The Guide To An F1 Driver's Language
three F1 racing in road during daytime
Photo by Darren Nunis on Unsplash

The Guide To An F1 Driver's Language

Francesca Herring June 16, 2022

Getting to grips with some of the language around driving in F1 can be quite complicated. From shunt to chicane, there’s a lot to remember. Especially if you’re not an F1 driver who hears these words every day. Here’s a guide to some of the more technical terms in F1.

The Car

Porpoising – A relatively new word in F1, having been introduced this season. Porpoising is when a car bounces up and down as it is being driven. It’s caused by sudden increases and decreases of downforce and makes the car hard to drive. 

Downforce – It’s essentially a force that pushes you down. It presses the F1 onto the ground and is generated by using the air that moves around the body of the car. Downforce can be a good thing because it stabilises the car to the ground. But too much downforce can increase the drag of the car, slowing it down.

Drag – Too much of this, and drivers will end up going a lot slower than they want to be. Drivers experiencing a drag are dragging too much unwanted air. This is a result of too much downforce. The top speeds in an F1 car can’t be achieved with too much drag.


DRS – Drag-Reduction System. How do drivers combat drag? With the DRS. A nifty button on the wheel activates DRS. Introduced in F1 for more overtaking, DRS allows the flap of the car’s rear wing to move horizontally. The rear wing is the part of the car that generates the downforce, and therefore the drag. If the flap moves horizontally, the drag is reduced. Drivers can reach the top speeds and overtake if they want to. 

DRS Detection Zone – The drivers can’t use DRS whenever they like, unfortunately. There are some rules that come with it too. Drivers must be in the detection zone to use it, which is identified by a line on the track. After the detection zone comes the activation zone. A driver can only use DRS if they’re within one second behind of the driver they want to overtake. 

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Driving Style

Shunt – An accident or crash. It can be used in relation to one car or several, depending on the crash. 

Lock Up – If a driver brakes too late into a corner, they may lock-up their tyre. You can usually tell if this has happened because smoke will appear by one of the tyres. 

Oversteer/Understeer – When taking a corner, if a driver oversteers, the rear wheels of the car will lose their grip. The back end of the car will step out. If a driver understeers, the front wheels will lose their grip.

Spin – The result of an over/under steer. The car will spin in a rotation if the driver loses control.

Racing Line – The line that a driver must take a corner to get the fastest time possible.

Apex – Part of the racing line. If a driver ‘hits the apex’, they’re taking the straightest possible line to keep their high speed through a corner. 

Hairpin – A bend in the circuit which requires drivers to make a tight turn. 

Chicane – A series of tight corners on track. 

Tow – Also known as a slip stream. The car behind can benefit from higher speeds, because of the car in front creating a hole in the air as it passes. 

And now you’re set for an F1 race!

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I'm an English Literature student at the University of Birmingham, and I'm obsessed with anything literature related! I love reading, watching F1, and listening to music. I've always loved writing articles on my interests and can't wait to get stuck into more journalism.