Tomorrow's F1 race for a first timer - what to watch for?

I’m planning on watching tomorrow’s F1 race on TV, it will be my first time - I’ve heard all the rain we’ve been getting (I live in Austin) will make things especially interesting(?) - anything in particular I should be looking out for?

Looking at the standings, it looks like every race this season has been one by one of 3 drivers, on one of 2 teams, correct? For fans of the sport, does that sort of domination of the outcomes make things, well, boring?

Rain will generally make things more interesting, particularly if the race is run in situations where the best tires are not obvious–there are full wet tires, and intermediate tires–full wets are slower, but move more water. So teams may guess based on radar conditions which one to run at any given time.

Looks like they will try qualifying tomorrow morning, so no idea what the order will be, but I believe that regardless, the Ferrari cars have 10-spot grid penalties due to engine changes. So even if they qualify well, they’ll be in the middle of the pack. They’re the second-best team right now, so that means they should be involved in a lot of passing action (bright red cars).

Maldanado, in one of the black Lotus cars, will probably be involved in a crash somewhere, and the announcers will probably not be surprised.

Earlier this year I was seriously considering trying to get tickets this year. Rather glad I decided not to–pretty miserable conditions.

Look for Hamilton to clinch the championship tomorrow.

Because of the rain, look for crazy stuff that is not normal in the sport. Wet F1 races are complete crap shoots.

Look for motorhomes being washed away in flash flooding.

If you’re really new to this, I guess the best tip would be that each team fields two cars that pretty much look identical. Both Mercedes cars are silver with Petronas sponsorship, both Ferraris are red, etc. (and there are decades of tradition in such things). There are subtle ways to tell a team’s cars apart, the drivers’ helmets are different, and the camera mount above the air intake may be a different color. But as the camera shots cut from one car to another during the race it can take a little while to realize who you’re seeing and what their position is in the race.

Also, it’s rare to have large numbers of cars coming to the pits at the same time, as is common in NASCAR and IndyCar. That doesn’t mean there aren’t battles and pit strategy, but they tend to be waged against the clock rather than head-to-head. A team will know how long it takes to come to the pits, change tires (they don’t refuel during the race), and get back up to speed. If it costs them 25 seconds to change, they’d like to have a 26 second advantage before they do it. They might radio their driver to build up an advantage, or they might tell him to drive conservatively and hope the pursuing driver’s tires wear out first.

And as dzeiger suggested, a lot of that strategy can be knocked into a cocked hat if it’s raining. As the track changes between wet, damp, and dry, having the right tires is critical. If the rain has stopped and the track is drying out, a mid-pack team might bring one of their drivers to the pits for slick tires. They’re taking a risk to try and improve their position. The leading teams will watch that car’s lap times, to see if the slick tires are faster. So there are battles happening, even if it’s not two cars wheel-to-wheel on the track.

Pretty much what everyone else has said, rain is the great equalizer. Mercedes has dominated again this year and to be honest some of the races have been kind of boring. But there’s usually some good battles going on further back in the pack for other points paying positions.

Look for Kimi to pull his car out of the wall and continue on.

Thanks for the replies…I did watch it, and found it mostly enjoyable and more-or-less easy to follow - I found the commercial breaks quite intrusive, though, they took you out of the moment, and always seemed to occur when something interesting was happening - I’d look into viewing options besides a US commercial network broadcast next time.

A question - it seemed there were 2 different teams with Red Bull insignia on their cars?

Yes, the Red Bull team and the Toro Rosso team. Both owned by Red Bull, and I’m sure there’s technical regulations about how much data they can share between them during or between races, but the Toro Rosso team is considered the “Junior” team–newer drivers start there and hope to get “promoted” to the main Red Bull team.

I believe the Manor team was supposed to be something similar for Ferrari, though not with the same paint schemes, but it never quite worked as well, and Haas will probably fill that role next year.

There did seem to be more commercial breaks than normal.