Understanding Formula One: A Guide to Common Terms and Phrases

Understanding Formula One and some of the terms and phrases used can be confusing for new spectators of the sport. This blog attempts to explain some of the most common.


12829230_f1024Downforce is the downward pressure that air places on a vehicle when moving, particularly at high speed. Formula One cars have a number of wings, just like an aeroplane.

Whereas an aeroplane directs air to lift it, and F1 car has wings to push it down and into the ground. This allows the car to corner considerably better than a normal car – as if is is being pushed into the ground – providing my better grip and traction.

So when you’re thinking about an F1 car think about it as a kind of upside-down aeroplane. The faster it goes, the further it’s pushed into the ground.


DRS (Drag Reduction System)

Because downforce pushes an F1 car towards the ground, drag is created. This means that at very high speeds (such as on a straight) an F1 cars top speed is compromised.

The Drag Reduction System (DRS) is a letterbox type opening on the rear wing of an F1 car. A driver can press a button to open this, which allows air to pass more freely, creating less drag and therefore high top speeds on the straight.

A driver will never operate the DRS on a corner as the lack of downforce makes the vehicle loss grip and handle very badly.



Formula One cars don’t have a standard internal combustion engine, but instead use a very clever and advanced F1 Power Unit.



One of the most common phrases you might here is a commentator saying a driver has switched to ‘slicks’.

Slicks is a nickname for a type of tyre (tire in American English) a driver can chose from. It’s a smooth tyre with no cut tread (unlike a road car).

Once up to an ideal temperature, the flat surface provides considerably more surface area than a standard grooved tyre.



Wet tyres are very different to slick tyres. They are grooved and designed to disperse water. They are also designed to be used in a colder condition and drivers will often be seen moving onto the ‘wet’ line if a track begins to dry as overheating wet tyres makes them degrade very quickly and lose grip.


‘Intermediates’ or ‘inters’

Intermediate tyres are a type of tyre which can be used or wet and dry tracks.

However, used on a dry track they result in reduced lap times and wear out very quickly. Equally, if used on a very wet track they provide less grip than wet tyres (sometimes referred to as “full wets) and therefore provide less group; which can also result in reduced lap times.

It is vital a time judge just when to move from intermediates to slick tyres. Too soon and the wet track will make the slick useless due to the cooler temperatures and wet condition. Too late and other teams will already have switched and will be putting in faster lap times.


Virtual Safety Car (VSC)

Introduced formally to Grand Prix races in 2015, partly as a result of the death of Jules Bianchi, the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) is a system which means drivers must reduce their lap time to 35% of race pace. In addition a “VSC” sign will appear illuminated at the side of the track to warn drivers as well as on each drivers steering wheel display.


Change gear on the beeps

Sometimes you’ll hear a driver’s engineer tell them to “change gear on the beeps”.

Every driver wears a pair of headphone/ear defenders which allows them to hear their engineers over the team radio. As well as audio from their team, there is a small beep which is played to the drivers every time they should change gear.

The beeps can be adjusted. For example, if a driver needs to save fuel to make it to the end of the race, the beeps may be shorter to reduce engine revs and conserve fuel.


Speed Trap

In Formula One terms, as Speed Trap is the fastest point on the circuit. Generally towards the end of the longest straight and just before the braking point, the purpose of the Speed Trap is to compare the fastest speeds amongst drivers.

It may mainly be a function of the engine/car that one is driving but sometimes also the set up (high or low downforce etc) that could determine who is highest in the speed trap.


Strat mode 2, Multi 21, etc.

During a race you might hear an engineer tell a driver to “switch to strat mode 2” or “multi-21”.

There are two things that this usually refers to, either an engine mode (which the driver can change to using a dial or switch on their steering wheel, or a command to change strategy i.e. to let their teammate past to allow them to win.

A team might tell a driver to change their engine mode to save fuel. Equally, they might do the same to allow them an extra “burst” of power to overtake another car.

Renault Sport F1 unveil their 2016 car and it’s freakin’ awesome

Renault Sport F1 team were the first to unveil their 2016 Formula One car and it’s awesome. Well, it looks awesome, at least.

