Formula One For Beginners

If you are new to Formula 1, seeing the cars for the first time will leave you awe-struck at the amount of detailing on the car that it may seem intimidating. Whenever I show F1 to my colleagues or friends, I always get asked why the cars are shaped so and more importantly what the commentators are babbling about when they say DRS, KERS, Sector timings, marbles, tyre lockup and all other jargon. That is why I have decided to dedicate an entire post to explain them. Keep in mind that I would just be explaining briefly what the term means; if you need more information you can always comment so I can explain it in a sensible way. So, no need to fear, I’ll explain F1 terms in the simplest way that I can. So, without further ado, let’s start.

 

Technical Terms

 

Downforce

This is the most used aerodynamic term used in F1. It means the force generated by the car in the downwards direction which in turn helps the car not fly just like wings help a plane fly. When the direction of wind is upwards, it creates an equal downward force (Newton’s 3rd Law).The downforce in an F1 car is so high that it is said the car can easily go upside down with enough momentum.

DRS

It stands for Drag Reduction System. It came into being from 2011. When a button is pushed on the car, the rear wing DRS is deployed and the rear wing changes as shown in the picture. This reduces downforce and hence is only used on the straight lines. In short, it reduces drag and gives a speed boost of around 10 -15 km/h on a straight line. But, this system can only be used when the car in front of you is within 1 second.

KERS

Kinetic Energy Recovery system came into picture in 2011 in F1. This system helps to store the heat energy generated during braking and deceleration, store it in batteries and deployed during acceleration. This gives the driver an extra power of around 80 HP over a period of 6 to 7 seconds in a lap.

Tyre Marbles

Or just marbles. These are the bits of rubber that come off from the tyres and can be seen on the track after a race. These can cause a car to spin since the track becomes very slippery.

Lock up

A lock up occurs when the driver applies the maximum amount of braking force causing the wheels to stop rotating(lockup). A locked wheel/tyrecannot steer and it cannot apply as much braking force as a rotating one. It also damages the tire, creating a flat spot which, aside from the damage, can also cause dangerous vibrations on the car. In the picture we clearly see the Front right locking up. A lockup in a corner can affect  a lap time by two- tenths of a second which would drop him one or maybe two positions in the qualifying session.

Sector Time- Denoted by S1,S2 and S3.

The track is divided into 3 sectors and the lap time in each sector is called a sector time. Setting a ‘purple sector‘ means the driver has set the fastest sector time in that sector as purple suggests the fastest time. Similarly, a ‘purple lap’ denotes the fastest lap of the session.

Safety Car

In a race, a safety car is deployed to limit the speed of cars in case of an accident or other safety reasons. It is indicated by a yellow flag and also by a light on the driver’s dashboard to slow him down. Overtakes are not allowed during Safety Car periods except when they are in the pits. There is also a Virtually Safety car system which alerts the driver to slow down in cases where a safety car is not required. Failure to do so results in a penalty.

Penalty

When a driver fails to correspond to the rules of a race like- gaining position by going off the track and not handing back the position or causing an avoidable accident or speeding through pit-lane (the speed is limited in pit-lane to 60km/h) or failure to slow down during (Virtual) safety car period etc., all these things attract a penalty by the Stewards. The penalties will be explained thoroughly in another post.

Flags

The flags are a way to sign the driver of various circumstances in a race. Like a single yellow flag is used to slow the drivers. A double yellow flag means they might even have to stop. A red flag means the race is to be stopped. Blue Flag is to have the driver move for someone to lap him. Chequered flag signifies the finish of the race. The flags and their detailed significance will be explained in another post.

Lift and Coast

The adjacent image reveals what all F1 fans feel when they hear this message in a race. The term is relayed by engineers to the drivers to resist them going flat out for saving fuel (since there is no refuelling in F1 now). This means the driver will lift from the accelerator earlier than usual and (like Max Verstappen said- drive like his Grandmother) will try to coast to the corner.

Understeer and Oversteer

The image adjacent clearly shows the difference. Oversteer is not to be confused with drifting. Oversteer is not controllable and unintentional while drifting is intentionally done by the driver.

Parts of  a Car

Front Wing and Nose– As you can see in the infographic. The front wing is one of the
most complicated part of an F1 car. It directs the airflow from the front of the car to the rest of it. The front aerodynamics contributes mainly to determine how much downforce is generated in the car. Also, if the front wing is lost, the car will be slow by more than 5 seconds per lap.

Side-Pods

The side-pods houses the radiators and helps in keeping the engine cool (Yes, the engine is at the back of the car) which otherwise would become hot enough to boil the engine oil. It also has the side- impact crash structure which is there for driver safety in case of a crash.

Airbox

This structure is for air intake into the engine. It is placed behind and above the driver’s head so that it intakes (relatively) undisturbed air.

Floor

Here we see a upside down car to clearly explain the floor of an F1 car. It is flat to generate more downforce.

Diffuser

The fast air exits from the floor to and through the diffuser giving more room to escape. It sucks the air upwards to give more downforce.

Rear Wing

The rear wing of the car helps in creating a third of the downforce for the car and is the most changed part in the car to suit changes in track.The wing pushes the air upward creating an opposite downforce.

Although, there are a lot more parts in a car, I’m going to stop with only the main parts since don’t want the reader to be flooded with technical information.

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