ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) This electronic system prevents the wheels from locking when the brakes are applied forcefully. Using sensors, a control unit determines if the wheels are starting to lock and brake pressure is then reduced.
Aerodynamics The study of the interaction of air with solid bodies moving through it. The basic rule when designing racing cars is simply to create as much downforce and as little air resistance as possible.
Angle of attack Determines the angle at which a racing car’s wings are fixed during set-up – the larger the angle the greater the downforce.
Apex The point at which the ideal racing line touches the inner radius of a corner.
Aquaplaning Aquaplaning is what happens when there is more water between the tyres and the road than can be displaced by the tyre tread. The car ‘floats’ and consequently cannot be controlled by the driver.
Autoclave A pressure vessel in which vacuum-packed composite components are cured at a precise temperature and pressure. This procedure lends the composite components their high strength while maintaining low weight.
Auxiliary driving features Traction control, automatic transmission or launch control are examples of auxiliary driving features.
Balaclava Fireproof face mask made of Nomex, a flameretardant synthetic fibre. It is worn under the helmet.
Black box Module for vehicle control that controls and records all electronic processes in Grand Prix cars. After an accident, the black box is used to identify the possible causes and thus contribute to ongoing improvements in safety. The box is installed in such a way that it is always readily accessible without the necessity to remove other components of the car.
Blistering Formation of blisters on the tyres, caused by excessive use. The negative consequence is reduction in grip.
Brake balance To gain a better balance when braking, the driver can adjust the brake-force distribution between the front and the rear axle even during the race.
Brake discs When braking, the discs of a Grand Prix carheat up to as much as 600 degrees Celsius within a single second.
Brakes Cooling fluids, ABS and power-assisted braking are not allowed in most racing classes. Full braking will bring a Grand Prix car from 200 to 0 km/h within 55 metres, all within 1.9 seconds. Deceleration forces achieve up to 5 G – the driver has to endure five times his own weight.
Briefing At the meeting with the drivers and representatives from their teams convened by the race director before every grand prix, the discussions focus on current issues such as special features of the respective track or changes to the rules or weekend format. At the team briefings, the team managers, engineers and drivers set out the strategies for each day of the grand prix weekend. The subsequent review of the race day by this group, which forms the basis for future strategies and technical enhancements, is called the debriefing.
CAD Abbreviation for Computer Aided Design. This involves intelligent computer programmes which provide efficiency and speed and make the designers’ work much easier. Drawing boards have long been a thing of the past in modern racing factories.
Carbon fibres A construction material for racing cars. The monocoque, for example, is made of epoxy resin reinforced with carbon fibre. These materials, when laminated together, give great rigidity and strength, but are very lightweight.
Centrifugal force Also known as G-force. Describes the acceleration of gravity and, in racing terminology, the force that presses a car outwards in a corner. The unit of measurement is the G (1 G being the equivalent of 9.81 metres per second squared). As per definition, centrifugal force only affects driver and vehicle in corners, but similar strains occur during acceleration and braking.
CFD Stands for Computational Fluid Dynamics. CFD makes the airflows surrounding the vehicle visible on the computer, and at the same time shows the effects of individual vehicle parts on each other and on the aerodynamics. So the engineers can simulate these effects without even having to build the parts first. That saves time and money.
CFRP This generic term (carbon-fibre reinforced plastic) covers composite materials such as carbon and Kevlar which, when combined with epoxy resins, provide high rigidity and strength and an extremely low weight. Many parts are produced from these materials, e.g. the monocoque.
Chassis The central part of a formula car, with the main component being the monocoque. All the other components are connected to the strong, lightweight monocoque. It is made from carbon fibre and epoxy polymer forming a composite material. These are bonded to aluminium and Nomex honeycombs to form a sandwich panel shell structure. The moulding and binding process takes place within an autoclave at high levels of pressure and heat.
Chicanes Tight corners that race organisers use to break up long, straight stretches of a circuit for safety reasons. Chicanes force drivers to reduce their speed.
Cockpit This is the driver’s workplace. For safety reasons, no fuel, oil or water lines may pass through the cockpit.
Contact pressure Describes the force with which the car is pressed on to the track by its aerodynamic parts, such as the front and rear wings. The contact pressure has a considerable effect on the top and cornering speeds.
Crash barrier Safety measure at track locations where there is no space for run-off zones.
Cylinder Component in the engine where the power is generated. The upward and downward movement of the piston and the combustion of the fuel-air mixture takes place in the cylinder.
Differential A differential that is connected between the drive wheels to compensate the speed differences between the outer and inner wheels when cornering.
