f1 jargon for beginners explained

F1 Jargon For Beginners: Guide To Formula 1 Language

First time in Formula 1? Watching the race with excitement as it starts: ‘DRS activated’, ‘safety car’ and ‘box, box!’ and losing the logical chain? Googling the terms, but the actions come to an end? Don’t worry. The same thing happened to me and all new F1 fans. I have collected only the necessary slang of drivers, fans, and team-related terms in the F1 Jargon for Beginners guide to help you master the language of Formula 1 quickly. Start your mental engine! 

To simplify, I have divided it into categories and arranged them alphabetically. So let’s start with the basics – the terms from race action that will take you from beginner to advanced in no time. 

the impact of safety car on formula 1 strategies
FIA F1 Austria 2022 Safety Car (Aston Martin)” by Lukas Raich is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

What Are The Main F1 Terms Beginners Need Know?

  • The formation lap is the lap to prepare for the race when the drivers warm up the tires and set their positions while the race director ensures everything is ready for the start.
  • Grand Slam or Grand Chelem means far more than just a winning cup. A very reputable prize is awarded to the driver who takes the pole position, fastest lap, and leads every lap before victory in a race. 
  • A worthy synonym for the Grand Prix is the grand prize, which means a tough challenge and worthy explains its label because Formula 1’s Sunday race sets for over 300 km, and therefore, it is called the Grand Prix. 
  • We call grid all the drivers at the track because they are formed into two lines of a checkerboard order.
  • Podium finish includes the first three drivers to finish. So, those three go to the awards ceremony to rest on their laurel, and yes, the difference between third and fourth makes a lot of sense. 
  • Pole! We say when the driver wins the qualifying to start the race at first position, as he becomes a pole-sitter
  • Practice or FP1, FP2, and FP3 are the 1-hour time segments, free from necessary results, where the drivers try the cars while teams understand the performance, creating the racing strategies. 
  • Qualifying, or Q1Q2, and Q3, is another three-time segment, from longest Q1 to short Q3, where the racers aim to set the lap time to form the grid for the race’s start. 
  • SC, or Safety Car, is a Mercedes or Aston Martin vehicle that aims for the safety mode on the track. The safety car in Formula 1 appears when there are dangerous conditions. If the problem is fixed it causes the safety car to restart while the flags turn green; if not – red flags stop the race, and all the participants travel to the pits until the problem is resolved. 
  • The Sprint race is a separate race for 100 km without the need for a pit stop, but the event implies the independent qualifying system to form the grid at the start – Sprint Shootout, which works the same way as the qualifying, but SQ1, SQ2, and SQ3 are shorter in time.
  • VSC, or Virtual Safety Car, is a pre-safety car mode that requires drivers to reduce their speed by 35% and stop overtaking under waved yellow flags. The yellow flag or yellow sector means dangerous conditions.  

You can extend your knowledge of how everything works in the entire guide to Formula 1.

These F1 jargon refer to the action of the race weekend, so let’s look at the mix of track and regulations. 

shanghai circuit challenging corners explained
Chinese Grand Prix FP1 Max Verstappen” by emperornie is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

About Circuit and the Track

  • The apex is the innermost point on a corner where a driver aims their car to take the most efficient line through the turn, and driving as close as possible means hitting the apex, which guarantees to carry more speed through the corner and maintain better control of the car.
  • 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. 
  • Gravel traps are placed along the sides of chicanes and apexes, and the farther the driver swims out, the more opportunities he won’t get back, as gravel absorbs the speed and the racer gets stuck.
  • Marshals work with crashes and weather consequences, as the small groups control the race at each sector. They help the driver to leave the car, cleaning the track of debris, water, gravel, and oil. 
  • The stewards in Formula 1 report to the race directors and help make decisions regarding rules, regulations, and weather compliance on the track. 

Doesn’t look challenging? Then let’s delve into some more technical Formula 1 jargon.

f1 controversies that won't happen in formula 1 due to the rules and regulations
Max Verstappen overtaking Lewis Hamilton 2017 Malaysia 2” by Morio is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

What Are The Key F1 Technical Terms New Fans To Know?

