The A-Z of Formula 1®

A is for...

Albert Park, the parkland circuit was used as the stage for the Australian Grand Prix in 1953 and in Melbourne’s Olympic year of 1956. Between those two events, Australia moved on to the world stage: no overseas competitors were involved in the 1953 AGP, won by Doug Whiteford in a Lago Talbot, but the exotic Maserati 250Fs of Stirling Moss and Jean Behra dominated the 1956 race weekend. Albert Park was again the scene of a Melbourne Grand Prix in 1958, also won by Moss. The current circuit broadly follows the layout of the original 50s track – but runs in the opposite direction.

Aerodynamics: the Harry Potter ingredient of modern motor racing, the science – or should we call it the black art? – of figuring out how best to build a car so that air flows under, around and over its many surfaces with minimum hindrance to its forward progress. Hence the many bizarre-looking wings, winglets, end-plates, cascading front wings and so on that adorn the silhouette of the contemporary F1 car. The best-known exponent of aerodynamics in F1 is Adrian Newey, whose design genius has led to multiple Grand Prix victories and world titles for teams such as Williams, McLaren and, most recently, Red Bull.

B is for...

Brabham, Sir Jack, knighted for services to motor racing in 1970 and Australia’s first World Champion. ‘Black Jack’ went from the speedway tracks of New South Wales to the summit of world motor sport, winning the Drivers’ World Championship in 1959 and 1960 in Cooper cars, then making history in 1966 by becoming the first driver to take the title – and with it the Constructors’ World Championship – in a car of his own making. Born in 1926, Jack Brabham contested 126 Grands Prix, winning 14 of them from Monaco 1959 to South Africa 1970. He started from pole position 13 times and set 10 fastest race laps. Sir Jack passed away in 2014. 

Brakes, the devices used for stopping F1 cars capable of speeds well in excess of 300 km/h and therefore a subject of some interest to engineers and drivers alike. A Formula 1 car has to decelerate from speeds over 300 km/h to 70 in the space of less than 100 metres; stopping from 200 km/h takes 2.9 seconds and 65 metres; from 100 km/h, 1.4 seconds and just 17 metres. The brake calipers are made of aluminium, the discs – which must absorb the heat generated by such ferocious braking – of carbon fibre, which will heat to over 1000° Clesius in extreme ‘braking events’. 

C is for...

Cockpit, the increasingly enclosed space into which the driver is inserted as the final and most important component of his car. The cockpit entry measures 850mm by 520mm. The driver must be able to remove the steering-wheel and get out of the car within five seconds, then replace the wheel in a total of 10 seconds. In the modern F1 car the so-called ‘survival cell’ protecting the driver must extend at least 300mm beyond the driver’s feet. The driver is tightly belted into his seat, which is specially moulded around the contours of his body. There is removable padding around his head and shoulders.

D is for...

Daniel Ricciardo, currently Australia’s only representative among the 22 drivers who will take part in the 2016 World Championship. Ricciardo, from West Australia, made his F1 debut with Spanish team HRT at Silverstone in 2011. The next season saw him join the ‘junior’ Red Bull team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, where he stayed until moving up to the ‘senior’ Red Bull team to replace compatriot Mark Webber at the start of 2014. By the end of 2015 Daniel had taken part in 88 Grands Prix, scoring his maiden F1 victory in Canada in 2014 and adding two more wins in Belgium and Hungary on his way to third place in that year’s Drivers’ World Championship. 

DRS, or Drag Reduction System, an artificial means of making overtaking in F1 more easy to achieve. Basically DRS is a flap in the rear wing of the car which can be opened to allow air to pass through more rapidly, thus increasing the car’s top speed. Commentators refer to it sometimes as the ‘letter box’ in the car’s wing. DRS is activated in one, or sometimes two, specially designated zones on each circuit. When the race starts, two racing laps must be completed before the DRS system is enabled. A driver trying to pass the car in front needs to be within one second of that car before he is allowed to take advantage of his DRS system.

E is for...

Engines, which F1 cars no longer have. But don’t panic: they have ‘power units’ instead, and the good ol’ internal combustion engine (ICE) is still at the heart of it all. But the 1.6 litre, V6 engine is now only one component of a complex hybrid system. The power units use energy-saving technology to increase the engine’s basic output. The six constituent parts of the power unit are ICE, ERS, MGU-K, MGU-H, turbo-charger and Control Electronics. The MGU (Motor Generator Unit) harvests additional energy from the rear brakes or the turbo and uses it to boost the car’s output from 600 horsepower to 760 for 33 seconds per lap.

