The Historical Insight.
Formula 1 racing has a rich history from the early 1950s. One of the most famous examples of F1 slang from the past is the term “prancing horse.” The Prancing Horse refers to the iconic Ferrari logo. The prancing horse symbolizes power, speed, and elegance, synonymous with the Ferrari brand. This term originated from the early days of Formula 1. Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the Ferrari team, adopted the symbol to represent his racing cars. Today, the prancing horse is instantly recognizable and is deeply ingrained in the culture of Formula 1.
As the sport grew in popularity, so did the complexity of the language used by drivers, engineers, and team members. Thus, new words such as “Sprint Shootout” and “ERS” became integral to Formula 1. The key to becoming an F1 expert is understanding each term. That is challenging. So to make the complex task more accessible, we divided the F1 slang into a few types to enhance your understanding of the sport.
F1 Slang Terms During the Race Weekend.
So, to fully comprehend race commentaries, interviews, and discussions within the F1 community, you must meet the common understandings of the race weekend.
The racing weekend of the Formula 1 consists of Practice (Free Practice), Qualifying, and the race. Formula 1 practice sessions occur every race weekend, allowing drivers to become acquainted with the track conditions, work on vehicle setups, test different tyre compounds, and prepare for qualifying and the race.
Thus, each driver starts the installation lap. It is the first lap of the circuit to test that the car’s throttle, brakes, steering, tyres, and other essential functions are operating correctly. After the installation lap, the driver returns to the pits, and the team checks the settings correctly or to fix if it needs.
Two 1-hour free practice sessions (F1 and FP2) are usually held on Friday, followed by a final 1-hour session (FP3) before qualifying on Saturday.
The one-hour Saturday afternoon session decides the order in which drivers begin the race. Various qualifying forms have been used throughout the years, but the current “knockout” method has been used since 2006. Qualifying consists of three parts. The slowest vehicles are classified during the first two periods (Q1 and Q2) before the top ten cars battle for pole position in Q3.
All drivers must keep the 107% rule during the first qualifying phase. Only those who set a lap within 107 percent of the fastest Q1 time can start the race. However, the rule has a few exceptions, like when the driver sets a suitable time during practice.
Then when the countdown ends, drivers have shaped the grid. Then when the countdown ends, drivers have shaped the grid. The grid in Formula 1 is the starting position of each driver on the track. Therefore, you may see another term – “grid penalty.” If a driver commits a rule violation during qualifying, they will be moved back to several positions on the starting grid.
That’s the pole!
Anyway, the fastest driver starts from the pole position. “That’s the pole!” or “He is the pole-sitter!” – they say. However, “pole” is originally derived from horse racing, where the fastest horse would start on the inside of the track. In F1, securing pole position means that a driver, or pole-sitter, has set the fastest lap time during qualifying. It gives them a prime starting position for the race. For the F1 fans, this driver is the fastest in qualifying.
Each F1 racing circuit has timing systems and split lap times into three sections, known as sectors. The purple sector means the fastest time, the green is the time driver passed leg ahead of its previous time, and the orange implies a time lag. Each sector is equal to approximately one-third of the lap distance.
However, to watch the pole-sitter as someone from the competitive Red Bull, Mercedes, or Scuderia Ferrari is a usual thing. Still, this one from F1 slang immediately turns into a storm of emotions when the pole-sitter is a driver from a less powerful team like it was at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix when Haas’s Kevin Magnussen qualified third!
Formula 1 Sprint
As Formula 1 has evolved, there a few changes completed the rules. As a result, new terms have appeared. Thus, the F1 sprint is controversial but makes this sport even more thrilling. So, the racing weekend also changes when the sprint occurs in the schedule. Introduced at Silverstone Grand Prix in 2021, sprint determined the race’s starting grid. But in the 2023 Formula 1 season, the rules changed.
Today, the F1 sprint is a separate event, a short race with its qualifying – the Sprint Shootout. It is a condensed version of conventional qualifying, with the new SQ1, SQ2, and SQ3 sessions lasting 12 minutes, 10 minutes, and 8 minutes, respectively,. Teams having a slightly reduced tyre allotment for a Sprint weekend.
F1 slang: Racing Actions
On the race day, drivers take places at the starting grid. The Formula 1 race launches with the formation lap – the lap that immediately precedes the start of the race. Also known as the warm-up lap or parade lap is a relatively slow action at the cleared of mechanics and other team members ready for the cars to line up once again and the show begins.
The Start of the Race
The race’s start is the tension’s first peak as nerves row. With lights green, drivers rush to rev up! Sometimes, they move off his grid position before the red lights switch off, which calls “jump start.” Even a tiny premature move is violence against the rules. As each racing circuit has special sensors, sudden movement is immediately detected, and the driver gets a penalty.