Diffuser Air outlet at the rear of the car’s underbody that has a strong influence on the aerodynamic properties. Rising to the rear, the tail ensures a controlled airstream on the underbody which generates low pressure under the car and supplies the downforce critical to fast cornering.
Downforce Downforce is what presses racing cars down onto the ground. It is generated by low-pressure conditions under the body of the car as well as by the angle of attack of the front and rear wings, and enhances the grip. Especially on slower circuits, this effect permits higher cornering speeds.
ECU Abbreviation for Electronic Control Unit. The control unit that controls and records all the electronic processes in a racing car is located in the Black Box.
Electric blanket The tyres require an operational temperature of around 100 degrees Celsius to achieve optimal effectiveness. To arrive at this temperature quickly, special blankets pre-heat the wheels to between 60 and 80 degrees Celsius. Cold tyres do not develop enough grip. If they are too hot, they wear out quickly.
End-plate Vertical border area on the wing that helps to streamline a car’s aerodynamics.
Fading Technical term for the gradual loss of the brake effect after relatively long, heavy use. Occurs less with the modern carbon brakes than in conventional steel-disc brakes.
Fire extinguisher Every racing car must have a fire extinguisher. It must be operable both by the driver and from outside the car.
Four-wheel drive No more than two-wheel drive is permitted in formula racing.
Free practice During these practice sessions before a race, the lap times are recorded, but they have no influence on the starting order or the result. The teams use them as an opportunity to set their cars up for the respective track and to choose the right tyres. The number of laps is unlimited.
Front wing Creates downward pressure on the front area of the racing car and is thus an important part of the aerodynamics. The drivers make adjustments to the front wing during set-up, mainly modifying the angle of the surface or the breakaway line.
Fuel Super unleaded fuel is used in most racing classes which conforms to the strictest EU exhaust standards.
Gear A gear is a transmission step with a certain speed or reduction ratio. Automatic or continuous transmissions are prohibited in most racing classes. A reverse gear is mandatory (except for Formula Student cars). The number of gears can vary from four to seven.
Gloves Like the racing overalls, these are made of Nomex, a fire-resistant material. The closefitting gloves with suede leather palms provide the necessary sensitivity for steering.
Graining Due to excessive use, tyres show signs of corrosion and the rubber compound begins to disintegrate. This is referred to as graining. The negative consequence: reduction in grip.
Gravel trap Secure run-off zone at a racing circuit which quickly slows down cars that have gone off the track.
Grip The magic word for racing drivers and engineers. It describes how well the car adheres to the ground and how this affects cornering speeds. High grip means high cornering speeds. Main factors of grip are the aerodynamics, the downforce created by the vehicle and the tyres’ properties. Without grip, a vehicle will begin to slide or skid.
Ground clearance The distance between the underbody and the surface of the track.
Ground effect The contact force generated by an aerodynamically shaped underbody.
Gurney L-shaped counterflap on the trailing edge of a car’s wing.
Hairpin Narrow 180-degree bend. The most famous hairpin is the former Loews hairpin in Monaco, which is now known as the Grand Hotel hairpin.
Head and Neck Support (HANS) The Head and Neck Support system consists of a carbon shoulder corset that is connected to the safety belts and the driver’s helmet. In case of an accident, HANS is intended to prevent a stretching of the vertebrae. Additionally, it prevents the driver’s head from hitting the steering wheel.
Head support The removable padding on the inside of the cockpit. The cockpit is fitted with removable padding around the driver’s head, designed to absorb any potential impact.
Helmet The helmet is made of carbon, polyethylene and Kevlar and weighs approximately 1,300 grams. Helmets are subjected to extreme deformation and fragmentation tests.
Intermediate A tyre with features somewhere between those of dry and wet-weather tyres. The intermediate has more tread than dry-weather and less tread than wet-weather models. It is used for mixed weather or light rain.
Jump startAlso called a false start, committed by drivers whose cars start moving before all the lights on the starting grid have gone out. This is determined by sensors on the starting lines.
Kerbs Raised kerbstones lining corners or chicanes on racing tracks. The kerbs provide additional safety as the drivers must reduce their speed when driving over them.
Kevlar Highly durable artificial fibre used in the covering of the headrest. Combined to form a composite with epoxy resin, it has high strength, but is very lightweight.
Launch control An electronic programme that performs a fully automated start, prohibited in most racing classes.
Lollipop The signal pole with a sign saying ‘Go’ on one side and ‘Brake’ on the other. During a pit stop, a mechanic posted in front of the car uses the sign to show the driver when he should apply the brake and when he should shift gear and drive off.
