Why Do F1 Teams Have 2 Drivers?

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, with some of the best drivers in the world competing for the limited number of seats available. Many forms of motorsport have multiple drivers and cars available for them to use during the season, but Formula 1 teams only have two drivers.

F1 teams have 2 drivers because the rules dictate that each team must field two drivers. They are not allowed to have more than two drivers in a race at a time. F1 teams also have 2 drivers in order to combine the points they score to battle the other teams for the constructors’ championship.

There have been times when teams were able to race three cars in Formula One. In some cases, teams were also able to ‘rent’ their cars out to drivers from other teams. However, the rules have become much more rigid and streamlined over the years, and below we discuss why this is the case.

How Many Cars Does An F1 Team Have?

F1 teams only have two cars available to them during a race weekend. In the past, Formula 1 teams used to have spare cars, also known as ‘T-cars,’ that they took to each race. However, this concept was banned in 2008 as it became too expensive for teams to build, run and transport an extra car.

If a car crashes during a Grand Prix weekend the team needs to repair it. If there is extensive damage to the car, it may need to be built from the ground up. Teams are allowed to bring spare chassis, engines and gearboxes with them, but they must have enough spare parts to rebuild the entire car if needed. All of this costs money, and a third car just added to these costs.

After the race, the cars are broken down, transported to the next race and reassembled again in time for the first practice session on the Friday morning of the race weekend. Formula 1 teams are extremely efficient and skilled, which is why they are able to repair and build their cars so quickly. However, keeping it to 2 cars ensures financial and time costs are minimized.

Do F1 Drivers In The Same Team Have The Same Car?

Both drivers in an F1 team have identical cars from a regulations point of view. However, this is only true for the first couple of races of the season. After the first few rounds, teams begin to bring upgraded parts to each car. Upgraded parts can range from new front wings to new bodywork.

This can make a difference as the parts could either make the cars faster or slower. Many teams are only able to produce upgraded parts for one car, which means that the other driver will have to stick with older parts until they receive upgraded parts. In this sense, drivers within the same team do end up driving slightly different cars at various points during a season.

However, upgraded parts are a gamble for most teams. Despite extensive research and development back at the team’s headquarters, no one will truly understand how the part affects the car’s performance until it is tested out on track for the first time.

Drivers’ Preferences

Cars can also be tailored to driver’s preferences. For example, one driver might prefer a car that oversteers more than it understeers. This means that the team will set that driver’s car up in a different way to their second driver. This ultimately makes the two cars slightly different as well, albeit marginally when you bear in mind the tight regulations they must still adhere to.

In some cases, teams will set their cars up strategically. They could use a high downforce setup on one car and a low downforce set up on another. Doing so can help the team to prepare for different weather conditions. For example, if it begins to rain a high downforce set up will be advantageous to provide more grip.

The two cars could also be different because of damage. In some cases, the chassis can be damaged or cracked, but not enough to warrant a full rebuild. In this case, one driver might be significantly slower than the other. In order to counteract this, many teams alternate their chassis between the two drivers for each race.

Why Do F1 Teams Employ 2 Drivers Instead Of One?

F1 teams employ two drivers instead of just one because of the rules. The rules state that each team must have two drivers that are able to participate in a race. However, teams must also be able to compete for the constructors’ championship and to do so they must have two drivers available.

What Is The Constructors’ Championship?

The constructors’ championship is essentially the team rankings over a Formula 1 season. Each year, the points scored by a team’s two drivers are combined, and the team with the most points will be crowned World Constructors’ Champions.

Teams are rewarded financially based on their position in the constructors’ championship. Prize money is given to each team based on where they finish in the championship. The prize money can be a huge boost to a team’s budget, and it can help them to develop a better car for the following season.

A Tough Battle

This is why teams normally try their best to score as many points as possible with both drivers in each race. The constructor’s battle can be a tough fight for most teams, but the prize money can give them the opportunity to become more competitive in the future, so the constructors’ battle is normally a fierce fight.

