Formula One glossary

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Safety car

In the event of an accident or blockage on the race circuit the safety car will be sent out in front of the lead car to slow down and control the cars still on track until the debris can be cleared.

Safety harness

Six point seatbelts to prevent the driver from coming out of his seat during driving.

Scrubbed tires

Also known as Scuffed Tires, which have a few laps on them to remove the outer sheen and provide more consistent traction. See Heat Cycles.


All cars must go through scrutineering at the beginning of every Grand Prix. Scrutineering is the process that determines that the cars are safe to race, and also adhere to the strict technical rules of Formula One.


Scuderia is the Italian word used by Ferrari to describe a racing team.


A flexible ring, disc or washer that prevents the passage of liquid, air, gas or dirt.


A Magneti Marelli developed electrohydraulic manual transmission used in Alfa Romeo cars. Like the Ferrari F355 F1's system, the Selespeed is a hydraulic actuator added to the normal manual gearbox and incorporates clever electronics.
A detailed description can be found at


Teams complete these ‘shakedown’ runs to make sure all the components on the car are ready and working to their full potential.

Side pod

Part of the car that is at the side of the body. Located at each side of the engine they contain the radiators and exhaust pipes. Each pod narrows towards the rear of the car in a so called coke bottle shape. Side pods are usually painted with advertising and equipped with openings to let hot air escape from out of the car body

Single keel

Ferrari's 2006 single keel solutionDenotes a design method in relation to the front suspension. Named after the keel of a sailing boat, it can be recognised by an extension on the underside of the tub.
When the design of Formula One cars evolved by replacing the low noses by high versions, the extension was needed to retain similar mounting points of the suspension. Typically, the lower frontal wishbones attach to the keel, while the upper ones attach to each side of the tub.
The single keel design became unused in by 2007 when Ferrari abandoned the system. All teams had by them moved to more efficient solution, such as V keels and zero keels.

Single rate spring

A spring with a constant spring rate. For example, if a 100-pound force deflects the spring by one inch, an additional 100 pounds will deflect it one more inch, and so on until the spring either bottoms or fails. The opposite of progressive rate spring.

Skid block

A wooden plank fitted lengthwise in the middle of a Formula One car, as mandated by the technical regulations. It was designed to enforce a minimum ground clearance and to limit the downforce generated by the car's floors. The have the exact same dimension on all cars and must wear less than allowed. A worn down plank leads to the disqualification of a car, such as with Michael Schumacher's Benetton at the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix.

This plank must be 300mm wide and 10mm think. It is usually made of a composite of wood fibres and a termo-phenolic resin. Teams are allowed to construct this plank as they wish, but must make sure that the resulting composite has a specific gravity of between 1.3 and 1.45 - which is more than nearly all types of wood in their natural form.

Skid block on Lotus E21 at Monaco GP

The mandatory skid block was introduced by Formula One at the 1994 German GP following a change of rules triggered by the fatal accidents of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the GP of Imola earlier that year. As of 1995, ground effects in F1 were further reduced by mandating stepped floors, contrary to the flat floors that were common until then. Other racing series have since adopted similar regulations.


This is part of multi-element wing which is installed ahead of leading edge of the airfoil, below the main element. It's there to create more efficiency and downforce.

Slick tyre

In recent seasons the Formula One cars have been using ‘grooved’ tyres, however for most of the modern era of Formula One the slick tyre was used for optimum grip in dry conditions. A slick is made using very soft rubber and has no tread on its surface to promote maximum possible grip.


Every car creates a hole in the air, this hole gets longer the faster the car is travelling. Any car that travels in this hole will benefit from reduced air resistance and will therefore be able to travel faster using less engine power. A skilled Formula One driver can use this hole to ‘slipstream’ to set up an overtaking manoeuvre at the end of a straight.

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

Society that publishes automotive research papers and defines various automotive standards of measurement.

Spare car

Each team takes three cars to every Grand Prix, the third car is known as the spare car or T-car (team car, test car or third car). If one of the drivers damages his car so heavily it cannot be repaired then he will use the spare car to complete the weekend.