Marshals Officials posted along the side of the track. They wave the flag signals and secure any possible accident sites; they also rescue any cars that have broken down.
Monocoque The formula drivers’ life insurance. French for single shell. A safety cell made of carbon-fibre composite which forms a protective shell around the driver. It is surrounded by deformable structures which absorb energy in an accident.
NACA Slit-shaped air inlet on the surface of the body for better cooling.
Nomex Artificial fibre which undergoes thermal testing in the laboratory. It is subjected to an open flame with a temperature of 300 to 400 degrees Celsius that acts on the material from a distance of three centimetres – only if it fails to ignite within 10 seconds can it be used for racing overalls. The drivers’ and pit crews’ underwear, hoods, socks and gloves are also made of Nomex.
Nose Front part of a formula car, subjected to various crash tests for safety reasons. The nose also functions as a protruding crash structure protecting the monocoque.
On-board camera A mini TV camera on board the racing car.
Overall Protective suit with elastic cuffs on wrists and ankles made of two to four layers of Nomex for drivers and pit crews. A completed multi-layered overall undergoes 15 washings as well as a further 15 dry-cleaning processes before it is finally tested. It is subjected to a temperature of 600 to 800 degrees Celsius. The critical level of 41 degrees Celsius may not be exceeded inside the overall for at least 11 seconds.
Overbraking If a driver hits the brakes so hard that the wheels lock up, this is referred to as overbraking. Locked up front wheels make steering virtually impossible. Additionally, this greatly wears out the tyres. If this also creates an unbalance, it is referred to as a braking puncture.
Oversteering When oversteering, a car’s tail end is pushed out of a corner via the rear wheels and the tail end is in danger of breaking away. In order to get through the corner, the driver must decrease his steering angle or, in the case of extreme oversteering, even steer in the opposite direction.
Petrol Only super unleaded petrol is used in most racing classes. It corresponds to a large extent to the 98-octane fuel available at the local petrol station.
Pit lane The pit lane is located directly in front of the pits. This is where pit stops take place during the race.
Pit stop/refuelling During a regular pit stop in a race, a team of mechanics replaces the tyres and/or refuels the car. For refuelling, the mechanics must wear helmets and flameresistant suits made of Nomex. Standardised tank connections and well-designed inlet valves are meant to prevent the release of flammable fuel vapours.
Pole position First place in the starting order for the race, which is given to the fastest driver in qualifying.
Pull-rod Part of the chassis: suspension assembly with tie bars.
Push-rod Part of the chassis: suspension assembly with compression struts.
Qualifying The starting order for the race is determined during qualifying. The driver with the fastest lap time qualifies for the best starting place: pole position.
Racing line Also known as the ideal line, the racing line is the imaginary line on which the circuit can be driven in the fastest possible time. Due to the rubber build-up, this is also usually where the grip is best.
Rear light Decreases the risk of pile-ups. When using wet-weather tyres, the rear light must always be switched on.
Rear wing Also known as rear wing assembly. Creates downward pressure mainly upon the rear axle. The rear wing is adapted to the conditions of the tracks (the steeper it is, the more downforce is created). The settings and angles of the surfaces can be additionally modified. These modifications are part of the set-up.
Refilling Only fuel, nitrogen (for the tyres) and compressed air may be refilled during the race.
Re-start The new start of a race. Happens a lot on public servers.
Roll-out The first test drive of a new racing car, usually at a private test.
Roll-over bar If a car rolls over in an accident, the rollover bar, a curved structure above the driver’s head made of metal or composite materials, is intended to provide the driver with better injury protection.
Rubber build-up Due to the slow erosion of tyre surfaces. When tyres are driven on asphalt, the surface rubs off and leaves behind a layer of rubber on the road, which accumulates over the course of the racing weekend and progressively enhances grip. This erosion is influenced both by the vehicle set-up and the abrasive properties of the asphalt.
Run-off zone Run-off zones are mainly created in fast corners. If a car goes off the circuit, it should slow down as quickly as possible without rolling over. This is the reason why the gravel traps have to be as wide as possible. Gravel reduces speed and thus reduces the force with which the car hits the tyre barriers. The alternative: asphalt run-off zones on which the driver retains more control over the car.
Safety belt The safety belt used in racing is also known as a six-point harness and can be opened with a single hand movement.
Safety car The car that drives out in front of racing cars during the formation lap.
Scallops Small fins that are attached to the car body to improve aerodynamics.
