Formula One glossary

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A friction device sometimes called a "shock absorber". Used for controlling and damping spring oscillations. The springs actually absorb road shocks; the dampers convert the energy imparted to the springs into thermal energy (by friction), which is dissipated to the atmosphere or the vehicle's chassis. Dampers are distinguishable by the type of friction involved, mechanical or hydraulic, but most modern cars used tubular-shaped hydraulic shock absorbers. Because they affect up and down wheel motions, dampers are an important link in tuning a vehicle's ride and handling. Also see pulsation damper, vibration damper, and harmonic balancer.


Damping is a highly variable part of car tuning. It's affected by the strength of the shock spring (length and thickness of the wire, plus the number of coils), the size and number of holes in the shock piston, and the viscosity, or weight, of the oil in the shocks. The spring controls how hard the shock compresses, and both the piston and the oil control how quickly the spring pushes the shock to its full length (which can be limited by shock spacers), and so affect the quickness of the shock's return.
Stiffer springs need heavier oil and/or smaller-hole pistons to control the speed of the rebound, and bumpy tracks need lighter oil so the shocks, or dampers, can compress and rebound quickly. Softer damping gives more "stick" on a particular wheel, but makes the car less responsive because the chassis takes longer to reset after a turn, and is also more forgiving to drive. Softer damping also reduces weight transfer at that wheel. Stiffer damping makes handling more responsive, but reduces traction to a particular wheel which can make the car slippery as the chassis snaps back into place after a turn. Stiffer damping also increases weight transfer at that wheel.

Data communications bus

The communications network in a vehicle that allows multiple control modules to communicate with each other. Various protocols determine the speed or baud rate at which information flows over the bus network


Depiction of relative positions of a race car to another car (such as a safety car) on a current lap, or the performance of a single race car on two or more different laps, as displayed on the steering console.


Trademark name for a specific Tungsten alloy, created and developed by MGS precision. DENSAMET composite alloys are sintered heavy metals with a high Tungsten content (+90%) and a range of either NiFe or NiCu binder phases. Their high density makes the material extremely useful and widely used as ballast in F1 cars.

Diesel engine

An internal combustion engine that uses diesel oil for fuel. The true diesel does not use a carburetor or an ignition system (i.e., spark plugs) but injects diesel oil into the cylinders when the piston has compressed the air so tightly that it is hot enough to ignite the diesel fuel without a spark. Because a cold engine cannot ignite the diesel fuel, glow plugs are used to heat the mixture, but they do not provide a spark. Named after Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913), the inventor.


A set of mechanical gears that eqaulises the power between the left and right drive wheels, particularly when cornering, when the outside wheel travels further than the inside wheel.


An aerodynamic elements close to the floor and in between the rear wheels of a Formula One car. Based on the principle of a venturi channel, a diffuser is designed to speed up airflow under the car by extracting it. As higher flow speeds equals reduced pressure, downforce is generated by the car's floor as a result of the diffuser.

Diffuser gang

Common denominator for the three teams that introduced the double-deck diffuser design (DDD) into Formula One in the 2009 season. The teams are Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota.

Digital fuel injection (DFI)

A GM system, similar to earlier electronic fuel injection system, but with digital microprocessors. Analog inputs from various engine sensors are converted to digital signals before processing. The system is self-monitoring and self-diagnosing. It also has the capabilities of compensating for failed components and remembering intermittent failures.


The spanwise inclination of a wing or other surface such as a stabilizer relative to the horizontal gives the wing or other surface dihedral. This angle is positive if it is upward and negative if it is downward. In airplanes, positive dihedral is often built in to increase lateral stability.

Direct injection

A fuel injection system which is generally used in diesel engines and forces fuel directly into the combustion chamber. It requires very high injection system pressure to overcome the pressure within the combustion chamber

Directional tire

Directional designs are recognized by the grooves in the tread that swipe away in a backward angle from the center of the tread face and rotate in only one direction. A direction of rotation arrow is located on both sidewalls of the tire. Directional tires enhance straight-line acceleration, provide maximum dry traction, and better wet performance which helps to reduce rolling resistance as well as providing shorter stopping distances.

