F1 Glossary: Everything You Need To Know As A New Fan

Gemma Cockrell

With lots of difficult and unique terms and concepts, Formula 1 can prove to be a very difficult sport for new fans to fully understand. Like, what is DRS? What is sandbagging, or slipstreaming? Gemma Cockrell is here to define all of these terms for you, so when you hear them in the commentary on TV, you’ll know exactly what’s going on.

The apex is the middle point of the inside line around a corner of the track. This is the point where the drivers aim their cars for optimal performance around the corner.

This word is used to describe a driver who is at the back of the race, who is being lapped by cars who are at the front (so, usually the Haas cars). When the blue flag is shown, the backmarker must let the faster car past (even though the Haas drivers don’t always listen to this rule).

You may hear drivers saying this on their team radios. This happens when a tyre is overheating, causing the rubber to soften and break away. This is usually caused by the team selecting the wrong tyre type for the race (we’ll get onto this later) or if the tyre pressure is too high.

The chassis is the main part of the car. The engine and suspension are attached to it.

A tight sequence of corners on the track, that weave in alternate directions. They tend to slow cars down.

Clean Air
This is experienced by a car at the front of the race. The air in front of them isn’t turbulent, offering optimum conditions for driving and allowing them to perform better.

This is the term used to describe when a tyre loses performance or grip due to wear.

Drive-through Penalty
There are two types of penalties that the Stewards can give out during the race. In a drive-through penalty, drivers drive through the pit lane under the speed limit and re-join the race without stopping. The other type is a stop-go penalty, which I will explain later.

DRS, which stands for Drag Reduction System, allows the driver to adjust their rear wing between two settings. It can be used at any time in practice and qualifying, but during the race, it can only be activated when a driver is less than one second behind another car at certain places on the track. The system is deactivated once the driver brakes.

Formation Lap
This is the lap before the start of the race when the cars drive around the track and then back to the grid again for the start of the race. Sometimes, it is also called the warm-up lap.

This is a physical force equivalent to one unit of gravity that increases during changes of direction or velocity. Drivers experience high amounts of G-forces as they corner, accelerate and brake.

Gravel Trap
This refers to the gravel that can be found on the outside corners of the track, which are designed to bring cars that go off track to a halt.

Hard Tyres
These tyres are white, and they are the most perfectly balanced of all the tyre types, with the ideal compromise between performance and durability. They are often used on high-speed circuits.

Intermediate Tyres
These are green in colour, and they are best suited to rainy conditions, so they can be used on either a wet or a damp/drying track. They are used when conditions are changeable (i.e., the rain keeps stopping and starting).

This is the term used to describe a driver braking too sharply, meaning that one of their tyres stops moving whilst the others continue to rotate.

Medium Tyres
These tyres are yellow, and they are one of the most frequently used tyres because they have a good balance between performance and durability.

This happens when a car’s rear end doesn’t want to go around a corner and tries to overtake the front end as the driver turns into the corner.

Parc Ferme
A fenced-off area, which cars are driven into after qualifying and the race, where no team members are allowed to touch them (you will have seen Max Verstappen get fined €50,000 for this very recently!).

An area of track that is separated from the start/finish straight, where the cars are brought for new tyres during the race. It has a strict speed limit.

Pole Position
This is the first place on the starting grid. It is awarded to the driver who recorded the fastest lap time in qualifying.

The periods on Friday and on Saturday morning, when the drivers are out on the track in preparation for qualifying and the race. This allows them to finalise the set-up of their cars.

This is a session that takes place on Saturday afternoon (unless there is a sprint qualifying too – more on that later) in which the drivers compete to set the best lap time they can. It determines the starting grid for the race.

This is when a car has to drop out of the race, usually due to a crash or some sort of mechanical failure.

Safety Car
A vehicle that is brought onto the track, to run in front of the leading car, in the event of an incident (usually a crash) that requires the cars to slow down.

This is a tactic where a team deliberately underperforms, usually in pre-season testing, to hide the true extent of how fast their car can go, to ensure that rival teams do not see how their car truly performs. There has been a debate as to whether Mercedes are using this tactic, especially in 2021.

When the lap is being timed, it is split into three sections, each of which is roughly a third of the lap. These are officially known as Sector 1, Sector 2 and Sector 3.

A slick tyre is a type of tyre that has a smooth tread. Formula 1 cars use slicks for all dry races. They do not have any grooves on them, so they provide the largest possible contact with the track, which maximises traction. These are either soft, medium, or hard compounds. Otherwise, if it is a wet race, they will use intermediate or wet tyres, which have grooves on them that help to displace water.

This is a driving tactic when a driver catches the car ahead and ducks in behind its rear wing to benefit from a drag reduction. This allows them to go at a faster speed and overtake at the next corner.

Soft Tyres
These tyres are red, and they are ideally used for slow and twisty circuits – especially in colder weather when maximum grip is needed. However, the disadvantage is that the tyre degrades quickly.

Sprint Qualifying
This is a new addition to the F1 format this year, which took place at three races – Silverstone, Monza, and Brazil. The regular qualifying session moves to Friday, which sets the grid for the sprint qualifying which takes place on Saturday. This is a non-stop race of around 20 laps, with no compulsory pit stops. The drivers who finish in the top three earn points towards the championship (three for the winner, two for second place, and one for third). Then, the results of the sprint qualifying set the grid for the Sunday race, which goes ahead as normal.

Stop-go Penalty
This is the second type of penalty, that I mentioned earlier. The driver must go into the pits and stop for 10 seconds, without changing their tyres.

Tyre Compound
This is the type of rubber mix used in a tyre. There are a range of types and each offers a different performance. For 2021, cars can use seven different tire compounds, including five slick compounds for dry tracks and two rain compounds for wet tracks.

This is the opposite of oversteer, where the front end of the car doesn’t want to turn into a corner and slides wide as the driver tries to turn.

Wet Tyres
These tyres are blue, and these should only be used whilst heavy rain is falling and the conditions are not changeable (i.e., the rain doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down).

With the excitement of this year’s 2021 Championship Campaign coming to its climax, undoubtedly, more and more people are set to tune in each week. So, if you find yourself sat in front of the TV next Sunday, make sure to have this trusted guide quickly available to avoid any possible confusion!

Gemma Cockrell

Featured image used courtesy of [José Pablo Domínguez] via [Unsplash]. No changes were made to this image. Image use license here.

In article image 1 courtesy of [@mercedesamgf1] via [Instagram]. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of [@mclaren] via [Instagram]. No changes were made to this image. 

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