Set-up General vehicle tuning for all the adjustable mechanical and aerodynamic parts (wheel suspension, wings, etc.). Specifically, the term describes the various possibilities for adapting a racing car to the conditions of a particular circuit. Included are, among other things, modification to the tyres, suspension, wings and engine and transmission settings.
Shake-down The final test drive of a newly set-up car before the team departs to a grand prix.
Skid block A plate made of plastic or wood fitted to the underbody of a racing car. It is intended to prevent a strong suction effect, limiting excessively high speeds, especially in the corners, for safety reasons. It also acts as protection for the underbody.
Slicks These tyres have higher grip provided by a larger tyre surface area.
Slipstream Low-pressure area behind a racing car created by air currents. Driving in the slipstream can provide a boost to a car’s speed, making it the ideal position for a pursuing vehicle to start an overtaking manoeuvre.
Speed limiter The cruise control feature used in pit lanes. It is activated by pressing a button on the steering wheel. Speed is then reduced down to the limit for the pit lane.
Stabilizers Rotary or torsion bars, which connect the right and left wheel suspensions elastically to each other. The so-called ‘roll bars’ help to reduce the rolling movement of the chassis along the longitudinal axis and so provide more precise handling during load shifts.
Starting line-up Each row of the starting line-up has two race cars, one slightly in front, with a distance of eight metres to the next row.
Starting number All cars taking part in leagues have to be fitted with the starting number of the respective driver.
Steering wheel The control centre of the racing car. This is where all the important controls, signal lamps and displays are located. The appearance and the arrangement are adjusted to suit the individual driver.
Suspension Several years ago, the wheel suspension was the Achilles’ heel of a racing car, but the use of composite materials has since made it extremely robust.
Tank The fuel tank is a fibre-reinforced hull that must yield flexibly when deformed.
Telemetry A system allowing a large quantity of data, e.g. concerning chassis and engine, to be recorded in the car and transmitted to the pits. There, the data is analysed so as to determine any faults (a loss of brake fluid or a slow puncture, for example) at an early stage and to be able to improve the car’s set-up.
Time penalty This is a penalty during the race for drivers who have violated regulations. Entering and leaving the pit lane cost the penalised driver valuable time.
Torque Generated in the engine by the combustion pressure acting on the crankshaft via the pistons and the connecting rods. The maximum torque is a benchmark for the power and useability of the engine and the acceleration capacity of a racing car.
Traction This term describes the ability of a race car to apply its engine’s power to the track.
Traction control An electronic system, also called anti-slip control. It uses sensors to detect whether the wheels are spinning and then automatically reduces the engine power. This guarantees ideal acceleration, especially at the start, when leaving a corner and on wet tracks.
Tyre stack Part of a racetrack’s mandatory equipment. The tyre barriers consist of two to six rows of conventional car tyres bolted together and wrapped with rubber belting. This provides the best absorption of impact energy.
Underbody The aerodynamically shaped lower surface of a racing car creates an airflow, which in turn generates a vacuum under the car which provides better grip.
Understeering When understeering, a car is pushed out of a corner via the front wheels. To get through the corner, the driver must increase his steering angle.
Underwear Under the racing overall, drivers wear a Tshirt, boxers, socks and a balaclava. All the underwear is made of fire-resistant Nomex material.
Valves The task of the engine-controlled valves is to open or close the inlet and outlet ducts at the right moment and so to allow the gases into or out of the combustion chamber. Each valve consists of a stem and a disc.
Warm-up Practice and system testing on the morning of race day.
Wet-weather tyres In wet weather, cars use special tyres that are better able to displace water from the track and optimise grip.
Wind tunnel Aerodynamic studies are carried out in the wind tunnel. Using various flow speeds, the engineers can simulate various car speeds and can test the effects of new vehicle parts or the aerodynamic behaviour of the entire car in various racing situations.
Winglet Additional wing located on the car body just in front of the rear wheel.
Wings Rigid and movable surfaces on the racing car intended to increase downforce. The wings serve to press the car downwards more firmly. The secret of wing adjustment lies in finding the best compromise between high speed on straights (low downforce) and optimal performance in corners (high downforce).
Wishbones The components connecting the wheel suspension and the chassis. Wishbones are mounted at right angles to the vehicle’s longitudinal axis. These pivoting rods must be made of extremely strong materials.
World champion In championships, the points won in all the races are added up. If several drivers have the same points total, the title is determined by the final positions they achieved: the number of first places, followed by the number of second places, etc. In the manufacturers’ division, the points that both of the team’s drivers earn each race are added up.
Yellow Short for yellow flag, the flag used by the marshals to signify hazardous situations to the drivers.