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F1 Explained: A beginner's guide to all the key terms and definitions

F1 Explained: A beginner's guide to all the key terms and definitions

F1 Explained: A beginner's guide to all the key terms and definitions

F1 Explained: A beginner's guide to all the key terms and definitions

The record-breaking 2024 F1 season roared into life on February 29 in Bahrain, and it's time to provide all the info you need to really enjoy all the thrills and spills of what should be an incredible year.

The world of F1 is an epic mix of adrenaline-pumping racing, cutting-edge technology, and strategic brilliance. It's a sport where the most skilled drivers in the world push their abilities to the limit, battling for the top spot on the podium.

Simultaneously, a fierce engineering battle unfolds behind the scenes as teams spend countless thousands of hours designing the quickest machines which adhere to the strictest regulations, courtesy of the FIA.

However, the sport's vast array of terms and jargon can be overwhelming, especially for new fans who may feel as if they are listening to a foreign language.

Don't worry, though, because this article is here to help. We'll break down some of the most common F1 terms you will hear from drivers, teams and commentators during the 2024 season so that you can watch the races like a pro!

READ MORE: F1 Schedule 2024: Full calendar with all you need to know about every grand prix

F1 Terms - A Glossary

Formula One: Let's start with the first question that might pop up in your mind: What is "Formula One"?

Well, "Formula" refers to a set of strict rules - like a recipe book for building an F1 car that every team must follow, while "One" represents the pinnacle of open-wheel motor racing.

FIA: The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is the governing body of F1 and other international racing series and is responsible for setting the rules and regulations that every team and driver must follow.

Drivers' Championship: The individual championship in F1, where drivers earn points throughout the season based on their race finishes. The driver with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the world champion.

F1 greats Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton currently share the record for most drivers' championships, with a staggering seven titles each.

Constructors' Championship: A battle between F1 teams to accumulate the most points throughout the season. Points are awarded to both drivers in each team based on their race finishes, and the team with the most points at the end of the season wins the constructors' championship.

Scuderia Ferrari currently leads the pack with 16 titles, followed by Williams Racing with nine titles.

Cost cap: A financial regulation limiting the amount each team can spend on developing and running their cars, aiming to level the playing field and prevent excessive spending.

READ MORE: F1 Budget Cap explained: How much is it, and how does it work?

107% rule: A rule which requires all cars to qualify within 107% of the fastest time set in Q1 to be eligible to start a grand prix. If a driver fails to do so, they will be automatically excluded.

READ MORE: F1 Explained: What exactly is the 107% rule?

Free practice sessions: Three one-hour sessions (two on Friday, one on Saturday) where drivers get familiar with the track and fine-tune their car setups for qualifying and the race. These sessions are not competitive, but valuable for data gathering and preparation.

Qualifying: A timed session held on a Saturday afternoon (except at sprint race weekends) to determine the starting grid for the main race. Drivers push their cars to the limit in an attempt to set the fastest lap time. The driver with the fastest lap starts first, followed by the second-fastest, and so on.

Race: The main event of an F1 weekend, where all 20 drivers compete for the win or a podium finish over a set number of laps around a specific circuit. Races generally last around 1.5 to 2 hours.

DID YOU KNOW? The shortest race in F1 history was the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, which lasted three minutes and 27 seconds, and the longest race was the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, which lasted four hours, four minutes, and 39 seconds.

READ MORE: RECORD-BREAKER: What was the LONGEST race in F1 history?

Sprint race: A shorter, faster race introduced in 2021 at select Grand Prix weekends. Sprint races are about 1/3 the distance of a traditional F1 race and award points to the top 8 finishers.

READ MORE: F1 sprint: What is it and how does it work?

Formation Lap: The slow lap before the start of the race which allows drivers to warm up the tyres and line up in order on the grid.

Starting grid: The order in which cars start the race, determined by qualifying times. The driver with the fastest qualifying lap starts first, followed by the second-fastest, and so on.

Points system: The system by which points are awarded to drivers and constructors based on their race finishes. The driver who finishes first in a race gets 25 points, the second gets 18, the third gets 15, and so on.

READ MORE: F1 Explained: How does points scoring system work?

Pole position: The first position on the grid at the start of the race, earned by the driver with the fastest qualifying lap time.

Podium: The coveted platform for the top three finishers, where champagne showers and national anthems commemorate a driver's victory.

Grand Chelem (Grand Slam): When a driver takes pole position in qualifying, leads every lap of the race, sets the fastest lap, and secures the win.

The legendary Jim Clark achieved this rare feat eight times, while Lewis Hamilton has achieved it six times.

Chicane: A series of tight, consecutive corners in alternate directions designed to slow down cars and add a technical challenge to the track.

Hairpin: A very tight corner that requires the driver to turn sharply.

DID YOU KNOW? The slowest corner on the F1 calendar is the Fairmont Hairpin in Monaco, with drivers inching around at just 30mph.

Slipstreaming: Slipstreaming, which occurs in straights, is an aerodynamic technique where a following car utilises the low-pressure zone created by the leading car to reduce air resistance and gain extra speed.

As the leading car races at high speeds, its wings and bodywork push air away, creating a low-pressure area directly behind it.

Dirty air: The turbulent air left behind a leading car in corners, which negatively affects the following car's grip and reduces its aerodynamic performance.

Clean air: Non-turbulent air that is experienced when a car is not directly behind others, providing ideal racing conditions.

Downforce: A vertical force generated by the car's wings and underbody, pushing the car down onto the track for increased grip and cornering speeds.

READ MORE: F1 Explained: What is downforce and why is it important?

Drag: The force acting against a car's forward motion created by air resistance. Imagine it like a big hand pushing against the car and slowing it down.