After the race has started, drivers are maneuvering between two essential parts: to find the best grip and not to collide with others. Because the amount of traction a car affects for the driver to keep control through corners and provide the best downforce.
Downforce is the aerodynamic force that pushes the car onto the track, increasing grip and stability at high speeds; the vehicle is literally “stuck” to the ground. In simple terms, the more grip – the better speed of the F1 car.
All the above provide the opportunity to overtake the car ahead. So, when one driver successfully passes another and moves forward in the race, it is called an overtake. But something more complex here, as overtaking requires skill.
The current F1 cars have big sizes and are clumsy. For a reason, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton once said these cars feel like buses. In searching for the best settings, drivers often struggle with oversteer and understeer.
Oversteer occurs when the driver is cornering. A car’s rear wheels lose traction, forcing the back end to step out. The driver must turn the front wheels into the skid to fix the issue.
Alternatively, when the front wheels lose grip, the car races at a shallower angle than drivers set it with the steering wheel, which calls understeer. Often, understeer happens due to braking too late or entering a corner too fast – the most widespread problem of rookie drivers or at brand new tracks. Besides, too-late braking is also called “Out brake.” The correction of the driving means fixing the problem.
In most cases, it heads to the lock-up. The lock-up in F1 slang is when one or more tyres stop rotating during heavy braking. It impacts the tyres, as it causes tyres to become flat spotted or unevenly worn, resulting in the driver losing a good grip.
However, lock-up at high-speed heads that the F1 car is flatting out to the gravel trap – a bed of gravel outside corners amortizing the car’s take-offs. A gravel trap is meant to halt automobiles that have fallen off the course. In some terms, it helped Max Verstappen to reflect 51G impact after an incident with Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 British Grand Prix.
Another phrase in F1 slang we use throughout the race is handling. It defines how responsive the automobile is to driver input and how well it takes turns. A well-handling car will be well-balanced and will not understeer or oversteer significantly.
So, lap by lap, the drivers pass apexes and chicanes as best as possible during the race. The proper technical allows them to be faster than the car ahead.
A chicane is a sequence of tight corners, usually taken at low speed, designed to slow down the cars and add a strategic element to the race. Thus, most current Formula 1 racing circuits feature at least one chicane.
The apex is the innermost point on a corner where a driver aims their car to take the most efficient line through the turn, driving as close as possible to the apex – ‘hitting the apex.’ Hitting the apex allows drivers to carry more speed through the corner and maintain better control of the car until it comes to the best moment to overtake the opponent according to the strategy that the team had prepared.
Undercut and overcut
Understanding the F1 slang and racing terminology is the best option to engage in meaningful discussions about race tactics, driver performance, and team strategies. What is more, strategy in Formula 1 is also full of terms.
Before the start, each Formula 1 team has a plan they keep on with many variations that often be heard on the team radio, like “Plan A” or “Switching to Plan B.”
However, there are two main strategies for the drivers during the race: undercut and overcut. In simple terms, both are related to the strategic time to go to the pit stop. The undercut involves pitting earlier than a competitor to gain an advantage by taking advantage of fresh tires and an empty track. The overcut is the opposite, where a driver stays out longer to benefit from fresher tires later in the race.
Another racing tactic to overtake the car ahead, “slipstreaming” or “drafting.” It implies the driver races closely behind another car’s rear wing on a straight section of a circuit to achieve a top speed to slingshot around the next bend. Thus, pursuing a car can benefit from a slipstream (or draft). Because the car requires less power to maintain its speed than when moving independently.
Slipstreaming is often used between two teammates working together during qualifying, like at the 2021 Mexico Grand Prix. Sergio Perez gave a slipstream to Max Verstappen. However, it also has a negative impact, known as “dirty air.”
The “dirty air” is caused by strange vortices of air spinning off the back of a leading car. It reduces adequate airflow over the following vehicle’s wings, slowing the pursuing car and making overtaking more difficult.
The opposite word from F1 slang, “clean air” flowing over car wings, on the contrary, provides strong downforce.
So, various factors influence race outcomes, while the pit stop’s time set is crucial in winning. It puts its place in F1 slang with many different terms.
Understanding Pit Stop Jargon
After an average of 15 laps of the Formula 1 race, the driver may hear “Box!” on the team radio. It doesn’t mean to box. It means to travel to the pits. Remarkably, that box comes from the German Boxenstopp, meaning pit stop.
