Formula 1

Do You Know Your Hans From Your Apex?

5 Mins read

Ok, so there is a lot of jargon thrown around in Formula One, but do you know what it all means?

The guys over at Panasonic Toyota Racing have put together this handy guide of common technical terms.

Aerodynamic set-ups – Wing settings, ride height.

Apex – When the racing line reaches its innermost point of a corner.

Aquaplaning – When there is so much water on the track that the tyres cannot grip at all, causing the car to slide momentarily, with the driver having no control.

Ballast – For optimum weight distribution, F1 cars are designed to be as light as possible, even thoughthere is a minimum weight of 605kg. The remainder of the weight is made up ballast which is fixed onthe front half of the monocoque.

Bite – The feeling of good grip in a corner, allowing a sharp direction change and stable cornering.

Bottoming – When the floor of the car strikes the track.

Brake balance – The distribution of braking power between front and rear wheels, which can be manually changed by the driver in the cockpit. Moving the brake balance changes the balance of the car under braking, potentially eliminating, or causing, locked brakes.

Brake locking – When the brakes 'lock' to the wheel under heavy braking, preventing the wheel from turning. This significantly reduces braking performance.

Camber – The angle of the wheel and tyre to the track.

Clear air – When a driver has an empty track in front of him.

Differential – A device connected to the rear wheels which allows each wheel to rotate at different speeds during cornering to ensure balanced handling.

Diffuser – An aerodynamic device which guides air through the rear of the car's floor to achieve downforce.

Dirty air – The disturbed air behind a car which negatively affects the aerodynamics of a following car.

Drag – The effect of a car's aerodynamics at high speed. The more drag generated by a car, the more air resistance it encounters, limiting top speed.

ECU – Electronic Control Unit, which acts as the electronic brain of the engine, controlling all its functions.

Engine mapping – The settings which dictate exactly how the engine behaves. This can be changed to give slightly better performance at the cost of fuel consumption, or slightly better fuel consumption at the cost of performance, depending on requirements.

Flat spot – When a driver locks his brakes, the tyre is briefly dragged on the track without turning. This causes uneven tyre wear; a flat spot on an otherwise round surface. A flat spot causes vibrations in the car.

Gone off – Tyres give the most grip within an ideal temperature window and only for a limited time. If tyres are over-stressed or used for too long, their temperature rises and the rubber no longer gives as much grip.

Graining – When tyres wear during use and produce small pieces of worn-off rubber (grains). This rubber immediately sticks again to the tyre, making a slightly uneven surface and causing a loss of grip.

Gurney flap – A small flap on the trailing edge of a wing, mounted at a right angle and intended to increase downforce.

Green track – A track surface which is very clean and has very little tyre rubber on its surface. Such a surface will cause slower lap times than normal track conditions because the cars find less grip.

HANS – The Head and Neck Support system which fits over a driver's shoulders and attaches to his helmet. This restricts head movement in an accident, reducing the risk of injury.

In-lap – The lap on which a driver enters the pits.

KERS – Kinetic Energy Recovery System, which takes energy generated at the rear wheels under braking and stores it for a power boost on demand. This is optional for 2009.

Loose – When a car, particularly the rear, is lacking consistent grip in a corner so feels unstable.

Long-run performance – How a car performs with a relatively heavy fuel load over several consecutive laps.

Marbles – Small pieces of rubber which wear off the tyres during a session/race. These build up off the racing line and make the track surface very slippery, like driving on marbles.

Mechanical set-ups – Suspension (dampers and torsion bars), differential, brakes, camber.

Monocoque – The one-piece carbon fibre safety shell which surrounds a driver.

Newton meter (Nm) – The unit of measurement for torque.

Out-lap – The lap on which a driver exited the pits.

Option tyres – The softer of the two Bridgestone Potenza tyres available during a race weekend. These tyres are distinguished by a green stripe on the sidewall.

Oversteer – When a driver turns into a corner but the car turns more than planned, with the rear of the car trying to overtake the front as a result of his rear wheels losing grip.

Prime tyres – The harder of the two Bridgestone Potenza tyres available during a race weekend. These tyres have no green stripe on the sidewalls.

Ride height – How high the car is above the ground.

Rubbered in – When tyre rubber is left on the track surface, providing additional grip.

Set-up evaluation – Comparing different wing/suspension/ride height settings to work out the best.

Slipstream – The area immediately behind a car travelling at speed, where air pressure and drag is reduced, allowing a following car to travel slightly faster than normal.

Snap oversteer – Sudden oversteer, usually on the exit of a corner and requiring rapid correction from the driver.

Stability – How the car feels around corners; does it feel stable or nervous?

Tethers – The safety device which is designed to keep wheels attached to the car in the event of an accident.

Torque – The amount of turning force generated by an engine. This force is transmitted through the camshaft, axle and wheels to drive the car forward.

Track evolution – How the track conditions change during a session, day or weekend. As more cars drive on the track, more rubber is left behind on the surface, which then provides more grip so lap times improve.

Track drop off – When track conditions get worse during a session, day or weekend. This can be caused by dirt, dust or debris on the racing line, a fall in track temperatures or even degradation of the track surface itself. The result is slower lap times.

Turning vane – An aerodynamic device which channels air into the most effective areas to generate downforce or reduce drag.

Understeer – When a driver turns into a corner but the car turns less than planned as a result of his front wheels losing grip.

V8 engine – An engine made up of eight cylinders, mounted in two opposing banks of four which make a V angle in cross-section.

Warm-up – Tyres give the most grip within an ideal temperature window but their temperature must be raised on the track to reach this ideal level. This is normally achieved on an out-lap by occasional aggressive use of the tyres, weaving for example. If this cannot be achieved, the tyres will not perform at their peak level, giving less grip.

Weight distribution – How the weight of the car is distributed. F1 cars naturally have a very rearward weight distribution due to the engine and gearbox location but ballast is used at the front of the car to balance this.

Winglet – A small wing mounted to the car to aid aerodynamic performance.

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About author
James is a regular contributor to TCF across the board but mainly on results and timings.
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