However, teams can sometimes struggle in the constructors’ championship even if one of their drivers are performing well in the drivers’ championship. This is because the constructors’ championship is a team focused championship. If one driver underperforms, loses points, or has reliability issues with their car, it can bring the entire team down.

The 2021 F1 season is the perfect example, as Max Verstappen won the World Drivers’ Championship, but Mercedes won the constructors’ championship. This is mainly because Sergio Perez had a challenging start to the season and struggled to get to grips with his car and had some bad luck during the season. On the other hand, Valtteri Bottas was already up to speed and scoring points for his team.

What Is A Number 2 Driver In F1?

Between the 2 drivers in a Formula 1 team there will usually be a first and second driver. The first driver is considered to be the top priority in the team and is referred to as the ‘Number 1 driver’. The second driver does not have priority in the team and is referred to as the ‘Number 2 driver’.

Priority status in a Formula 1 team can refer to several different things. The first is that the number 1 driver might have priority on track. The number 2 driver may need to move over and let the number 1 driver overtake them in a race, for example.

This is sometimes done to allow the number 1 driver to score more points in the world championship and keep up with their rival. It can also be done simply to give the number 1 driver a podium position or a win.

The number 2 driver will sometimes be instructed to help the number 1 driver in a few different ways. Firstly, they can head out on track ahead of the number 1 driver during qualifying and provide a slipstream on a fast circuit like Monza. This will give the number 1 driver a tow on the straight and help them to improve their lap time, possibly securing pole position.

Strategic Options

A number 2 driver can also be asked to defend against another driver to hold them back as long as possible to give the number 1 driver a bigger gap. In some cases, the number 2 driver can be used strategically during a race as well.

By pitting the number 2 driver early, a team can force their rival team to pit as well, in most cases much earlier than they had planned to as they could need to cover a potential undercut from the opposing team who pitted their number 2 driver early.

In the majority of cases teams will also give their number 1 driver upgraded parts first. Since there is often just one new component per race, the number 2 driver will need to sacrifice and keep the older parts while their teammate tests the upgraded parts.

Having a number 1 and number 2 driver is somewhat of a gray area in Formula 1. While teams will often never admit to favoring one driver over the other, it is usually the fastest of the two drivers that takes priority. While teams at the back of the grid are less likely to enforce driver priorities, those fighting for the championship are normally always ‘number 1’ within the team.

Isn’t Having 2 Cars More Expensive Than Having 1 Car?

Having two cars is double the cost and double the risk for Formula 1 teams. However, it is simply a part of the rules that they must abide by. They are not allowed to run one car throughout the season, although this may happen at certain races if one driver is ruled out.

The plus side is that the teams are given the opportunity to fight for more points in the constructors’ championship. Prize money is given out to teams based on where they finish in the constructors’ championship, and this is far more important for most teams, especially those that aren’t competing directly for the drivers’ championship.

Do All F1 Teams Have 2 Drivers?

All Formula 1 teams have 2 official full-time drivers that compete during the season. The rules state that each team must have at least two drivers available to compete throughout the entirety of the season, and they have reserve drivers to fill in if one of their main drivers is ruled out.

However, teams are allowed to change their drivers during the course of the season. In the past we have seen many replacement drivers coming in and taking up positions in the team. There are several reasons for a driver being replaced in a team. Some drivers can be effectively fired mid-season, or in some cases drivers can be injured, and both mean a replacement driver must be called in.

Can An F1 Team Have 3 Drivers?

Formula 1 teams used to field 3 drivers in the past on occasion. The rules stated that if a third driver was available and the team deemed it necessary, they could run three cars. However, this did take a toll on the team’s budget and crew members.

With past rule changes, Formula 1 teams are only allowed to field a maximum of two cars and two drivers in a race weekend. If a driver is unable to race during a weekend they can be replaced by another driver.

