Gurney Flap

A gurney flap is a small lip placed at the trailing edge of a wing, used to dramatically sharpen the exit angle of the airflow, thereby creating more downforce without the downside of drag that a car would have from a steeper wing angle. It’s named after ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Dan Gurney.


Wheel Gun

Wheel guns are pneumatic tools used to screw and unscrew the nuts that attach wheels to the car. The basic concept is the same as that used in any road car garage – but the guns used in F1 are technology of a higher order, with a high-flow rate spinning the guns at >10,000rpm, supplying torque of >3000Nm (they have a strong kick).

Eight guns are laid out for a pitstop (one for each wheel plus one spare for each gunner in case of failures). They are extensively customised by the teams but a recent rule change demands they be powered only by compressed air or nitrogen.


Starting Grid

The starting grid consists of the marked out grid slots from which cars start the race. It is also the term used to describe the order in which cars line up on the grid.

In the modern era, with the proliferation of grid penalties, it is highly likely that the order in which cars qualify is not the same as order they line-up on the grid. The official starting grid is published one hour before the start of the race. 


Chequered Flag

The chequered flag is shown by marshals at the start/finish line to indicate the end of a practice session, qualifying or the race. At the end of a grand prix, it is first waved as the winning car approaches. Drivers must return to the pits without stopping and then follow either post-practice, post-qualifying or post-race procedures as required.



Graining occurs when strips of rubber are torn from a tyre and then immediately stick back onto the hot surface of that tyre. This creates an uneven, irregular surface that makes braking and cornering difficult while reducing grip and traction.

Graining typically occurs when the tyre is sliding laterally and is more common with the softer tyres. It is often a short-term problem, as the graining goes away once the tyre wears and becomes uniform again.



Aerodynamics is the study of the properties of moving air and the interaction between the air and the car, often the defining science in modern F1 design. Since the 1960s, teams have used downforce-creating wings to push cars into the track to create more grip.

The goal is to create more downforce without a corresponding increase in drag. Every surface of the car – including the driver’s helmet – influences aerodynamic behaviour. It's important stuff!


Brake Balance

Drivers can adjust the bias of how much brake pressure goes from the pedal to the front and rear brakes using the brake balance dial. In dry conditions, drivers want more brake pressure on the front of the car than the rear – usually a 60:40 or 55:45 split.

As the weight, balance and tyre performance of the car changes during a race drivers adjust the brake balance to suit the handling. In wet conditions, the front brakes are more likely to lock up, so drivers will push the brake bias further towards the rear. Since 2014, a powered control system for the rear brakes (used with ERS) may be integrated into the setup.


Install Lap

An installation lap is a medium-speed, one-lap run, with the cars coming straight back to the pitlane at the end.

An installation lap is usually done early in a test or free practice session so the team and driver can check certain key parameters of the car – such as engine, throttle and brake performance – are all working properly.


Start Sequence

The start sequence is the procedure by which a grand prix is started. Once the grid has formed following the formation lap, and the medical car is in position at the back of the grid, the race director, from a control box looking out over the grid, initiates the sequence.

Five red lights above the start line are illuminated one by one and then after a random pause they are extinguished, signalling the start of the race.


Drivers' Overalls

Drivers’ overalls are designed to be fireproof and lightweight, making them comfortable to wear and allowing the drivers’ bodies to ‘breathe’ even in the stifling 50°C in the cockpit. The race suits are made from three layers of Nomex, a high-tech material that can resist exposure to a direct flame for 15 seconds.

Each driver has four suits per weekend, and will use 30 each year. They add fireproof underwear for extra protection. Drivers boots and gloves are also flame-resistant, and their design is optimised so they offer the maximum comfort and optimum feel with the pedals and steering wheel.



On a wet track, Formula 1 tyres – even special treaded wet-weather tyres, which can shift up to 65 litres of water per second – can build up a micro-thin layer of water between the tyre and track.