However, the pits are the area of track that houses the team garages. It is separated from the start/finish straight by a wall. So, the drivers go for new tyres and fuel during the race—each driver stopping at their respective pit garages.
In front of the garages, a pit wall takes place. Usually under an awning to keep the sun and rain off their monitors, the team owner, managers, and engineers spend the race here. They monitoring their car’s performance at the telemetry during practice, qualifying, and the race. Telemetry is the unique system that beams engine and chassis data to computers in the pit garage.
Every team is always with the closest connection and interaction with their drivers. Thus, teams use pit boards during a race to communicate with drivers when they pass the pit lane. These boards display essential information such as lap times, gaps to other drivers, and pit stop strategies.
When the driver stops at the pit, he faces a lollipop – the sign on a stick held in front of the car during a pit stop. Lollipop warns the driver to apply the brakes and shift into first gear before lowering the vehicle off its jacks.
Mechanics already prepared tyres for the time. With numbered from zero to five, from hardest to softest, tyre compound describes the different types of tyres used in Formula 1.
Every weekend Pirelli provides a few different compounds of soft, medium, and hard tyres for dry weather conditions. There will be slick, intermediate, and wet tyre compounds regarding the rain.
Among the others, the official tire supplier will recommend a “prime tyre” for use at the Grand Prix. Usually, it will be a compound that is harder than the “option tyre” – the second of two nominated by the official tyre supplier.
Currently, six tyre compounds are used in Formula 1. However, tyre choice has a vital role in car performance, because the first problem the drivers face on the track is degradation. It is another term from F1 slang, which describes the process of losing the grip.
Each F1 racing circuit has its own rules in terms of degradation. It may depend on weather, temperature, compound of the surface, track layout, and many other factors. So, Hungarian Grand Prix, which holds at Red Bull Ring, is the most required for the tires. Drivers often claim “tyres are gone,” which means they no longer provide grip.
However, even if the track provides the best driving experience, a pit stop is still required. The F1 regulations state that each car must use at least two different compounds of tyres during the race.
But the degradation is not the only problem with the tyes, as also they may deform due to the interactions with the track.
Thus, “blistering” is another one from the Formula 1 slang, describing the effect of the blisters on the tyres. It is caused by the temperature difference between a tyre’s hot carcass and the cold surface of the tyre. This causes the rubber to break off from the tire’s body. The excess tyre pressure or issues with the car’s set-up and lousy compound choice result in blistering.
On the other hand, when the carcass is cold, but the surface is hot, it causes little bits of rubber (‘grains’) to break away from the tire’s grooves and the tyre – the graining. The car’s sliding due to the lock-up may also result in graining. As for the driver, it feels like driving on ball bearings.
However, fixing the problem in both cases requires most of the skill from the drivers. It may save from the pit for two-three laps but still affect the driver’s pace.
As a result of such deformations of the tyres, already to the end of the race, the racing circuit’s side of the line is full of so-called marbles. Marbles are small pieces of tyre rubber. These are very slippery. Racing onto marbles can be treacherous as they prevent contact with the road, making it more challenging to maintain control of the cars.
Formula 1 Techical Slang
Understanding technical terms in F1 slang can significantly enhance your experience of watching races, as you can fully grasp them. However, most of these terms are related to the car directly.
Depending on the track, there already on the third lap will be enabled “DRS.” Another term from F1 sang, which means Drag Reduction System.
With its introduction in 2011, it is activated by drivers to increase the car’s top speed and make overtaking easier. Thus, it allows the driver to open a flap on their rear wing, reducing drag and gaining an advantage when attempting to overtake.
However, drivers may use DRS only at specific points on the track – the DRS zones, and only when a car has been detected as being less than one second. Although, the DRS topic often relates to the ERS system in Formula 1.
F1 cars Jumping
However, when the DRS is enabled on the car, it is clear how it is bottoming as the speed comes faster. Bottoming is another term in F1 slang. It is the result of the car hitting the track and releasing a shower of sparks. Such spectacular effect you can see at the night races such as Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, the bottoming is not the most dangerous thing drivers face in Formula 1, as they struggle with forces called F1 G-forces. Thus, the driver experiences horizontal forces of about 6Gs due to accelerating and braking. In the 2022 season, many drivers experienced additional vertical forces of about 0.6Gs due to their cars bouncing or porpoising.
Porpoising has nothing in common with pets; this one from F1 slang describes the effect of the F1 cars jumping. When the F1 car bottom gets too close to the ground, the airflow stalls, forcing the car to spring upwards.
Formula 1 car Racing Terms
The current Formula 1 car is like a separate science full of incomprehensible terms. Let’s have been closer to this concept.
