Friday, April 11, 2008

F1 TECH TERMS :: Tech Speak Explained (1)

Hi all. Under this category, I'll try to explain briefly, the various terms used by the engineers and drivers in the F1 paddock. Of course, you can find all of these and more in any dedicated F1 site, but still, I wanted to try and explain those in my own point of view. So, here's the first part of the list:

(Some of the terms whose meaning might not be clear at that point are italicized. They will be explained elsewhere in the list.)

Balance: It relates to the car's handling behaviour. Can either denote understeer or oversteer.

Understeer: When the front tyres push wide upon entry into a corner due to a relative lack of grip compared to the rear tyres, understeer is said to have set in. Tyres grain and the drivers are forced to give more steering lock to negotiate the corner. Slows lap times. Best avoided.

Oversteer: Exact opposite of understeer. It happens when the rears have relatively less grip than the front tyres. Car tries to spin around taking the front-end as the pivot. Most drivers prefer this to understeer.

Graining: Graining is normally associated with the front tyres. This is a phenomenon wherein rubber breaks loose from the tread in the form of small pebbles. This results in a decrease in grip levels. Happens due to the tyre compound being too hard for the track conditions.

Compound: Any tyre is made of three basic ingredients. They are oil, suphur and of course rubber. The amount of oil in the mix determines if the tyre is hard, medium or soft. Hard tyres have less grip but last long. Soft tyres don't last as long but provide significantly higher grip levels. This improves the lap time. Hence, soft tyres are used in the Qualifying session excepting some exceptional circumstances. What it is, we'll see a little later.

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