  • Dirty air collects behind the car. It gives an advantage to the following racer but reduces its downforce after a while.  
  • DRS Enabled is the command driver to open the Drag Reduction System on their cars. The latch on the rear wing increases top speed and makes overtaking easier. Depending on the track, DRS is activated as early as the third lap, but only in specific areas – DRS zones – and when a car is been in less than one second behind in the front. 
  • G-Loads, or the power of gravity forces – are the loads drivers experience in Formula 1 when the driver roughly brakes or instantly accelerates. 
  • Graining in Formula 1 is tire degradation into little bits of rubber – grains (marbles), caused when the wheel’s carcass is cold but the road surface is hot or when the driver locks up or slides the car. Graining feels like driving on ball bearings.
  • HALO is a titanium safety device, placed over the driver’s head to protect it in the event of a crash or collision. So, when the car rolls over, HALO provides safety for the head. 
  • HANS, or the Head and Neck Support device, is the collar that makes the neck unmoved, helping to restrain against high g-loads.
  • Marbles are very slippery small pieces of tires. Imagine yourself with eraser’s pieces. Yes, that is how the tires’ grip works in Formula 1. So, racing on to marbles is treacherous as these reduce the grip, and the driver may lose the car’s control. 
  • Overcut is one of the racing strategies in Formula 1, when the driver delays the pitstop as much as possible, gaining the advantage when others travel into the boxes. 
  • The Pit stop strategy is the racing plan on how many stops their driver should go. 
  • PU, or the Power Unit, is the engine, as not every team uses its factory engine but relies on the supplier. For example, the Ferrari F1 team races on their engines and provides Ferrari PU to the Haas team, while Red Bull uses Honda power units. 
  • Sandbagging in Formula 1 means the driver doesn’t use the true potential, setting a slower time than it can be. The tactics have been used in pre-season testing to confuse the opponents.  
  • Undercut is when the driver goes to switch the tire earlier than the opponents, and sometimes it gives an extraordinary advantage. It is the opposite of overcut strategy.

All these technical terms are what teams actively use in their strategies to find a better option to win. Let’s explore the driver’s slang to understand their language.

formula 1 technical jargon - f1 drivers slang explained
Carlos Sainz – 2023 Italian Grand Prix” by Eustace Bagge is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

F1 Jargon From The Drivers Slang For Beginners

  • Backmarkers are the last drivers on the grid, and when the leader passes them on the lap, they become lapped cars
  • Blue flags signal for backmarkers to skip the leader, signaling them not to resist as between them are already over the lap.
  • Blistering is the effect of the rubber breaking off from the tire body, caused by the temperature difference between a hot carcass and a cold surface, caused by issues with the wrong settings and lousy compound choice.
  • The Bottoming or the sparking in Formula 1 outcomes from the vehicle’s titanium bottom parts of the plank hitting the track and releasing a shower of sparks, happening at tracks with height differences and requiring specific settings like for the Bahrain Grand Prix. 
  • Bouncing or porpoising describes the effect when the car’s bottom gets too close to the ground, and the airflow stalls, forcing the car to spring upwards.
  • BOX! The team commands that a driver immediately go to the pit stop to change the tires or fix the damage. 
  • Drafting, or slipstreaming, is the racing tactic in Formula 1 when the driver races closely behind the rear wing of another car on the straight to achieve a top speed that allows the car to slingshot around the next corner, using less power to maintain speed.
  • Grid penalty is the message for a driver from stewards that he commits a rule violation and will be moved back to several positions.
  • The lock-up is when one or more tires stop rotating during heavy braking. 
  • Oversteer describes the vehicle reacting to the driver’s action shortly. It occurs due to the settings, and when the driver is cornering, the car’s rear wheels lose traction, forcing the backend to step out.  
  • Out brake is too-late braking. 
  • Push mode is the command to the driver to activate the collected energy from hybrid power (ERS) to catch the car ahead or to protect the position. 
  • Rollercoaster is the word drivers describe challenging racing conditions due to the rain or many collisions on the track. 
  • Retirement is when the driver leaves the race without further chances to take points. The game is over. 
  • Tires gone means there is no grip anymore driver feels at this compound.  
  • Understeer happens when the car’s reaction is slower, and when the front wheels lose grip, the car races at a shallower angle than drivers set it with the steering wheel. Braking too late or entering a corner too fast is the most widespread problem of rookie drivers.

So, this is the language from F1 drivers’ slang that they use to describe the situation. Let’s delve into the terms that teams have used in Formula 1. 

why ferrari f1 is so bad explained
Scuderia Ferrari’s box – 2016 Monaco F1 GP” by Matthew Lamb is licensed under CC BY 2.0

