drivers.  Hamilton is the Barack Obama of F1.  Unfortunately, however, is a colossal douchenozzle, and you should totally watch him to hate him.  Seriously, he’s a tool.
  • Kimi Raikkonen.  Drives a Lotus (black car with gold trimmings).  He’s Finnish and a raging boozehound!  And he’s fast!  That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Other drivers who might put in good showings are Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez, and Nico Hulkenberg.  Fuck everyone else.  Oh, you’ll also hear Michael Schumacher’s name.  That’s because he’s old, he’s been racing forever, he’s the winningest driver, and he’s a smug, dirty, cheating bastard.

And really, those are the essentials.  There are other nuances, but if you don’t know them, it won’t make the sport unwatchable.  But just in case, here are some of them:

  • Pitstops.  These cars come into the pits at least once to change tires.  That’s because a) the tires don’t last the duration of the race, and b) the rules state that they must race on two different types of tires (two compounds: one harder, one softer)
  • KERS.  This is a F1’s equivalent of a hybrid.  It stands for Kinetic Energy Return System.  The cars use braking forces to charge an onboard battery.   The battery sends and extra boost of 80hp to the engine – it’s a bit like Knight Rider’s turbo boost mode without the turbo.  It’s stupid but it’s in play.
  • DRS. Talk about an even stupider system.  It stands for Drag Reduction System.  When a car is trailing the car in front by 1 second or less, the trailing driver can push a button on his steering wheel that levels out the rear wing (reducing downforce) to help the car go faster to help overtake the car in front.  I have many reasons to hate this stupid system that I’m not going to go into here, but it’s in play, so fuck me.

Now, let’s talk briefly about the racing.  This isn’t like NASCAR, where you see a traffic jam going around in a circle for 4 hours, with cars overtaking each other ever 3 miliseconds.  Fuck that pointless bullshit.  No, what you’ll see mostly is a single-file of cars going around the track.  There’s definitely overtaking in F1, but because F1 racing is both an art and a science, this will happen mostly when cars dive into corners at the end of a long straight, trying to outbrake the other car.  The KERS and DRS systems help, too.

And that’s it.  That’s all you really need to know to watch F1 on Sunday.  That, and the fact that it’s on at 2pm ET (work that shit out in your own timezone), it’s on Speed Channel in the U.S. (better go find that channel now), and even though you’ll probably miss the early NFL games, you’ll have a shit ton more football the rest of Sunday to watch so stop being a pussy about it.

Now, don’t be a dick by blowing this off.  This is F1’s first race back in the U.S. after a 5-year absence.  This is F1’s only stop in the U.S.  It’s a big fucking deal.  You can afford to forgo football for a couple of hours on Sunday (your dipshit team will probably lose anyway).  You really can.

Just watch some F1 this Sunday.  Don’t be an asshole.