Revealed to the audience by drivers Kevin Magnussen (former McLaren driver who lost his race seat to Fernando Alonso) and Jolyon Palmer (2014 GP2 champion and son of former racing driver Jonathan Palmer) the car has striking colours of black and yellow. The two drivers were also joined by 2015 GP3 champion Esteban Ocon as its reserve driver and Carmen Jordá as its development driver.

But the question on every F1 fans lips is this: will the new Renault Sport F1 be faster than Red Bull Racing? Red Bulls relationship with Renault is somewhat fractured. And what about the new Ferrari powered Toro Rosso which Max Verstappen recons is 1 second a lap faster than last year.

The Product Key entered has not been Activated

The Product Key entered has not been Activated
"The Product Key entered has not been Activated" is a very frustrating message
“The Product Key entered has not been Activated” is a very frustrating message




I recently purchased a new laptop from Currys PC World in Clacton-on-Sea and decided to opt for the Microsoft Office 365 bundle. Everything was going well until it came to set up Office.

Following the instructions I entered the code at office.com/setup only to receiving the following message:

“The Product Key entered has not been Activated. Without an Active Product Key you cannot retrieve your product. Product Keys can only be activated at the store where Office was purchased. Return to the store with your receipt of proof of purchase to activate your Product Key”.

Slightly annoyed I took a drive back to the store. After waiting for some time I was eventually served by a lady who scanned the card and told me it would be fine. I returned to the office to try again. Same message! Increasingly frustrated I called PC World on their customer service line only to be told I needed to return to the store again as they had “scanned the card too quickly”.

The following day I returned and spoke to the Manager, Sam, who said he was unable to help me. I refused to leave the store until I had a fix. Eventually he rang PC World who agreed to send a replacement by DPD for the following day. It turns out that some card from Microsoft “refuse to activate and they don’t know why”. When I went back it still hadn’t arrive.

10 days later after calls from the branch in Clacton-on-Sea I was promised another by the morning.


How to fix The Product Key entered has not been Activated error

If you bought the laptop online and collected it in-store, sadly there’s only one way for it – you have to return the card to PC World for replacement.They’ll post you another.

If you purchased the card in-store, return to the store that you purchased the card from or where you collected your purchase.

in either case PC World have no way of activating it over the phone.


Formula 1 drivers demand better head protection for 2017

Formula 1 drivers demand better head protection

In October of 2014, Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi collided with a recovery vehicle during the Japanese Grand Prix and suffered a severed head injury. This left the driver in a coma until is passed away in July 2015. Despite the FIA finding that Bianchi’s driving prior to the incident was partly to blame, Formula 1 drivers demand better head protection and the idea of closed cockpits was once again raised.

One month after Bianchi’s death, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was struck on the head by debris at Pocono Raceway and passed away the following day.

Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman Alexander Wurz told the BBC today that F1 drivers have unanimously agreed on the “swift implementation” of head protection. “The research the FIA experts have done is very thorough and the process has brought forward a clear solution” Wurz is quoted as saying. “Now the drivers feel it’s time to implement the extra protection at the latest in 2017.”

One of the options discussed was a ‘halo” type system which would be fitted to the chassis above the drivers head in a bit to help prevent serious head injury in the event of an accident. The exact details of how this system would operate are sketchy but it is understood than many Formula 1 drivers demand better head protection to be ready for the 2017 season.


A mixed reaction from Formula 1 fans

While it’s safe to say that no one wants to see drivers injured there are many Formula 1 fans who consider the move into covered or closed cockpits as a move away from single-seater motor racing.

On a recent Facebook post some fans were left furious:

Single seater motor racing is dangerous and this is the risk the drivers take. If they cannot take the heat, get out of the kitchen. As much of a tragedy the recent fatalities were, Formula One will only ever be Formula One with open cockpits said one fan.

Another said: “Drivers that want a roof over their heads can drive sports cars, DTM, BTCC, NASCAR – there are plenty of tin top series. Give your F1 seat to someone who accepts the very slim risk.”