In extreme circumstances the car can effectively float on top of the water. As a result, the driver is in serious risk of losing control, with steering and braking ineffective. Teams will also raise the ride height of the cars so the stepped underbody isn’t at risk of aquaplaning.



Downforce is a measure of how much vertical aerodynamic load is created by a Formula 1 car’s aerodynamic surfaces. At high speed the downforce created by airflow around the body of an F1 car will be far in excess of its weight. Theoretically this would allow it to drive along the ceiling of a tunnel.


Green Track

Lap times generally improve as the grand prix weekend progresses because the track develops more grip as the racing line is swept clean of dirt and more rubber is laid down.

This is known as ‘track evolution’. A permanent race circuit in regular use will see a small amount of evolution between the start of FP1 and the end of the race but a little used venue, particularly a temporary street circuit, will undergo dramatic changes. At the start of the weekend, when the racing line has its lowest level of grip, the track is often referred to as being in a ‘green’ state.



A pitstop refers to the practice of bringing the car into the pitlane for mechanics to work on it. A standard pitstop (which may happen in practice, qualifying or a race) sees the crew change tyres and perhaps adjust the angle of the car’s front wing. They’ll also carry out tasks such as cleaning the driver’s visor and the car’s rear wing.

A good pitstop has the car stationary for less than three seconds. Longer pitstops may include activities such as replacing a damaged nosecone or removing debris from radiator intakes and brake ducts. In F1, refuelling is not carried out during pitstops. 


Hot Lap

A hot lap – sometimes referred to as a 'flying lap' or 'timed lap' is a lap of the circuit in which the driver does a complete circuit of the track in free practice or qualifying. In general a flying lap refers to a lap on which a driver is pushing to set a fast time – different to a warm-up or cool-down lap on which the driver is attempting to get his car into the optimal condition for a subsequent flying lap.

During qualifying in particular, drivers will want as clear a road in front of them as possible so they’re not hampered by slower traffic on a flying lap.


Wing Mirror

The wing mirrors on a Formula 1 car are used to check the position of a drivers’ rivals, but can also be used by the driver to keep an eye on rear tyre wear. Formula 1 cars must have two mirrors each with a reflective surface 150mm wide maintained over a height of 50mm high.

The wing mirrors, including housings and mountings, must be situated between 250mm and 500mm from the car centre line and between 550mm and 750mm from the rear edge of the cockpit entry template. To ensure the mirrors offer good vision, drivers must be able to read letters on a board positioned 10m behind the car, and 4m either side of the centre line.



As air passes over a Formula 1 car’s aerodynamics, it produces a wake of turbulent air behind the car that hampers the aerodynamic flow of cars directly behind it. This wake – nicknamed ‘dirty air’ – can be of benefit to a following car on the straight, as the car in front effectively punches a hole in the air and does more work.

The following car can use the extra speed to get past into the next corner – a technique known as slipstreaming. Dirty air does, however, hamper the following car’s aerodynamics, making it slower in the turns, reducing the effectiveness of the cooling system.



The apex of a corner – also known as the clipping point – is the mid-point of the turn, when the driver comes closest to the inside kerb of the turn. Its position can vary depending on the type of corner and how the driver crafts his racing line – a fast turn will have an apex early, while a slow hairpin will have a ‘late’ apex.

Some corners, such as the Turns 16-18 complex at the Circuit of the Americas – can even have several apex points.


Bite Point Find

When leaving the garage a race engineer will frequently ask the driver to carry out a bite point find. As with a road car, establish the biting point for the clutch enables a quicker getaway.

In a Formula 1 car this needs to be monitored and recorded periodically as the carbon fibre clutch is subject to wear and thus the bite point moves – hence the driver is required to relocate the bite point once the clutch is up to temperature.


Black Flag

The black flag is shown at the start/finish line, accompanied by a drivers’ race number, to indicate that this driver has been disqualified. The driver is required to come into the pits on his next lap round, and end his involvement in the race.


Jump Start

A driver is deemed to have made a jump start if they move off their grid position before the five red lights on the start gantry go out. Movement is detected by sensors embedded in the track and the transponders located in the cars. A driver adjudged to have made a jump start will be called into the pits to serve a penalty.


