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Complete Beginners Guide to F1 Jargon

Lando Norris (McLaren) during radio checks in FP1 at the 2020 Tuscan GP.

It would be a slight understatement to say that Formula One has an abundance of slang terms that are used throughout race weekends. Even during drivers interviews you will hear terms that you may have never heard before. Thats where we come in.

The Rookie Box is here to provide you with a complete beginners guide to the most frequently used F1 slang terms. You'll never have to sit silently confused during races or interviews again and could even use some terms to impress friends!


This is usually said to drivers through their radio, meaning they need to pit. It is derived from the German word Boxenstopp which translates to pit stop in English.

Example: "Ok Kimi. Box box."


When a car is driving very close to another on a straight sector, the car behind can benefit from what is known as a 'slipstream'. This is basically a draft of air that allows the pursuing car to travel faster while using less power. It is beneficial for overtaking and is often used by teammates to boost each other in qualifying.

Example: "I managed to catch a good slipstream from him."

Dirty Air

This links in with our previous slang term 'slipstream'. Dirty air is when the pursuing driver catches the slipstream of the car in front while turning a corner, causing the car to slow down and make overtaking harder.

Example: "Sadly, there was just too much dirty air."


When turning a corner, oversteer is when the back wheels of the car lose grip, causing the rear of the car to step out. Understeer however, is when the front wheels of the car lose grip, causing the car to come in at a shallower angle than anticipated.

Example: "We had lots of oversteer in some corners and understeer in others."


This is the middle part of a corner line at which drivers aim their cars, touching the apex is often ideal in order to take a good corner.

Example: "Hitting the apex round the corner."


When the car's chassis hits the surface of the track. Due to the car's suspension compressing at corners and high speed, it makes the car more likely to 'bottom out' on unexpected bumps or kerbs.

Example: " I bottomed out."


This is a meeting conducted after on-track sessions. Typically discussing strategy, car set-up and performance.

Example: "I've got to go to my debrief now."


Also known as Drag Reduction System or adjustable rear wings. The driver is allowed to adjust their rear wing between two pre-determined settings from the cockpit. DRS can be used at any time between both practice and qualifying (unless wet-weather tyres are being used) but only when a driver is less than a second behind another driver at set points on a track. It's often used for overtaking and is disabled once the driver brakes.

Example: "DRS enabled."

Formation Lap

Also referred to as a warm-up lap or parade lap. Car's drive around the track in grid formation to then set back up again once they reach the starting line. It helps to warm up tyres before starting a race.

Example: "We're currently doing a formation lap."


When a driver brakes and 'locks up' one or more tyres while the others continue to rotate.

Example: "I had a pretty bad lock-up on that turn."

Pole Position

First place on the starting grid, the name given to the driver who had the fastest lap time during qualifying. Said driver is often referred to as the "pole sitter".

Example: "Lewis Hamilton takes pole position!"


A lap is split into three sections known as 'sectors'. This is for timing purposes and each sector is approximately a third of a lap. Each section is known as 'Sector 1', 'Sector 2' and 'Sector 3'.

Example: "There seems to be an incident on Sector 2."

The Flags

Red flag - this colour of flag indicates to the drivers to stop racing immediately and return to the pit lane. It is usually deployed when a serious accident has occurred or during hazardous weather conditions.

Yellow flag - used to indicate danger close to, on or blocking the track, forcing drivers to slow down and not to overtake.

Blue flag - this is a warning flag to slower drivers instructing them to move out of the way of a faster car approaching. It is used when a slower car is being lapped by the cars leading the race.

Black flag - shown to a driver with their race number, a black flag is used to indicate that the driver has been disqualified and must make their way to the pits immediately.

Chequered flag - this flag is waved at the start/finish line of the race.

There it is! You now know the basics of Formula One slang and will be able to impress all your friends and family.

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