F is for...

Flags, the universal language of motor racing, which are used by the track marshals to enhance driver safety and to encourage good on-track behaviour. Among the most commonly used flags are: yellow, waved to warn of danger ahead; green to give the all-clear; white to denote a slow-moving vehicle on the track; black and white diagonal to warn a driver about unsporting behaviour; red flag to stop a session or a race; and of course the chequered flag to greet the winner.

Ferrari, the only team which has been present in the championship in every year. Ferrari now has 908 Grands Prix to its credit, with 224 victories, 208 pole positions and 233 fastest laps. The team, based at Maranello in northern Italy, has won the Constructors’ Championship 16 times; on 15 occasions a Ferrari driver has been World Champion. The first was Alberto Ascari in 1952; the most recent was Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. The most successful Ferrari driver ever is Michael Schumacher, who won 72 Grands Prix and five titles with the Scuderia between 1996 and 2006.

G is for...

Grid, the set of lines or boxes painted on the start-finish straight at each Grand Prix, where the cars all line up for the start of the race. Positions on the grid are determined by qualifying, which takes place on Saturday. The grid is formed of rows of two cars each. The cars are not immediately alongside each other at the start; the slower car on each row starts from a grid box eight metres behind and to the right or left of the faster car on the same row. At some circuits, such as Monaco, grid position is crucial as opportunities for overtaking are severely limited.

H is for...

HANS, the Head and Neck Support device developed in the 1980s by Americans Jim Downing and Bob Hubbard and now compulsory for all F1 drivers. Made of carbon fibre, the HANS device has a high collar, which is held in place by the driver’s seat belts. There are two tethers, one on each side, which connect to two corresponding locks in the driver’s helmet. The device dramatically reduces the movement of the head under sudden deceleration, and stops the head ‘ whipping’ back and forward with the subsequent high risk of damage to neck and skull. 

Helmet, one of the most important parts of a driver’s equipment, as injuries to head and neck are still the most common in motor racing. A typical F1 helmet will weigh no more than 1.25 kilograms, because it is essential not to add too much weight to that of the driver’s head. Leading companies scan their clients’ heads and use digital imaging to ensure the best possible fit. The outer shell is made up of two layers of resin and carbon fibre, beneath which come layers of aramid (like the Kevlar ® used in bullet-proof clothing), polyethylene (plastic) and fireproof material. These days each F1 driver may use only one helmet design in the season for easy recognition.

I is for...

Intermediates, one of the two tyre specifications designed to cope with wet weather, which F1 tyre supplier Pirelli brings to each Grand Prix. As the name suggests, ‘inters’, which have a green band, are used when the conditions are damp but not treacherous enough to warrant full ‘wets’, which have a blue band. Both tyres have intricate patterns of grooves to channel water away, as opposed to the ‘slicks’ used in dry conditions. An intermediate tyre will typically suck 25 litres of water per second from beneath the tyre; full wets will take that figure up to a remarkable 65 litres per second.

Installation lap, something which can puzzle spectators attending a Grand Prix for the first time. At the start of each track session, the drivers will all perform an ‘installation’ lap which is not really a lap at all – they will return to pit lane without crossing the start/finish line and posting a lap time. This lap is a trial run to ensure that all systems on the car are working: radio, pit limiter, brake balance, clutch bite point, DFRS and so on. It is a procedural habit before they get down to the serious business of setting competitive lap times, doing longer runs of several laps, testing different tyre compounds and so on.

J is for...

Jones, Alan, Australia’s second World Champion, now a specialist commentator on F1 for Australian television. Son of the great Australian racing driver Stan Jones, Alan grew up watching his father compete at Albert Park in the 1950s. He went to Europe in the 70s and made his F1 debut for Hesketh in Spain in 1975. In 1978 Alan found the perfect niche at Williams, the team just starting to make its own name in the sport. He took 12 Grand Prix victories for the team and the 1980 Drivers’ World Championship. Alan Jones was on pole six times and set 13 fastest laps. His last F1 race was for Lola Haas at Adelaide in 1986.

K is for...

Kvyat, Daniil, the young Russian who is Dan Ricciardo’s teammate at Red Bull. A former GP3 series champion, Kvyat graduated to F1 in 2014 with Scuderia Toro Rosso, finishing ninth in the Drivers’  World Championship. He moved up to the Red Bull team itself at the start of 2015. In Hungary that year he claimed his first F1 podium with a fine second place in Hungary and fought a season-long battle with Ricciardo for supremacy within the team.

