Formula 1 Lingo And Terminology

formula 1 lingo and terminology

Formula 1, or F1, is a popular racing sport worldwide, with many complex terms related to its vehicles, drivers, racecourses, crews, and events. For those without a broad knowledge of Formula 1, the following list of key terms and lingo is a helpful resource to get started in learning about this sport!

Racing Terminology

  • 107% Rule: Used to determine if a racer can drive in the official race. Every driver must set a lap within the first 107% of the fastest time during the qualifying phase; otherwise, they cannot race. Some exceptions may be made if a driver sets a good time during practice.
  • Backmarker: Drivers who stay behind in the back of the F1 field, often lapped by leading cars.
  • Bottoming: When the underside of the car bumps the track.
  • Box: Usually used as a command by pit crew members to tell the driver to go into the pit to have the car serviced. Also, the name of the pit stall itself.
  • Delta Time: Used to describe the time difference between two different laps or two different cars.
  • Drive-Through Penalty: This is a penalty handed out during the race for certain infractions. Drivers have to enter the pit lane, comply with the speed limit, and should not stop.
  • Falling off the Cliff: The moment when tire performance significantly drops, rendering them uncompetitive or unusable.
  • Flatspot: When a driver locks the brakes, causing the tires to stop rotating immediately. This leads to an immediate loss of grip
  • Formation Lap/Warm-Up Lap: The lap given to racers to warm up their cars and assess track conditions before starting the first official lap of the race.
  • Green Track: Refers to the state of a circuit that racers practice on before the official race. Very little rubber is laid down on a green track, and, as a result, the grip will not be optimum.
  • Jumpstart: When a driver starts the car before the starting lights have turned off. The driver is given a penalty as this is an unfair advantage.
  • Lift and Coast: In cases where too much fuel is being used, the driver must lift off the throttle earlier when entering a braking zone. This slows the car’s pace but uses less fuel.
  • Outperforming a Car: When a talented driver achieves a significantly better finish than the quality of the car they are driving suggests is possible.
  • Porpoising: The modern version of bouncing or bottoming in the current generation of cars. As a result of stalled under-floor aerodynamics, the cars quickly bounce up and down along their length, similar to the motion of a porpoise through the water.
  • Polesitter: A driver that claims pole position during the qualifying or sprint session. The polesitter starts in the first-place grid position in the subsequent Grand Prix.
  • Scrutineering: The pre- and post-race inspections that every race car is subject to during a Grand Prix. Scrutineering is performed by special race stewards called scrutineers.
  • Tankslapper: The moment when the backside of a car steps out, leading the car to drive slightly sideways.
  • Undercut: When a driver heads to their pit early in the race in an attempt to gain a speed advantage with fresh tires.
  • Understeer/Oversteer: Oversteer is when the rear wheels of a car lose grip, leading to the back end stepping out. Understeer is when the front wheels of the car lose grip, causing the car to travel at a less desired angle.

Equipment Terminology

  • Ballast: Ballasts are weights positioned around the car to maximize handling and balance and to ensure that the car meets minimum weight.
  • Blistering: Blistering is when temperature imbalance (meaning the tire’s inner carcass is hot and the outer part is cold) causes pieces of rubber to explore in a tire, thus creating a hole.
  • Brake Bias: How effective the front or rear brakes are in relation to each other is the brake bias. Drivers will change the brake bias depending on factors like fuel or tire performance.
  • Circuit: Circuits are built for conducting races. There are two types: street circuits and road circuits.
  • Cockpit: Section of the Formula 1 car in which a driver sits.
  • Constructor: The FIA ruled in 1981 that all F1 teams must build certain parts of the car. The company that manufactures the chassis and engine is called the constructor. Constructors compete in the Constructors' World Championship.
  • Diffuser: The rear section of a car’s undertray, which controls the flow of air under the rear of the car.
  • Dirty Air/Clean Air: Dirty air conditions are created by spinning air from behind a leading car, which reduces efficient airflow, decreasing downforce and reducing performance. Clean air is when efficient airflow from an empty track can increase performance.
  • DRS: This is known as a drag reduction system. A DRS is a flap in the rear spoiler, and when lifted, it can allow the car to travel faster and aid overtaking through reducing drag forces.
  • ERS: Short for Energy Recovery Systems, the ERS is a component of the power unit that recovers kinetic energy lost through braking.
  • Graining: Graining is when the tire’s inner carcass is cold, and the outer part is hot, causing the rubber to stick to the tire surface. This decreases performance.
  • Lollipop: The signboard at the pit stop. This signals drivers to apply brakes and shift into neutral before the car is raised onto the jacks.
  • Marbles: Small pieces of rubber that fall out of the tires due to shredding. These often cause problems for drivers, as bumping into them mid-race can prevent the tire from making proper contact with the road.
  • Parc Fermé: A restricted area where only stewards, drivers, and crew members are allowed. All race cars are driven here following a race.
  • Pit Board: This is a board held on the pit wall to inform the driver about three pieces of information: delta time, the remaining number of laps, and current position.
  • Pits: This is the area of the track separated by a wall. Cars will enter their pit box to get tires changed, refuel the car, and make other necessary changes.
  • Pit Wall: This is the area where support staff, managers, and engineers watch their cars using small screens.
  • Pole Position: The driver recorded with the fastest time during the qualifying session is given the first grid position in the race. The driver sitting in this position is called a polesitter.
  • Power Unit: Engine systems in Formula 1 cars that contain six elements. These elements are the internal combustion engine (ICE), control electronics (CE), energy store (ES), motor generator unit (MGU), and turbocharger (TC).
  • Prime Tire: The ideal tire compound for a particular circuit, under the expected race conditions. Drivers must switch between two different tire compounds during the race, so when to use prime tires is a part of Formula 1 strategy.
  • Steward: An official appointed by and for Formula 1 to make decisions about the races.
  • Tire Warmer: This refers to an electric blanket wrapped around the tires to keep them at optimal temperatures before the race.
  • Visor Strip: A visor strip made of Zylon adds extra protection to the top edge of a helmet. Zylon is made of a high-resistant carbon fiber material.


What F1 slang is important to know?

Some of the most important F1 slang to know is terms that describe track and car conditions or racing strategy, such as marbles, dirty air, flat spot, green track, tankslapper, and oversteer. Marbles are debris on the edge of the track, while a green track is one with no rubber laid down. Dirty air is an aerodynamic disturbance, and tankslapper and oversteer both describe handling imbalances.

What is the meaning of “box” in F1?

“Box” is a command often used by an F1 driver’s team during a race. It is a slang term instructing the driver to proceed immediately to their servicing area in the pit lane. The word “box” originates from the German word Boxenstopp, which refers to a pit stop during a race. Box can also be used by a driver to let their pit crew know they are ready for a tire change or other pit-stop adjustment.

What F1 terms are unique to the sport?

There are several unique F1 terms used to describe rules, systems, or parts, such as scrutineering, parc fermé, DRS, ERS, and prime tire. Scrutineering is the official pre- and post-race inspections, and parc fermé is the rules governing the cars between and during those inspections. DRS (Drag Reduction System) is an adjustable rear wing, and ERS (Energy Recovery Systems) are the parts of the power unit that recover kinetic energy lost through braking. Prime tire refers to the type of tire compound that is considered ideal for a particular circuit.