However, some fans were more open to the idea of introducing a halo system, such as this gentleman:

A lot of the comments I’ve read on here are quite frankly disgusting! When the hell did my favourite sport develop as it’s main selling point ‘people can die’? If you don’t want to watch a sport that has been focused on safety for decades, don’t watch F1.”

“F1 has been responsible for, and has had a major input into, so many modern safety innovations; ABS, traction control, improved helmet design, understanding of crash structures and crumple zones, fireproof clothing, I could go on for a while… “

It seems the subject of closed or enclosed Formula 1 cockpits is set to continue to divide fans of the sport for a long time yet.

Interview with Jonathan Woodrow, author of ‘Wasteland Gods’

Jonathan Woodrow

Wasteland Gods is the long awaited novel by British-Canadian author Jonathan Woodrow. Jonathan, who moved from England with his wife to Toronto Ontario in 2007 and began writing, is a father of three and family man with a passion for writing dark stories. Wasteland Gods will be his first major novel and will be published by Horrific Tales Publishing.

The story is centered around Billy Kingston, an alcoholic who is consumed with thoughts of revenge after the brutal murder of his son is broadcast on the internet. Billy moves to a remote town – Benton Lake – to escape his current situation and escape the clutches of a divine being, Dr Verity. But little does Billy know that Verity has plans for him and plans he can’t escape.

I was lucky enough to be invited to interview the inspiring author ahead of the release of Wasteland Gods. Here’s a transcript:


What inspired you to start writing?

Writing stories is something I’ve always done, to a certain degree. I recall putting together a short Dracula story when I was about seven or eight years old and trying to sell it to my parents. I designed a cool cover and everything. Then later on, at college, I wrote a couple of scripts that never went anywhere, of course. It’s really only been during the last ten years or so I’ve started to take fiction-writing more seriously. I kept it largely to myself at first, at least until I started receiving those acceptances, and now I have a novel coming out in a little over a month, which is overwhelming.

In answer to your question, though, I don’t really know what inspired me at first. There must have been something. I’ve always loved movies, books, opera, and theatre—anything that tells a good story. I can tell you what inspires me now, and continues to do so, and that is my love of the process. Every part of this job excites me. From the initial development stage, to getting to know my characters, to ploughing through that first draft, then tearing it apart again for the second and third.

In the case of Wasteland Gods, the structural editor gave a brutal analysis of sections of the book that had to go—entire plotlines and characters. All things that I had failed to see were dragging the story down. Hearing that at first was hard (they don’t call it killing your darlings for nothing) but after making the cuts I stood back and for the first time was able to see a lean, streamlined story that flowed at a good, steady pace. The whole thing was liberating, and the book wouldn’t be what it is now had it not been for her.


Which authors would you say most influence your work and why?

I grew up with horror. From an incredibly early age I would scour the TV guide and set the VCR to record anything with a title that even remotely suggested horror. Of course my parents would regulate this a little, but without total prohibition. What I ended up with was pretty much the entire Hammer Horror Collection. Films about Dracula, Werewolves, Witches, and all kinds of other monsters. They may seem dated now but at the time they were most terrifying movies I’d ever seen.

The authors who have influenced me the most haven’t always been horror writers. I read a lot of Clive Barker and Stephen King when I was much younger and I suppose the two of them have influenced me the most. I read a wide variety of books in all different genres and I probably take away a little something from all of them. My two favourite genres would be horror and mystery/thriller, and you can probably find elements from both in Wasteland Gods.


You’re married and have three children. How do you find the time to write as well?

Two answers there: With great difficulty; and because I have an amazing, supportive wife. Seriously though, I’ve found that you can always make time for something if you’re serious enough about doing it. Even if it’s just an hour or two a day. I finished my first draft of Wasteland Gods around November 2012. I had been trying to develop it for some time without much success, and I eventually just sat down one day and started writing it.

In the industry they say there are two ways a writer can write: pantsing or plotting. Some folks can sit down and outline and entire novel, scene-by-scene, then write it. And their finished product will hardly deviate from that original plan at all. They’re called plotters. Others, like me, can’t do that. Their muse doesn’t make an appearance until they’re actually writing something. So they sit down, start writing, and hope that they’re going in the right direction. Flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak. They’re called pantsers.