The F1 driver is lying on a carbon fiber seat designed to meet the racer’s shape. Therefore, before the season starts, each driver goes for seat fittings. The area of the chassis where the racer is sitting calls the cockpit.
Monocoque is a single-piece tub with the cockpit, the engine fixed behind it, and the front suspension on either side at the front. One of the most expensive parts of an F1 car is the chassis – the engine and suspension are attached. All of them are hidden under the bodywork – the carbon fiber sections, like the engine cover, nosecone, and cockpit top.
The F1 steering wheel looks like from spaceship. Heavy and featuring a digital display, it is full of buttons to control different car functions and paddles for changing gears. Althought, F1 steering wheel is easy to replace during the race. It is like in LEGO. Therefore, McLaren driver Lando Norris changed the steering wheel during the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix pit stop. Although it didn’t help him bring good points, the speed with how fast it worked is impressive.
Formula 1 drivers Devices on F1 Slang
Besides, all the systems with drivers working are on a high level in purpose to provide maximal safety. Thus, F1 drivers’ helmets are made from carbon fiber and can withstand the impact of a bullet.
During the race or in the pits, the driver often removes the tear-off strips from the visor strip. They do it to improve visibility, while the visor strip is carbon fiber-reinforced Zylon adds protection to the face of the driver.
However, the helmet is attached strictly to the HANS – Head and Neck Support device. Introduced in 2003, it is a head restraint to guard drivers from head and neck injuries in accidents and crashes.
Also, all the F1 drivers’ gloves, boots, and underwear are made from Nomex. Nomex is an artificial fire-resistant fiber. Remarkable, but when Romain Grosjean crashed in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, he spent almost 28 seconds on fire! Thanks to such modern equipment and FIA safety delegation, he wasn’t seriously injured, a miracle – no less.
Another safety-significant device, also related to the F1 slang, is HALO. HALO was one of the most controversial topics in Formula 1. However, time has shown it saved many lives since its introduction in 2018. The halo, which resembles a horseshoe, is made up of a bar that surrounds the driver’s head and is fastened to the chassis at three locations.
Thus, HALO saved Lewis Hamilton after Max Verstappen Red Bull covered Hamilton’s Mercedes. The accident happened at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix. Another piece of evidence occurred at the 2022 British Grand Prix – one the best F1 races in recent times. Zhou Guanyu crashed the car at Silverstone and made the entire track silent. His Alfa Romeo broke, but the halo protected his head well, and he left the car without a scratch.
Above the driver’s head, you can find the engine air, which also serves as the car’s roll hoop and calls the airbox. You can check the F1 glossary by Formula 1 officials for more detailed technical terms.
Formula 1 rules slang
Flags and Safety
Not all the grid drivers will see the checkered flag, indicating the race’s end. Remarkable, but the origins of the chequer (checker) flag are still debated by historians. The earliest pictorial evidence is from the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race in Long Island.
However, some drivers can crash or take to the incidents. We see the “yellow flag” label when we detect the incident. A yellow flag indicates a danger near and signalizes all drivers to slow down and not overtake. The level of risk is shown by the yellow flag being stationary, waved, or double-waved.
The virtual safety car (VSC) comes if the incident needs attention. It requires drivers to reduce their speed by 35% and is coupled with waved yellow flags in the circuit area where the danger lies.
If the incident is serious, such as a car crash, the debris on the track, or the extreme weather conditions, then a safety car appears on the way. The safety car runs in front of the leaders to slow the cars down until it is safe to resume racing.
Currently, two safety cars are used in Formula 1: Aston Martin Vantage and Mercedes AMG GT Black Series with Bernd Mayländer at the wheel. Another Mercedes AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ is the medical car with the doctors on the board.
If the incident prevents the race, the red flag comes when it needs the driver’s hospitalization, for example, or the hard rain. The red flag in Formula 1 signifies drivers must immediately stop racing and return to the pits as the session or race has been stopped. However, even before the restart, the safety car again appears at the track to check is nothing to prevent the race. If the circuit is clear, we will see a green flag.
The Belgium Grand Prix in 2021 was held under yellow flags most of the distance and became one of the most controversial F1 races.
Lapped Cars in Formula 1
Due to the incidents, some of the drivers will retire. Retirement is another word from F1 slang. It doesn’t mean something familiar with the pension, but the driver will not continue the race. Often car has to drop out of the race because of an accident or mechanical failure.
Also, at the end of the race or even earlier, there comes the situation when the race leader has to pass the last cars on the field or – the backmarkers. Usually, it is easy, but only some drivers are pliable.