L is for...

Lewis, Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton who in 2015 won the Drivers’ World Championship for the third time. He was the first British driver to defend the title successfully. Lewis famously introduced himself to McLaren boss Ron Dennis at a very early age and said he wanted to drive for him in F1. By 2007 he was doing just that. His debut came at Albert Park, when he finished third. His first F1 victory came in Canada later that year. He won the title in dramatic fashion at the last race of 2008 bin Brazil. In 2013 Lewis moved to Mercedes, winning the title again in his second year with the team. Hamilton now has 43 wins to his name, as well as 49 pole positions and 27 fastest laps.

M is for...

Mercedes, currently the dominant team in F1, winning the Constructors’ title and the Drivers’ title in both 2014 and 2015. The famous ‘Silver Arrows’ returned to F1 only in 2010 as constructors in their own right; they had withdrawn from the sport in 1955 in the wake of a tragic accident at the Le Mans 24-Hour race. Mercedes offered Michael Schumacher the chance of a Formula 1 comeback, although he was never able to add to his tally of 91 wins in a silver car. The first win of the modern era of Mercedes came in China in 2012 thanks to Nico Rosberg. Mercedes won 16 of the 19 races in 2014 and again in 2015.

N is for...

Newcomers, of which there is one for 2016, at least among the teams. That’s Haas, the latest attempt to bring an American team into the World Championship. This one is well-founded, with strong links to Ferrari, which will supply its power units and other crucial componentry. Haas comes in with Romain Grosjean as its experienced driver: he left Lotus at the end of 2015 to play his part in this new venture alongside Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, whose own close links to Ferrari were an important factor in his selection. 

O is for...

One hundred and seven per cent, the rule which states that no driver whose best qualifying time is more than 107% of the fastest qualifying time will be allowed to start the race. If mitigating circumstances arise the stewards may allow a driver to take part even if his time does not qualify. The first two races at Albert Park demonstrated the system perfectly. In 1996 Luca Badoer and Andrea Montermini (Forti Ford) could not get within 107% of Jacques Villeneuve’s pole-winning time and did not qualify; in 1997 the Lola Fords of Vincenzo Sospiri and Ricardo Rosset suffered the same fate, but Pedro Diniz (Arrows Yamaha) was deemed capable of lapping competitively and allowed to start by the stewards.

P is for...

Pit Stop, now one of the slickest features of any Grand Prix. We have grown used to seeing pit stops – to change all four tyres – completed in less than three seconds. Depending on track and climate, drivers will determine during practice whether they need to make one, two or even three pit stops during a race. In dry weather they must pit at least once to change from one of the mandatory compounds – the ‘Prime’ – to the secondary tyre, the ‘Option’. To the time spent stationary in his pit box the driver must add the time taken to decelerate into pit lane and accelerate out of it.

Q is for...

Qualifying, one of the most exciting parts of any Grand Prix weekend. It takes place, usually, on Saturday afternoon and lasts for one hour. Qualifying is divided into three segments: Q1, Q2 and Q3.  Q1 runs for 18 minutes, followed by an eight-minute break; Q2 lasts 15 minutes and is followed by a seven-minute break; and Q3 last for 12 minutes. In 2016, with 22 cars involved, six will be eliminated in Q1; a further six will go out in Q2; and the remaining 10 will go into the Q3 shoot-out for the best positions on the grid.

R is for...

Race, of which there have been 935 since the inception of the World Championship in 1950. Australia has staged 31, 20 of them in Melbourne. The series began at Silverstone, UK, in 1950: only that country and Italy have staged a race in every year of F1 history. Monza, in northern Italy, has staged more races than any other F1 circuit with 64 – the one exception was 1980, when the Italian GP was run at Imola. The country with races at the highest number of different venues is the USA, with 10.

S is for...

Schumacher, the surname of two German brothers who both raced in F1 in the 90s and into the 2000s. Younger brother Ralf took part in 180 races with Jordan, Williams and Toyota, winning six of them. His better-known older brother Michael is the sport’s record-holder in most of the categories that matter: wins (91), poles (68), fastest laps (77) and World Championships (7). Michael took part in 307 Grands Prix with Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes. The Schumacher brothers were on the podium together on 16 occasions.