There have been some teams who suggested having three driver teams in recent years. The idea did gain some traction. However, it was ultimately scrapped because of the budget cap that has been introduced. Perhaps in the future we might see three car teams in Formula 1, but given the sport’s focus on bringing costs down, this is highly unlikely.

Do F1 Teams Have Backup Drivers?

In the past, backup drivers were something that only the bigger teams had. This is because they need to be paid by the team and most of the smaller teams didn’t have spare cash to spend on backup drivers. Instead, they would rely on the extensive list of junior drivers that could make themselves available for a seat in Formula 1.

However, in modern day Formula 1, every team on the grid has a reserve driver that is on standby in case they need to step in for the full-time driver. Some of the bigger teams have two reserve drivers, and some drivers can be backups for multiple teams.

Multiple Roles

Some teams even have reserve drivers that drive for smaller teams. For example, Mick Schumacher, who is a full-time driver for Haas, is the reserve driver for Ferrari. If one of the Ferrari drivers had to be replaced during a race weekend, Mick Schumacher would step up into the Ferrari seat and his seat in Haas would be taken up by the Haas reserve driver.

Having reserve drivers to fill in for first choice drivers has become a requirement in modern day Formula 1. The only exception is if the driver has already qualified for the race (for example, Nikita Mazepin in Abu Dhabi 2021). In this case the race starts with just 19 drivers. This is due to a specific rule surrounding the participation of reserve drivers.

When Can Reserve Drivers Be Used?

In order to start a race, a reserve driver must have taken part in at least one practice session for that race weekend. This means that, if a main driver completes all sessions but doesn’t start qualifying, the only way a team can use a reserve driver in qualifying and the race is if the stewards provide their consent.

A perfect example of this was at the 2020 German Grand Prix, when Nico Hulkenberg stood in for Lance Stroll at Racing Point for qualifying and the race, without having completed a single practice session.

Super Licenses

Another reason reserve drivers have become so crucial to Formula 1 teams is because of the strict Super Licence rules that have been put in place. In order to compete in Formula 1, drivers have to be over 18 and they must have the required number of points to be granted a Super License.

In order to get points for a Super License you must perform well in a junior series (like F2 or the W Series) or another renowned motorsport series such as IndyCar, DTM, WEC, or Formula E. Your championship standings in other motorsport series determine how many Super Licenses points you get.

For example, winning the Formula 2 championship will immediately give you enough points to get a Super License. However, if you finish fourth or lower, you won’t be able to qualify.

The Super License rule has made it difficult for teams to draft in replacements for drivers who need to sit out a race. Thus, they have pre-selected reserve drivers who are qualified and ready to do the job if needed.

What Other Roles Do F1 Drivers Play?

The reserve drivers of Formula 1 teams are not the only behind the scenes drivers. Most teams have test drivers and simulator drivers as well. While the reserve drivers could double as test drivers and simulator drivers for most teams, the bigger teams tend to hire drivers specifically for the job at hand.

Test Drivers

Test drivers are often used by the team to test their cars and give feedback on how to improve the cars. These tend to be more experienced drivers who understand the dynamics of the cars and how they need to be improved. In some cases, these drivers would also be used when mid-season tire tests are being conducted.

Simulator Drivers

Many Formula 1 teams also hire a simulator driver. Similar to the test driver, the sim driver will be using the team’s simulator at their home base to see where the team can improve. They can also work on the car setup and strategies for the upcoming races by simulating the racetrack. This has been helpful for many teams as they are able to gather valuable data from these simulations.

The simulator drivers tend to be younger drivers who are still developing their skills. The simulator sessions also help to provide them with more experience of working in a Formula 1 team. Alex Albon, for example, spent the past year working as the Red Bull simulator driver and had a lot of input into the strategies and setups that the team were using throughout the season.

Final Thoughts

Formula 1 teams are only allowed to have two drivers as per the FIA rules. They should also have reserve drivers at the ready in case one of their full time driver are unable to participate in a race, however, teams usually only ever use two drivers throughout the course of the season.

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