Therefore, blue flags intend for the backmarkers to move aside, allowing the faster car to pass safely. Ignoring blue flags can result in penalties for impeding other drivers. As soon as the leader passes the backmarkers last one becomes a lapped car, as between them already lap or laps.
As for the penalties, it is scarce that drivers get a black flag. Throughout history, the black flag in Formula 1 has been shown for technical infringements and signals drivers to return to the pits immediately to retire.
Recently, most drivers have seen the black and white flag, which marks the final warning when a driver exceeds track limits for the third time. If drivers disregard the rule for the fourth time, they will hand a five-second penalty.
Alongside the five-second penalty, there are two most common fines: stop-go penalty and drive-through penalty. A stop-go fine means the driver has to travel at his pit and stop for 10 seconds.
Remarkable, but at this time, no one of the mechanics can even touch the car for all 10 seconds. Thus, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon got a double penalty at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix. His Alpine crew meant they began working on his car after 4.6s.
A drive-through penalty means the racer drives through the pitlane without exceeding the prescribed speed limit (usually 80km/h) before re-joining the race without stopping.
Thus, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, or simply the FIA, is fully responsible for Formula 1 as a sport to be safe and fair. Therefore, they strictly control and monitor each move of the drivers, teams, and engineers with the stewards and the marshals.
Stewards are officials responsible for enforcing the rules, reviewing incidents during the race, and assessing penalties if necessary. At the same time, marshalls are officials accountable for the safe running of the race. They must monitor spectators to ensure they do not risk themselves or the competitors, function as fire marshals, assist in removing stranded cars/drivers from the circuit, and use waving flags to alert drivers to the track’s state.
Appeals and Protests
If a team or the driver does not agree with the fine, they can appeal – a team action taken on behalf of its drivers if they believe they have been unfairly penalized by race authorities.
But if the team believes another team or competition has broken the rules, they make the protest. One of the biggest protests in Formula 1 recently is the Mercedes protest. They made it against Red Bull and Michael Masi after the 2021 Abu-Dhabi Grand Prix. It wasn’t satisfactory, but the FIA brought new measures, such as retired race director Masi and made a ban on team radio between officials.
Often after one race and before the next, you can find that the driver gains an enormous ten positions penalty for the gearbox or the powertrain of his F1 car. It happens because the rules describe that technical changes are under penalties, even if they result from crashes.
On the Finish
As soon as we understand the most commonly used technical words from F1 slang, it is time to dive into the finish ceremony, which also has its racing terminology.
Before the finish, drivers rush to stamp the fastest lap for a reason. Fastest lap during the race awarding with one point to the driver’s standings.
The first three drivers finish at the podium (podium finish), which means they will travel to awarding ceremony. Next time you will be watching Formula 1, think about the difference between third and fourth places.
Another reputable award calls Grand Chelem or Grand Slam. In Formula 1 Grand Slam is awarded to the driver who takes the pole position, records the fastest lap, and leads every lap before victory in a race. It happens rarely. However, Jim Clark still holds the record with 8 Grand Slams. Lewis Hamilton has scored 6 Grand Slams.
So all the survivors parked their cars at the Parc Fermé. Translated from French as ‘closed park, it is a secure area where they undergo post-race scrutineering. None of the teams can even access Parc Fermé to touch the car. Thus, Max Verstappen gained 50,000 euros ($57,250) after he touched the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
After the finish and awarding ceremony, all the drivers go to the Paddock. It is the area behind the pits for the teams’ technical staff and equipment, catering, media, and race officials. Not everyone has access to the Paddock. The tickets to the Formula 1 Paddock’s Club are costly and may cost thousands of dollars.
As we reach the checkered flag of our thrilling journey through Formula 1 racing, we hope you’ve gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for the pitstop jargon, F1 slang, and racing terminology that make this sport so captivating. From the early days of simple communication to the complex language used today, F1 slang has evolved alongside the sport, adding an extra layer of excitement and intrigue for fans worldwide.
From the adrenaline-inducing maneuvers to the technical jargon, understanding F1 slang and racing terminology is essential to becoming an expert in this high-speed sport. So the next time you hear terms like “slipstream” or “overtake,” you’ll be able to grasp the adrenaline-fueled action taking place on the track fully.
As you immerse yourself in races and keep up with the latest developments, you’ll find that F1 slang and racing terminology become second nature. Soon enough, you’ll be discussing “understeer” and “lock-up” with ease, and your knowledge will grow alongside your appreciation for the incredible skill and precision of the drivers.
Remember, the world of F1 racing is not just about speed and skill; it’s also about the language that connects us all in the pursuit of victory. So buckle up, rev heads, and prepare for an unforgettable ride!