While watching the Formula 1 coverage this weekend, an idea struck us. A lot of the commentary on TV sounds very cryptic to someone who has never watched a Formula 1 race before. There are so many technical jargons the commentators use that can make your head spin. That’s where we come in. We decided to list out a few of the terms that are being used constantly along with their definitions for your reading pleasure. If there are any that we missed out, do let us know!
The mid point of the inside line around a corner at which drivers aim their cars to achieve the most traction at the maximum speed.
Weights fitted around the car to maximize its balance and bring it up to the minimum weight limit.
The piece of bodywork mounted vertically between the front wheels and the start of the sidepods to help smooth the airflow around the sides of the car.
This happens to a tire, or part of a tire, due to overheating. The tires used in Formula 1 work best once they have some heat in them as is provides more grip. But excess heat can cause rubber to soften and break away in chunks from the body of the tire. Blistering can be caused by the selection of an inappropriate tire compound (for example, one that is too soft for circuit conditions), too high tire pressure, or an improperly set up car.
When a car’s chassis hits the track surface as it runs through a sharp compression and reaches the bottom of its suspension travel.
A switch in the cockpit to alter the split of the car’s braking power between the front and the rear wheels according to a driver’s wishes.
A sequence of corners in alternate directions. They are also referred to as S curves as from a distance they resemble the letter S.
Air that isn’t turbulent, and thus offers optimum aerodynamic conditions, as experienced by a car at the head of the field. A lead car has no traffic ahead of it and as a result doesn’t have to overcome the air that passes over a car in front of it. This dirty air causes turbulence and instability at high speed.
The rear section of the car’s floor or undertray where the air flowing under the car exits. The design of the diffuser is crucial as it controls the speed at which the air exits. The faster its exit, the lower the air pressure beneath the car, and hence the more downforce the car generates.
The aerodynamic force that is applied in a downwards direction as a car travels forwards. This is harnessed to improve a car’s traction and its handling through corners. The way Formula 1 cars are designed, the faster they go, the more downforce they generate.
The aerodynamic resistance experienced as a car travels forwards.
Stands for Drag Reduction System. The rear wings allow the driver to adjust the wing between two pre-determined settings from the cockpit. The system’s availability is electronically governed – it can be used at any time in practice and qualifying (unless a driver is on wet-weather tires), but during the race can only be activated when a driver is less than one second behind another car at pre-determined points on the track. The system is then deactivated once the driver brakes. In combination with KERS, it is designed to boost overtaking. Also like KERS, it isn’t compulsory.
One of two penalties that can be handed out at the discretion of the Stewards whilst the race is still running. Drivers must enter the pit lane, drive through it complying with the speed limit, and re-join the race without stopping. Failure to comply can result in additional penalties.
Area of a tire that is worn heavily on one spot after a moment of extreme braking or in the course of a spin. This ruins its handling, often causing severe vibration.
The lap before the start of the race when the cars are driven round from the grid to form up on the grid again for the start of the race. Sometimes referred to as the warm-up lap or parade lap.
When a car slides, it can cause little bits or rubber (‘grains’) to break away from the tire’s grooves. These then stick to the tread of the tire, effectively separating the tire from the track surface very slightly. For the driver, the effect is like driving on ball bearings. Driving style, track conditions, car set-up, fuel load and the tire itself all play a role in graining.
A bed of gravel on the outside of corners designed with the aim of bringing cars that drive off the track to a halt. This is a major safety feature of Formula 1 tracks around the world.
The amount of traction a car has at any given point, affecting the ability for the driver to keep control through corners.
When a driver moves off his grid position before the five red lights have been switched off to signal the start. Sensors detect premature movement and a jump start earns a driver a penalty.
Stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems. KERS recover waste kinetic energy from the car during braking, store that energy and then make it available to propel the car. The driver has access to the additional power for limited periods per lap, via a ‘boost button’ on the steering wheel. This is starting to become a feature in production road going cars as are several other innovations from Formula 1.
The sign on a stick held in front of the car during a pit stop to inform the driver to apply the brakes and then to engage first gear prior to the car being lowered from its jacks.
A course official who oversees the safe running of the race. Marshals have several roles to fill, including observing the spectators to ensure they do not endanger themselves or the competitors, acting as fire wardens, helping to remove stranded cars/drivers from the track and using waving flags to signal the condition of the track to drivers.
The single-piece tub in which the cockpit is located, with the engine fixed behind it and the front suspension on either side at the front. These are made of carbon fiber and protect the driver in case of any accidents (including fire).
Levers on either side of the back of a steering wheel with which a driver changes up and down the gearbox. This is also a feature in several cars on the road today.
An enclosed area behind the pits in which the teams keep their transporters and motor homes. There is no admission to the public.
A fenced-off area into which cars are driven after qualifying and the race, where no team members are allowed to touch them except under the strict supervision of race stewards.
A board held out on the pit wall to inform a driver of his race position, the time interval to the car ahead or the one behind, plus the number of laps of the race remaining. It is also used to communicate with the driver in case their radio communication gear doesn’t function.
An area of track separated from the start/finish straight by a wall, where the cars are brought for new tires and fuel during the race, or for set-up changes in practice, each stopping at their respective pit garages.
A hard wooden strip (also known as a skid block) that is fitted front-to-back down the middle of the underside of all cars to check that they are not being run too close to the track surface, something that is apparent if the wood is excessively worn.
The first place on the starting grid, as awarded to the driver who recorded the fastest lap time in qualifying.
The knock-out session on Saturday in which the drivers compete to set the best time they can in order to determine the starting grid for the race. This occurs in 3 sessions – Q3 for 20 minutes, Q2 for 15 minutes and Q1 for 10 minutes. After each session the slowest drivers are knocked out.
When a car has to drop out of the race because of an accident or mechanical failure.
The course vehicle that is called from the pits to run in front of the leading car in the race in the event of a problem that requires the cars to be slowed.
For timing purposes the lap is split into three sections, each of which is roughly a third of the lap. These sections are officially known as Sector 1, Sector 2 and Sector 3.
A brief test when a team is trying a different car part for the first time before going back out to drive at 100 percent to set a fast time.
The part of the car that flanks the sides of the monocoque alongside the driver and runs back to the rear wing, housing the radiators.
A driving tactic when a driver is able to catch the car ahead and duck in behind its rear wing to benefit from a reduction in drag over its body and hopefully be able to achieve a superior maximum speed to slingshot past before the next corner.
One of three high-ranking officials at each Grand Prix appointed to make decisions.
A penalty given that involves the driver calling at his pit and stopping for 10 seconds – with no refueling or tire-changing allowed.
See through plastic strips that drivers fit to their helmet’s visor before the start of the race and then remove as they become dirty.
A system that beams data related to the engine and chassis to computers in the pit garage so that engineers can monitor that car’s behavior and communicate with the driver on modifications and status.
The result of the disruption of airflow caused by an interruption to its passage, such as when it hits a rear wing and its horizontal flow is spoiled.
An electric blanket that is wrapped around the tires before they are fitted to the car so that they will start closer to their optimum operating temperature. Higher the temperature, better the grip.
A separate floor to the car that is bolted onto the underside of the monocoque.

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