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F1: DRS, graining, undercut… Understand everything in the commentators’ lexicon before the start of the season

Like every sport, Formula 1 has its own jargon, vocabulary and expressions which can seem very abstruse if you don’t master them. As the 2024 season prepares to begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix, we are offering you an update to your F1 software.

DRS – « Drag Reduction System »

This is a mechanism which allows drivers, in a straight line, to open their rear wing in order to reduce the drag of their car, increase the top speed and therefore improve their chance of overtaking. It can be used when the driver in front is less than a second on the detection line before the straight. There are generally between one and three DRS zones per Grand Prix.

Undercut/Overcut

These are strategies decided by the team and the driver to overtake the car in front not on the track, but thanks to a delayed pit stop. If you anticipate your rival’s stopping by passing through the pits before him, you attempt an undercut. The idea is to take advantage of the new tires to increase your pace as much as possible during the lap where the driver in front still has more worn tires, and overtake him during his pit stop.

Conversely, if you delay your pit stop, to take advantage of new tires later in the race, it is an overcut. When you hear “box” in the drivers’ radio messages, it’s a call to go to the pits.

Blistering/Graining

When we hear these words, it generally smells bad for pilots. These are terms dedicated to the degradation and wear of tires on single-seaters. Blistering occurs when the inside of the tire overheats compared to the outside. As a result, blisters form and externally small holes form on the surface.

Graining is the opposite. The outside of the tire overheats compared to the inside. Small pieces of rubber will come off and then stick back to the tire, giving the impression of “grains” visible to the naked eye.

Porpoising

We also speak of “porpoising” in English. This phenomenon sees cars bouncing around at high speeds. This effect is due to an air draw effect between the ground and the car chassis when air infiltrates underneath. It can therefore be due to the wind or to the settings of the car, more or less stuck to the ground. Very present during the 2022 season due to technical standards, it has since gradually disappeared.

Understeer/oversteer

These words concern the handling of the car on the track, when the car does not turn enough or too much in relation to the angle of the steering wheel. Understeer is characterized by a loss of grip of the front axle of the car, at which point the driver generally misses the apex and takes it wide.

Conversely, oversteer is equivalent to the loss of grip of the rear axle of the car. The rear tires slide outwards, posing the risk of a spin for the driver unable to correct his trajectory.

Closed park

This is the period during which the teams are not allowed to modify the settings of the car. This period generally extends from the first qualifying lap until the checkered flag of the Grand Prix. If there is a change of setting or part, the manufacturers are exposed to penalties during the race.

Safety Car et Virtual Safety Car

In the event of an accident or major incident, the “Safety Car” is out and the drivers group together behind it. But in the event of a more minor incident, the race officials may decide to opt for the “Virtual Safety Car” (VSC). This safety car is virtual as its name suggests, and requires drivers to respect a speed delta. The drivers therefore maintain the same gap between them but while driving at a lower speed.

Tear-off

This is the visor protection placed on the pilot’s helmet. In general, several layers of “tear-off” are present and the pilots remove them as the race progresses to ensure optimal visibility.

Training tour

It is the lap carried out just before the start which allows the drivers to warm up the tires and brakes. This lap is performed behind the safety car.

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