Spark ignition engine

(SI engine) In contrast with a diesel engine (which does not use a spark plug), a spark ignition engine uses a spark plug to ignite the fuel/air mixture.


An X-ray method used by fuel suppliers to analyse the quantity and type of wear metal present in gearbox and engine oil samples.

Splash and dash

With the return of pit stops teams need to be accurate with fuel measurement and economy is very important. In the event of a miscalculation a car may need to stop near the end of a race for a small amount of fuel, this is known as a ‘splash and dash’. Literal splashing a drop of fuel in the tank before dashing off to finish the race.


A device on the suspension system to cushion and absorb shocks and bumps and to keep the vehicle level on turns. After the stress or pressure exerted by the flexing of the spring has been removed, the spring returns to its original state. The spring does this by first absorbing and then releasing a certain amount of energy. The form of spring may be leaf springs, coil springs, torsion bars, or a combination of these.

Spring hybrid

Spring hybrid drive relates to a power storage mechanism, and more especially to a power storage mechanism as an alternative to an electric "hybrid" drive particularly suited to lightweight or city vehicles, mopeds and motorcycles.

It comprises an elastic element, one end of the spring being connected to a first shaft and the other end being connected to a second shaft whereby rotation of the shafts at different speeds can cause the storage of energy in the elastic element, the shafts being interconnected by a continuously variable transmission and/or a differential whereby the relative rotational speeds thereof can be controlled.
Patented by Timothy Bishop, 22/12/2004

Starter motor

An electric motor used to start an engine. A Formula One engine needs to be rotated by such an external engine before its own ignition is activated. After that, an engineer retracts the motor connection from the car's gearbox to let the car run on its own.
More information at:


The stewards run the race weekend at a Grand Prix. They make all the decision with regard to rules, penalties and incidents that can happen over the weekend. Stewards are different to marshals in that they control the event from race control as opposed to trackside.

Stirling engine

An external combustion engine in which heat is applied through the wall of a chamber within which a gas is successively heated and cooled, alternately expanding and contracting to power a piston inside the chamber. Its advantages include: exceptional silence, lack of vibration, long life, high efficiency, extremely low emissions and adaptability to many different kinds of fuel. Its main drawbacks are the need for extremely effective seals, inflexible control systems, and cost.

Stop and go penalty

During a race, if a driver breaks any rules he can be called in for a stop and go penalty. He must come in to the pit lane and stop for 10 seconds before rejoining the race. A penalty can be given for speeding in the pit lane, jumping the start amongst other reasons.


A flat plate body fixed to race car in order to control and direct airflow.


The sump surrounds the crankshaft. It contains some amount of oil, which collects in the bottom of the sump (the oil pan) in an engine


An engine that is similar to a turbocharged engine which uses a series of belts or chains from the crankshaft to turn the turbines that forces the air/fuel mixture into the cylinder heads under pressure creating a bigger explosion which generates more power. A turbocharger use the exhaust gases to turn the turbines to create the same effect.
Both turbocharging and supercharging are forbidden in F1.

Survival cell

Safety is paramount in Formula One, one feature of a modern Formula One car is the survival cell. Every component attached to the cell is designed to break off and absorb some of the energy of the accident. However, the survival cell is designed to cocoon the driver and prevent serious injury by never breaking up.


The assembly of springs, shock absorbers, torsion bars, joints, arms, etc., that cushions the shock of bumps on the road and serves to keep the wheels in constant contact with the road, thereby improving control and traction. More on F1 suspensions


An acronym you may hear on the in-car audio, referring to the electronic "Shift With Out a Lift" device, which allows gear shifts without lifting off the throttle, making the shift faster.


A cone or sleeve that slides to and fro on the transmission main shaft and makes the gears rotate at the same speed to prevent clash when the gears are about to mesh. Whenever a vehicle is rolling, the transmission main shaft is turning and the clutch gear is spinning. Even though the clutch is disengaged, the clutch gear continues to spin until friction slows it down or stops it. Thus when the driver shifts into another gear he is trying to mesh gears that may be moving at different speeds. By using synchronizers, the possibility of broken or damaged teeth is reduced and shifting effort is lowered. A transmission using synchronizers is called a synchromesh transmission.