An Explanation of F1 Race Day Jargon

By Hillary Chinyere
Durban, 3 August 2014.


Daniel Ricciardo with Fernando Alonso at the podium after a thrilling 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.

This is one of a series of articles I will use to explain Formula 1 terms which are vital in understanding race reports, commentaries and team radio conversations. In this article, I used excerpts from a number of Formula 1 websites as they reported on the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo captured the chequered flag for the second time this season at end of astonishing Hungarian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton claims magnificent third. The inclement weather made picking a winner an almost impossible task. The favourite to take the chequered flag changed on countless occasions.

Capturing the chequered flag is winning the F1 race. Depending on the occassion during the race, a digital flag will be displayed on a screen mounted to the car’s steering wheel. The first person to finish the race will have the chequered flag appearing on his car first, and thus “captures” it.

Rosberg, from pole, streaked off over the horizon. But he was badly hurt by rookie Marcus Ericsson’s crush and the introduction of the first safety car, which not only cancelled out his 10-second advantage but penalised the leading four drivers, because they did not have time to pit like the other cars behind.

The driver who makes the fastest qualifying lap on the Saturday of a racing weekend will start the race ahead of the rest of the drivers, or on pole position. After a potentially harzadous obstruction to a race, the F1 cars enter a safety period when they are driven in a formation at a speed that will not allow their tyres to cool down too much. A safety car, currently a Mercedes Benz SLS AMG, leads such a formation.

A downpour less than an hour before the start of the race made it a nightmare for the teams when it came to choosing their rubbers, with the choice between intermediates and full rain tyres.

Rubbers are tyres as they are made primarily from rubber. Tyres are still a race car’s biggest single performance variable. Full rain tyres have more extensive tread patterns, necessary to expel standing water when racing in the wet.

Both Force Indias retired for the first time since the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Nico Hulkenburg’s race was ended when he was taken out by team-mate Sergio Perez. Mexican Perez then saw his race end in the wall when he spun coming out of the final corner.

A retirement is when a driver withdraws from the race before going through all the laps, usually due to mechanical failures with the car.

Nico Rosberg spent eight laps behind Lewis Hamilton and will have lost a bunch of time. Had he gone past Hamilton, he may well have won the race, having finished just six seconds behind winner Daniel Ricciardo.

In this race, Nico was faster than Hamilton but due to the latter’s defensive driving, he had to be content with being stuck behind him. As a result, Rosberg theoretically lost a huge amount of time as he had been gaining a couple of seconds each lap.

Heart in mouth moment as Daniel Ricciardo tries a gung-ho pass around the outside of Lewis Hamilton at Turn Two! But he out-brakes himself and runs wide. Hamilton lives to fight another day. Alonso gets some breathing space.

Smoothly transitioning from acceleration to braking to turning is key in going around a corner the fastest way possible. This is achieved by late breaking, a skill every Formula 1 driver needs for survival. However, if a driver brakes too late he’ll be in trouble and likely go off the track, also known as out-braking yourself.

Engineer to Daniel Ricciardo: “You are catching Hamilton very quickly but think about how you use your tyres so they are fresh when you catch him.”

Fresh tyres are usually those on a car that has recently pitted but in this scenario, Ricciardo was being instructed to preserve the grip on his tyres so that they could be helpful during an attack on the Briton.

Engineer to Nico Rosberg: “You are racing until the end now, there are 13 laps so quali laps every lap until the end.”

Qualifying laps refers to making the car go as fast as it can, without worrying about tyres or fuel as is done during flying laps on a qualifying session.

The problem for Rosberg is that when you are in that one-second range, you’re in dirty air from the car in front and you can’t get on the throttle, so you can’t stay close enough to overtake, so you do need a little help from your team-mate.

Dirty air is air which has been “disturbed” by a car closely in front of a car in question. The dirty, or more accurately turbulent air, due to the various aerodynamic appendages in the lead car tends to unbalance the trailing car, causing drastic changes in the downforce. This leads to less aerodynamic and mechanical  grip, speed and thus difficulty in overtaking.

Nico Rosberg gets a reasonable start, with Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas going with him. Bottas goes around the outside of Vettel at Turn One to take second, with Fernando Alonso taking advantage and nabbing third.

Going on the outside of a driver means attempting to overtake them using the furthest route, further from the apex of the turn.

This is by no way a complete of all terms used in Formula 1 but were the most-used during the race at Hungaroring.


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