F1 Jargon For Beginners: Teams’ Slang

  • Appeal is the team’s action when they don’t agree with the stewards’ penalty deciding on their driver. Often, it is an unsuccessful action. 
  • Caused collision is the stewards’ allegation the driver willingly or not races unsafety for the other participants. It is punished very strictly – from a 5-second penalty and stop-go fine to a black flag, which means the entire disqualification with losing all the results. 
  • Constructor’s championship determines the team’s place in the scoring points system by gathering results of their drivers, while racers have their own – Drivers’ championship.
  • The F1 strategist or the Formula 1 strategy engineer is responsible for analyzing data and choosing the right strategy. 
  •  FIA, or Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, is a governing body of Formula 1 determining the racing rules and regulations.
  • Paddock is the area behind the pits for the teams’ technical staff, equipment, catering, media, and race officials. The tickets to the Formula 1 Paddock’s Club are the second most expensive after the team’s guests.
  • Parc Fermé is the closed park, a secure area where they undergo post-race scrutineering, and none of the teams can even access it. 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. 
  • The Pit Board is the specific board to display essential information such as lap times, gaps to other drivers, and pit stop strategies. The team member shows the pit board to communicate with drivers when they pass the pit lane. 
  • The pit wall stands in front of the team’s garages, where the team owner, managers, and engineers spend the race monitoring the car’s performance. 
  • Protest is the team’s or driver’s action if they believe another team or competition has broken the rules. One of the biggest protests in Formula 1 recently was the Mercedes protest 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 to ban on team radio between officials. 
  • The Strategy Group is the union of the members from the FIA, McLaren, Williams, Ferrari, Mercedes, and last year’s constructor championship winner team to make decisions on changes in regulations of Formula 1, as one has their voice.   
  • Technical Directive (TD) in Formula 1 is a set of rules issued by the FIA, determines the technical regulations, and is used to decide concerns that arise during the season, like porpoising, safety, etc.
  • Telemetry is the system that beams engine and chassis data to computers in the pit garage, displaying data to the engineers during practice, qualifying, and the race. 
  • Under investigation in Formula 1 is the warning that team or driver actions will be investigated, and it can end immediately or even after the race. 

As you can see, this part is very technical. Going further into old fan jargon, beginners hardly understand these specific words and the humor of F1 jargon.

f1 glossary explained necessary terms for beginners
Tifosi” by nic_r is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Best Of F1 Fan Culture For Beginners

  • Bwoah is an expression used by former F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen before to answer tough or annoying questions from the press. 
  • Carlando recalls when Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. drove for Ferrari as teammates. Due to their relationship and friendship, F1 fans started calling them Carlando.
  • Checo is used by Sergio Perez’s fans, who cheer for their favorite using his name shortly. 
  • The F1 Shoey is an unusual way to celebrate a podium finish by drinking champagne from a racing shoe. Daniel Ricciardo launched it at the 2016 German Grand Prix, but the tradition didn’t take off as not all drivers liked it. 
  • Get in there Lewis!’ is a laudatory word for Lewis Hamilton, which means a well done job. 
  • GOAT in Formula 1 jargon means the greatest driver of all time.
  • Hammertime was the command for Lewis Hamilton for the maximal push.
  • Master🅱plan or Ferrari Master🅱️lan comes from the meme after a blend of unsuccessful Ferrari team strategies, meaning the failed steps are just part of a great plan, relating to the former team principal Mattia Binotto. 
  • Orange Army is a large group of Max Verstappen fans, which struck them when they donned orange and launched orange fires at the Austrian Grand Prix in 2021. 
  • SUPER MAX is Max Verstappen’s motto after his fans Pitstop Boys realized the song ‘SuperMax!’ in 2016.
  • Tifosi is an Italian term that means passionate Formula 1 fans and describes Scuderia Ferrari devotees. 
  • Valtteri, it’s James‘ relates to Lewis Hamilton’s dominant time, when former Mercedes Strategy Director James Vowles asked on the radio Valtteri Bottas to skip Hamilton ahead. Each message he started with ‘Hi Valtteri, it’s James.’

Your Formula 1 Glossary


Formula 1 has collected a lot of technological terms since its beginning in the 1950s. Some of them, like KERS or refueling, have become part of history, but others have become part of the sport. 

Just think that the ‘Prancing Horse’ came to the world with Ferrari when they started Formula 1, and now a slang term that refers to the iconic Ferrari logo and symbolizes power, speed, and elegance. 

So, how do beginners understand Formula 1 terms fast? In fact, there is no need to learn all these specific jargon words, but it is valuable to know the meaning of the crucial of them and not be afraid to ask.

Therefore, I suggest you take a small quiz on Formula 1 jargon to consolidate your knowledge. 

You can save the additional infographic on your computer or mobile phone to have this F1 dictionary at hand, preparing for the next race. 

Also, you can deepen your knowledge by checking out the resources below.

Formula 1 Technical Jargon Quiz

This quiz will test your knowledge on all things Formula 1, from race terminology to driver slang and team strategies. 

I hope you find this F1 jargon for beginners helpful, and if you want to add more terms, you are welcome! Just leave a comment below.

References: Useful Resources