Flying Lap

A flying lap – sometimes referred to as a ‘hot lap’ or 'timed lap' is a lap of the circuit in which the driver does a complete circuit of the track in free practice or qualifying.

In general a flying lap refers to a lap on which a driver is pushing to set a fast time – different to a warm-up or cool-down lap on which the driver is attempting to get his car into the optimal condition for a subsequent flying lap. In qualifying in particular, drivers will want as clear a road in front of them as possible so they’re not hampered by slower traffic on a flying lap.


Purple Sector

Timing screens in Formula 1 use a colour-coding system. A driver setting a sector or lap time coloured purple has set the fastest time of the session so far – hence you will hear engineers informing a driver that they “have gone purple in sector one.” Setting a sector or lap time coloured green indicates a personal best.


Green Flag

A green flag is shown by marshals after yellow flags or a safety car period to indicate that track conditions at this point of the circuit are good, and that normal racing can resume.



A hairpin is a slow corner that doubles back on itself. These are invariably among the slowest corners on the track, requiring drivers to brake incredibly hard to under 100km/h, and use a special line that sacrifices speed on the entry, but creates a smoother, straighter line on the exit for better acceleration onto the next straight.


Red & Yellow Flag

A red and yellow striped flag is shown by marshals to indicate a change in track conditions ahead. This could be debris, oil, standing water or dirt and gravel.


Dirty Air

As air passes over a Formula 1 car’s surfaces it produces a wake of turbulent air that hampers the aerodynamic flow of cars directly behind it. This wake – nicknamed ‘dirty air’ – can be of benefit to a following car on the straight, as the car in front is effectively punching a hole in the air and doing more work.

Dirty air does, however, hamper the efficiency of the following car’s own aerodynamic surfaces, reducing downforce, making it slower in the turns, and limiting the effectiveness of the cooling system.


Track Temperature

Track temperature is a critical parameter in Formula 1 tyre performance. Because the asphalt of grand prix circuit soaks up heat from the sun it can be considerably warmer than the ambient air temperature, often by 10°C or more.

Hotter track surfaces cause more tyre wear, meaning that soft tyres will last considerably less distance, and that harder tyres may be more optimal for the conditions. Track temperature may rise above 60°C at hot-weather races.



As Formula 1 tyres are used, they throw off little curls of rubber that accumulate on the side of the track. As a grand prix weekend goes on, especially during the race when the track can’t be cleaned, this build up of rubber off the racing line can become incredibly difficult to drive on.

Drivers liken it to racing on marbles – hence the name. This is one of the reasons why overtaking a rival off the racing line can be incredibly difficult.


Blue Flag

Blue flags are used by marshals to alert a driver to the presence of a faster car about to lap them. The driver is required to let the lapping car by. If a driver ignores three blue flags, they will be handed a penalty. The blue flag is also shown at the end of the pit lane to warn that faster traffic is coming past on the track. Modern marshalling systems include flashing blue panels in addition to flags.



Flow-vis (short for Flow Visualisation) is a paint-like substance used for aerodynamic testing during practice sessions. A high-contrast luminous colour, it is applied to an area of the car – e.g. one side of the front wing – in the garage.

The driver will do a short run during which airflow around the car will cause the flow-vis to run. When the car returns to the garage the pattern will be carefully photographed before the car is cleaned. Typically the flow-vis test will be used to corroborate data gathered in CFD or the wind tunnel. It’s simple and very effective – though it does create quite a mess!


Red Flag

The red flag is displayed by marshals when conditions are unsafe to continue the session or race. When shown during a practice or qualifying session, all cars must immediately reduce speed and proceed slowly back to the pit lane.

If the red flag is shown during a race, drivers will proceed slowly into the pit lane and line-up in the fast lane at the pit exit.  They will then be moved into race order in case of a restart, which will take place behind the safety car.