Disc brake

A type of brake that has two basic components: a flat rotor (disc) that turns with the wheel and a caliper that is stationary. When the brake pedal is depressed, linkage (mechanical or hydraulic) causes the caliper to force its heat-resistant brake pads against both sides of the rotating disc thus slowing or stopping the wheel.


This is a general automotive term describing the sum of the volume of the cylinders of the engine. The displacement of a Formula One engine in 2013 is limited to 2.4l , equally divided between the 8 cylinders. As of 2014, displacement is limited at 1.6l.

Double deck diffuser (DDD)

A particular design of diffuser introduced in Formula One in 2009 by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams F1. The design initially added 15% of downforce over the traditional single level diffuser and consequently led to a court appeal by some other teams who claimed the design was not according to "the spirit of the rules". However, ahead of the Chinese GP, the design was approved and quickly adapted by all competitors.


Force generated by air passing over the wings, plus the interaction of the flat bottom of the car and the track surface.


The downwash effect is air which is forced down - due to wing trailing edge or due to the shape of the body in general. In case of downforce inducing airfoil, the downwash occurs in front of the wing.


All cars experience drag. It is the resistance a car encounters from the air as it moves forward.

Drag reduction device (DRD)

Also known as a passive DRS, but most commonly named DRD, due to Lotus naming it 'the device' upon introduction. This system is essentially a fluidic switch built as air ducting running through a car's bodywork. It has two inlets close to the common airbox and two outlets, one just underneath the rear wing and one lower down. It is designed to direct airflow onto the low pressure side of the rear wing while running at high speeds to stall the rear wing - in an attempt to reduce its drag, hence its name. The system is the successor of F-ducts after those were banned. It's notorious difficulty to get right however prevent a wider adoption on the F1 grid.

Lotus first tested such a system during the 2012 season, following which it was copied by Sauber and Mercedes. It was however unraced until Kimi Raikkonen completed the 2013 British Grand Prix with it in his Lotus E21.

Drag reduction system (DRS)

This is a system that involves moving the upper element of the rear wing to reduce induced drag of the wing. The rule, designed by the technical working group, was introduced in 2011 to aid overtaking. A car following another within 1 second thereby can engage the system on parts of tracks allowed by the FIA. During 2011, all tracks feature one or two DRS zones, greatly increasing overtaking during races.

The system relies on the adjustability of the rear wing's upper flap. By means of a hydraulic actuator, the flap can be opened by a driver action (usually the push on a button, but often also a lever behind the steering wheel or even a pedal). When opened, the rear wing's drag is reduced, enabling the pursuing car to reach a higher top speed, hence having a greater chance to pass the car ahead.

Drive shaft

A drive shaft is a bar used to transmit torque and power from the drivetrain to the wheels. In Formula One, there is one so-called half-shaft on each side of the gearbox, each linked to one rear wheel. Drive shafts transmit drive energy through rotation, and therefore are made extremely stiff and usually hollow to keep weight as low as possible.

Drive-through penalty

A type of penalty that can be handed to a driver by the race stewards for an infringement against the sporting regulations. When imposed, the offending driver must drive into the pit lane and continue through without stopping at his pit box. The penalty lies in the limited speed that is permitted in the pitlane, resulting in a considerable loss of time compared to normal travelling speeds of above 300 km/h on the main straight.

DRS zone

The part of the track that allows the DRS mechanism to be activated. Some tracks have only one, whereas other tracks feature two DRS zones. Monza is example with two DRS zones, but their designation is done by FIA prior to each race.

Dry sump

A lubrication system in which the engine's supply of oil is not contained in the crankcase (sump) but is pumped to the engine from an external container. This system allows the crankcase to be reduced in size and the engine to be installed lower in the chassis, and eliminates the oil starvation most conventional oiling systems suffer when subjected to the accelerative, braking, and cornering forces generated by a racing car.


A contraction of 'Dynamometer', an engine-testing device used in the shop that measures power and simulates the loads and environment of a racing engine. A dyno is an expensive piece of computerized equipment that measures the efficiency of a motor.