DRS: Introduced in 2011, the drag reduction system is a game-changer in F1. This aerodynamic trickery involves a movable flap on the rear wing, which, when activated, reduces drag and boosts top speed.

This gives the chasing car a temporary power-up, aiding overtaking on designated sections of the track. However, DRS can only be used when the pursuing car is within one second of the car in front.

READ MORE: F1 DRS Explained: What is Drag Reduction System and how does it work?

ERS: Energy Recovery System is a system that recovers waste energy from the braking system and the turbocharger. This energy is stored for later use as an additional power boost.

G-force: In F1, 'G-force' refers to the immense forces experienced by drivers during rapid acceleration, deceleration, and cornering.

When taking corners, drivers can experience up to 6G—six times the force of gravity—which exerts significant pressure on their bodies. That's why drivers undergo extensive training to build up their endurance and stamina to withstand these extreme G-forces.

READ MORE: G-Force in F1: What is it and how many G's do drivers experience during a race

Sandbagging: Sandbagging is a strategy in F1 in which a team or driver deliberately hides their car's true pace and performance during sessions to trick their rivals and lull them into a false sense of security.

Marbles: Small pieces of rubber accumulate on the racing line over time due to tyre wear and degradation. Running over marbles can cause cars to lose grip and potentially spin out.

Apex: The apex is the innermost point of the driving line taken through a corner. Hitting the apex right unlocks the fastest path, letting drivers maintain the highest speed through the corner.

Backmarker: This term is used to describe a driver who is at the back of the field, typically when the race leaders are coming up behind them. When a faster car approaches from behind, a blue flag is waved to alert the backmarker to move over and allow the faster car to pass.

Paddock: The area housing team garages and other facilities used by teams and personnel during race weekends.

Cockpit: The enclosed driver's compartment in an F1 car, equipped with all the controls and information displays needed for racing.

Safety car: A vehicle deployed during accidents or dangerous conditions to slow all the cars down and ensure safety.

Virtual safety car (VSC): A system used to slow down cars when there is an incident that does not require the physical safety car to be deployed on the track.

READ MORE: F1 Safety Car explained: Full or virtual, and how it all works

Halo: A titanium ring structure surrounding the driver's head, offering additional protection in case of accidents.

Since its introduction in 2018, the halo has been credited with saving multiple drivers' lives, including Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix and Zhou Guanyu at the 2022 British Grand Prix.

READ MORE: F1 halo explained: The invention which saved two drivers in one day

Tyres: The rubber-coated wheels of an F1 car, crucial for grip, traction, and handling. Different compounds offer varying performance for specific weather conditions and lap strategies.

READ MORE: F1 tyres explained: what are the compounds, rules, and changes for the 2023 season?

Pits: An area at the start/finish straight where cars can change tyres or repair damages. Pit stops are crucial, and a second can make or break a driver's race.

READ MORE: F1 Explained: What is a pit stop and how does it work?

"Box, box": A radio message from the team to a driver instructing them to pit immediately. Box comes from the German boxenstopp, meaning pit stop.

Undercut and overcut: Pit stop strategies to gain an advantage over rivals. Undercut means pitting earlier than expected to jump ahead of a rival during their pit stop, while overcut means delaying the pit stop for fresher tyres later in the race to overtake.

Double stack: When a team carries out a pit stop for both cars, one right after the other.

Understeer and oversteer: These are two common terms used in F1 to describe the behaviour of a car when it loses grip when going into a corner.

Understeer occurs when the front tyres lose grip before the rear tyres. This means that the car doesn't turn as much as the driver wants it to, pushing straight ahead instead of following the intended cornering line.

Oversteer is the opposite of understeer. It happens when the rear tyres lose grip before the front tyres. This causes the back of the car to slide out, making it more difficult to control.

Track limits: Track limits are the white lines that define the edge of the circuit, setting a boundary that drivers are not allowed to cross. Crossing them results in warnings or penalties.

READ MORE: F1 Explained: What are track limits and how do they work?

Sausage kerbs: Raised, bumpy sections on the track edges designed to deter drivers from gaining an unfair advantage by exceeding track limits.

Parc ferme: Means 'closed park' in French, parc ferme is an area where cars are kept after qualifying to ensure they haven't been illegally modified before the race.

DNF: Short for Did Not Finish, is a term used to describe a driver who has retired from the race. There are many reasons why a driver might DNF, such as a mechanical failure or a crash.

DID YOU KNOW? Riccardo Patrese and Andrea de Cesaris share the record for the most retirements in F1 history, with 147 each!

DSQ: This stands for "disqualified". It is a term used to describe a driver who has been disqualified from the race for technical breaches.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were both disqualified from the 2023 United States Grand Prix, losing their respective P2 and P6 finishes after a post-race check revealed that the skid blocks on their cars were excessively worn out.

Skid block: A plank placed underneath every F1 car from front to back. It was introduced in 1994 to maintain a minimum ride height and prevent cars from being too low to the ground.

READ MORE: F1 skid blocks explained: Why were Hamilton and Leclerc disqualified from United States GP?

Yellow flag: When a yellow flag is waved, it means that a hazard is present on or near the track. Drivers must reduce speed and be prepared to change direction. Overtake is prohibited.

A single yellow flag indicates a less severe hazard, like debris, for example, while a double yellow flag signals a significant danger, like an accident, and the track is partially or completely blocked.

Green flag: The green flag is used in various situations, including at the start of the race. It also signals the end of any danger previously indicated by yellow flags.

Red flag: The red flag means an immediate halt; a big crash, bad weather, or another serious danger requires all cars to slow down and return to the pit lane.

Chequered flag: The black-and-white flag waved at the finish line to signal the end of the race.

Now, the writer waves the chequered flag, signalling the end of this article!

READ MORE: F1 on TV: The definitive guide to how to watch the 2024 season live


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