Safety Car, which is deployed by the Clerk of the Course to ‘neutralise’ a race in the event of a major incident. It enters the track with its orange lights flashing; all cars must then form up in line behind the Safety Car and maintain a distance of no more than 10 metres to the car in front. The observer in the Safety Car instructs cars between it and the race leader to pass and form up in line behind. The race leader must maintain the 10m distance behind the Safety Car. When the Clerk of the Course decides conditions warrant it, he will call the Safety Car in. Its lights go out to signal it will return to pit lane at the end of that lap. Each lap run behind the Safety Car counts towards the total race distance.

Steering-wheel, the command centre of the modern F1 car with between 30 and 40 knobs and buttons. It all began with a simple N for Neutral or R for Radio; but as cars have become more sophisticated, so have the steering-wheels. Buttons are still essentially on-off devices; knobs allow access to multi-setting systems such as engine maps, fuel mix and so on. There are paddles for gearshifts and clutch, change-up lights and even a GPS marshalling system operated from Race Control.
The wheels are small, to fit into cramped cockpits, with two cut-outs for the hands at either side.

T is for...

Tyres, supplied currently by Italian company Pirelli. At each race drivers must use two dry-weather compounds, unless they have already had to use wet-weather tyres. The dry or ‘slick’ range is from Supersoft (red band) to Soft (Yellow) to Medium (white) and Hard (orange). For 2016 Pirelli plans to introduce another option, the SuperSuperSoft, with a purple band – a colour chosen in an online poll. The modern F1 tyre is designed not to last for a full race but to suffer degradation (or ‘deg’, as the drivers say) that ensures pit stops and variety in race strategies. The compounds specified depend on track layout, surface and anticipated speeds.

U is for...

Understeer, one of the common causes of complaint from the cockpit. An understeering car will not respond quickly to driver inputs asking it to turn into a corner: the front end will lose grip before the rear and the car will be pushed towards the outside and away from the apex of the corner. In other words, the car is not hugging the corner tightly as the driver would like it to do. This is bad news for a racing driver: a straw poll would reveal that understeer is a condition most drivers detest, while oversteer – the exact opposite – is easier for them to live with. In this case the rear of the car tends to break away or go ‘loose’ before the front, the car will turn more sharply and eventually spin. 

V is for...

Virtual Safety Car, the electronic version of the ‘real’ Safety Car. It is used by the Clerk of the Course to ‘neutralise’ the race without calling the ‘real’ Safety Car out on to the track. The ‘VSC’ sign will be displayed on the electronic flag system around the circuit. Cars must reduce speed, but also stay above a minimum time set by the FIA electronically in each sector between the light panels. When the track is clear the message ‘VSC ENDING’ is displayed; some 10 to 15 seconds later the light panels go green and the drivers resume racing. 

W is for...

Webber, Mark, after Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones, the most successful of all Australian F1 drivers. Webber made his F1 debut at Albert Park in 2002, scoring points for fifth place in the unfancied Minardi. He moved to Jaguar and then to Williams, but his career took off with his move to Red Bull in 2007. His maiden victory came at the Nürburgring in Germany in 2009. Webber led the World Championship for most of the 2010 season, losing out in the final race at Abu Dhabi. He scored nine victories, 13 pole positions and 19 fastest laps in a Formula 1 career of 215 races from 2002 to 2013.

X is for...

Ha! Thought we couldn’t find anything for the X factor, didn’t you? Well, if you’re old enough, cast your mind back to the San Marino Grand Prix of 1997. There’s a living connection to F1 today: we’re talking about the 1997 Tyrrell driven by Jos ‘The Boss’ Verstappen, whose son Max had an outstanding rookie year in F1 in 2015. At Imola in ’97 Jos’s Tyrrell sprouted bizarre aerodynamics out of its flanks which, because of their shape, were quickly dubbed X-wings. Rule changes for 1998 made sure they also eXited quickly…

Y is for...

Yoong, Alex, the Malaysian who was Mark Webber’s teammate when Webber made his F1 debut with Minardi at Albert Park in 2002 – and the only driver we can think of in F1 history whose name begins with this letter! Alex took part in 14 World Championship races across the 2001-02 seasons but did not score a point. His best result was seventh on that memorable Melbourne day when Webber finished fifth – but at that time the points were awarded only down to sixth position.

Z is for...

Zero, stamped after the letter P on every Pirelli tyre used in F1 these days. And zero more words to say on the subject…

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