I found that when I sat down and started writing, I was able to hit a couple thousand words a day and was finished with the first draft in a little over two months. Plot ideas and future scenes came to me as I was working. Of course, I then tore it to shreds in the editing/redrafting process but at least I had something to work with.

What do you have planned next for your career in writing? Have you started another novel yet?

I’m working on a few different projects at the moment. A couple of novels still in the early development stages and one I’m actively working on right now. I’m hesitant to divulge any details (mostly because it could change quite drastically before I’m finished), but needless to say, it’ll be dark.

Wasteland Gods is available now to pre-order now on Kindle Edition.

James Stanley Hicks (‘Stan’)

James Stanley Hicks (‘Stan’) was born in North Birmingham in August 1924.

Sgt. James Stanley Hicks served in the British Army Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was a prisoner of war sometime between 1939-1945 in Stalag IV-A. He was a Private at the time. He was wounded in battle (shot in the upper arm) and was told he would need the arm amputated, but it was saved. When he returned from the POW camp he was very thin and could barely eat for weeks. He hated the smell of oranges due to a battle in an orange grove in North Africa where people lay dying around him.

He would also tell me the story of the first German soilder that he shot – a young man around 18 years old – who grasped a photo of his mother as he died in my Grandfathers arms mumbling “mutter, mutter”. He would later be awarded the Africa Star for his service.

Stanley would spend the rest of his life living in Colchester, Essex. He had various jobs, including one as a sales rep for Schweppes. He was also a staunch local Labour party member and works convener. Stand died late 2004 at Colchester General Hospital after a short battle with pneumonia.

Nurse Muriel May Jackson: The Forgotten Hero of Severalls

A number of buildings were damaged in the WW2 air raid of Colchester, August 1942.
A number of buildings were damaged in the WW2 air raid of Colchester, August 1942.

On 11th August 1942, the Luftwaffe dropped three 500lb bombs on Colchester. One of those bombs hit the West wing of Severalls and damaged a number of buildings including a ward, nurses accommodation and the laundry. 21 year old nurse Muriel May Jackson, armed with just a small torch, removed debris midst the chaos and immediately began to tend to the injured. She would later guide doctors safely through the debris so that they could attend to the wounded.

Nurse Muriel May Jackson was commended for her brave conduct in the early hours of that fateful morning.

Brave Nurse Jackson would later be recommended for brave conduct in Civil Defence, as noted in the London Gazette on 20th November 1942.

Nurse Muriel May Jackson was commended for her bravery during the bombing of Severalls
Nurse Muriel May Jackson was commended for her bravery during the bombing of Severalls

Lewis Hamilton faces the most difficult season of his F1 career in 2016

Lewis Hamilton
Nico Rosberg won the 2015 Mexico Grand Prix convincingly
Nico Rosberg won the 2015 Mexico Grand Prix convincingly

Lewis Hamilton was greatly overshadowed by his teammate Nico Rosberg by the end of the season 2015 despite being crown 2015 World Champion. Rosberg would win the final 3 races of the 2015 season but more importantly would out-qualify Hamilton for the last six races. In fact, Hamilton wouldn’t start a race from Pole Position after the Italian Grand Prix a race in weekend in which both Hamilton and Rosberg would be out-qualified by four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

Despite starting the 2015 season extremely well, Hamilton didn’t qualify in Pole Position for the last 7 races. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg made huge strides. He understood he was losing from poor qualifying performances and he did something about it.

Hamilton was also heavily criticised during 2015 for his attitude towards the promotion of Formula One and developed a persona as a ‘play boy’ off track, often taking his private jet back to the United States in-between races. He had a fling with singer Rihanna and even finding himself accidentally featuring a cameo role in the hit film Zoolander 2. In the interest of balance it should also be noted that Rosberg was equally as difficult at times and would definitely show his fair share or unsportsmanlike behaviour when things weren’t going his way.


Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was more luck than judgement

Lewis Hamilton would often be seen off-track with celebrities including Rihanna and Nicole Scherzinger
Lewis Hamilton would often be seen off-track with celebrities including Rihanna and Nicole Scherzinger

When Hamilton announced he was moving from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to Mercedes GP many fans of the sport were surprised. At the time, Mercedes GP were struggling to gain the points and drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were less than impressive in terms of point scoring. However, Lewis Hamilton had been dogged with reliability issues at McLaren (and sheer bad luck) and felt that a change was needed. There were few options available to him (Vettel had already moved to the beleaguered Scuderria Ferrari the year before) and Red Bull had no space due to their Toro Rosso driver development project. This meant that Mercedes was Hamilton’s only real option.

Hamilton, like Vettel before him, understood that engine manufacturer teams would have an upper hand on development due to the change in regulations – a move which would prove to be prudent by both drivers – but this was only skeptical. At the time, Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button said “it is his decision, although I personally don’t think it is the right decision”. As it turned out Button was wrong and McLaren would face some of it’s darkest times in Formula 1.

It’s also fair to say the Hamilton was equally surprised by the performance of the 2014 Mercedes F1 Car. His change of attitude – from sulky McLaren driver to enthusiastic Mercedes driver – was clear for all to see.


Why 2016 will be tough for Hamilton

We know from his final performances in the 2015 season that Nico Rosberg is at the top of his game. We also know that changes made by Mercedes to the 2015 car didn’t suit Hamilton. Unless the Mercedes GP team have been able to make changes to the car to suit Hamilton over winter testing, he may return to the 2016 with a lack of confidence in his car. Rosberg, however, will enter the season knowing that he was able to gain on Hamilton very quickly and that he also has faith in the chassis. Rosberg’s demonstration of power will doubtlessly play on the mind of Lewis Hamilton and Hamilton has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he can’t focus when his mind isn’t on the track.


Sebastian Vettel is waiting to strike

Despite winning four World Driver Championships with Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel is desperate to prove to the world that he can become the champion again. Most importantly for Vettel that win must come with another team; and there’s no team he hold closer to his heart than Scuderia Ferrari.

Courtesy f1fanatic.co.uk

Vettel has shown that he is a determined to push as hard has it’s required to score points and to move ever closer in history to his idol Michael Schumacher. Vettel’s win at the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix was the first for Ferrari in a very long time and the emotion was very clear from both driver and team.

Ferrari have made huge strides since employing Vettel. Vettel is not only a naturally gifted driver but technical, also. He will study every corner, every braking point and every gear change. Since becoming a father he has also matured into more of a team player than perhaps he was at Red Bull. In addition, he has gained may new fans since his days with Red Bull. Overall he looks relaxed and very focused.

Vettel is definitely the man to watch in 2016 and if Ferrari have managed to improve their chassis and power unit over winter testing he may be a real thorn in the side of Hamilton. Coupled with a very focused and determined Nico Rosberg and the 2016 season is likely to be the most difficult season of Lewis Hamilton’s career.


Rosberg is at the top of his game

As the 2015 season drew to an end, Nico Rosberg left the season feeling confident. He appears to have sorted his qualifying pace and his race pace is also impressive. He is as eager as ever to win a WDC and if he fails to do so know this could be his last season with Mercedes.


Watch out for Williams

Given that Williams have been provided power-plants from Mercedes, and also considering the technical expertise and experience they have, the team should be gaining more podiums than they are. Expect to see more podium finishes from Williams in 2016, failing which expect to see two new seats available for the 2017 season. Both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are going to be under pressure to save their seats this year.


Sad times for Alonso and Button

As a life-long Mclaren fan I was very disappointed to see Alonso and Jenson unable to fit the top teams for points. My real pity with Alonso who is arguably one of the most talented drivers on the current Formula One grid but who was unable to get the title he so badly wanted with Ferrari. Despite Mclaren claiming they had made a “huge horsepower boost” over the Winter break, the team was quick to cool the story down. It’s looking like another sad year for Mclaren fans which could become even worse if Honda decide to pull their investment in the sport.