Rake refers to the car altitude created by raising rear ride height in relation to front ride height, effectively setting the car up with an upward slope front-to-rear. Rake helps the aerodynamics of the car work efficiently, lowering the nose but allowing the floor of the car to interact effectively with the airflow around it.

A rake angle that’s too shallow limits the ability of the car’s underside and diffuser to work properly; too steep and, likewise, the underbody will become less efficient aerodynamically – but also the car runs the risk of the nose and bib scraping the track surface (particularly when running light).



The current F1 engine is a four-stroke turbocharged, direct injection 1.6-litre unit. It has six cylinders arranged in a 90° V layout and a limit of 15,000rpm.  The engine is designed to work in harmony with the other elements of the hybrid F1 Power Unit.

In modern Formula 1 car design, the engine acts as a stressed component, rigidly connected to the back of the monocoque to form the spine of the car, with the rear suspension and rear wing hung from it. With the power unit comprising six separate major elements, the engine is now frequently referred to by the abbreviation ICE (Internal Combustion Engine).


Front Wing

The front wing is a crucial part of an F1 car; it’s the first part to hit the airflow, and therefore shapes the car’s aerodynamics. It is steeply angled to turn the air up and over the bodywork, while the endplates smooth and condition the airflow around the wheels and into the sidepods.

The front wing is 1650mm wide, and the tip of the nose cannot be more than a maximum of 185mm above the reference place. Made from carbon fibre it weighs around 10kg but can generate 100 times its own weight in downforce. As it’s such a crucial element of the car’s performance, the team will develop many new designs during the season.


White Flag

The white flag is shown by marshals to warn that a slow-moving vehicle – such as an official medical car – maybe on the track.


Green Sector

Timing screens in Formula 1 use a colour-coding system. A driver setting a sector or lap time coloured purple has set the fastest time of the session so far. Setting a sector or lap time coloured green indicates a personal best.


107% Rule

To be eligible to start a grand prix, a driver must qualify within 107% of the time set in Q1 by the fastest car. Failure results in automatic exclusion. Stewards may subsequently allow a car to start if they believe a driver was prevented from setting a <107% time by special circumstances.

E.g. a crash or a technical issue preventing the driver to comple a lap, or a dramatic weather change during the Q1 session. Stewards look at times in practice sessions and previous grands prix when considering an exemption. The rule is designed to keep slow – and therefore potentially dangerous – cars out of the race.


Clean Air

When drivers are on an empty track or are clear of their rivals, they’re racing in what they term ‘clean air’. This is the optimum state for a Formula 1 car’s aerodynamics. As air passes over a Formula 1 car, it produces a wake of turbulent air behind that hampers the aerodynamic flow of cars directly behind it.

The following car loses downforce, making it slower in the turns, as well as making the engine cooling less effective. So, drivers always try to avoid running behind rivals, and hunt for ‘clean air’ where possible.


Night Race

Night racing is a new innovation to Formula 1, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix being the first instance, followed by the twilight Abu Dhabi GP a year later. The Bahrain GP has now also switched to an evening start. The circuits are floodlit, and – for the drivers – it’s not unlike being out on a circuit at day.

As the race timetable for night races matches European afternoon, drivers and mechanics tend to stay on European time, sleeping during the day (with windows blacked out to eliminate daylight) and working into the early hours of the morning on a nocturnal schedule to avoid jetlag, insomnia and fatigue.


Bottoming Out

Bottoming out occurs when the underbody of a Formula 1 car hits the track surface. Formula 1 cars run low ride heights to keep the car’s centre of gravity low and aid the creation of aerodynamic downforce.

As the suspension compresses at speed and in cornering, this ride height becomes smaller, making the car even more likely to ‘bottom out’ on sudden bumps or kerbs. As the underbody includes a wooden plank to measure ride height, this can leave brown stains on the track where it wears.


Braking Point

The braking point is the part of the circuit on an entry to a corner at which a Formula 1 driver starts braking for the turn. It’s usually positioned between 50m and 150m from a corner, depending on the car’s entry speed and the corner type.