Do F1 Drivers Memorize The Track? (Fully Explained)

Formula 1 drivers have to race on several different tracks throughout the season. Drivers need to be familiar with these tracks if they want to get the best possible results when racing against 19 of the best drivers in the world, so you might wonder if F1 drivers memorize the tracks.

F1 drivers do memorize every track that they race on. Every Formula 1 driver knows all the circuits on the calendar, and they learn them through experience and time spent on track. Drivers learn new circuits through simulator sessions and track walks, which helps them to understand the track too.

If a driver understands a circuit well, they will perform better at it. Most drivers already have a good memory when it comes to every circuit, but practice makes perfect. Below, we’ll go into more detail about how F1 drivers learn and memorize tracks to perform at their best. 

Do Formula 1 Drivers Memorize Racetracks?

F1 drivers do need to memorize the racetracks that they will be driving on. The better a driver understands a racetrack, the better they will perform overall when it comes to both qualifying and racing in F1. With 20+ tracks on an F1 calendar, knowing them all by memory is vital.

Drivers will memorize every aspect of a Formula 1 circuit that they are racing on. It’s not just about the track layout though. Other elements can be crucial too, from the kerbs to the elevation changes and the bumps on the surface of the tarmac. These are all factors that drivers need to keep in mind when racing on a track.

All of these aspects are crucial to driving the car on the limit and as fast as possible. The better a driver knows a circuit the better they can place their car around the track over the course of a lap. Small performance factors such as knowing which kerbs to attack and which to avoid, or even where the bumps are, can be crucial to keeping the car on the track.

Muscle Memory

Drivers often learn circuits through muscle memory. The more laps the driver does around the track, the better they begin to understand it and the better they will perform. The Catalunya circuit in Barcelona is an example of a circuit that drivers know well because of the hundreds of laps completed at the venue during preseason testing each year.

Formula 1 drivers know this racetrack incredibly well because of the amount of time that they spend on the circuit. This means that they naturally know the fastest racing line around the track, they know which bumps to avoid, and which kerbs they can attack. This makes the circuit a great equalizer between drivers and teammates.

It’s a lot like your daily commute to work or to the local grocery store. The more you drive it, the better you begin to understand where the potholes are and where the road dips down or rises up. If you drive the road enough, you’ll automatically start avoiding the potholes and adapting your driving for the elevation changes, and the same goes for Formula 1 drivers.

Formula 1 drivers take this to the extreme as they try to find tenths of a second at a time. As they find kerbs that they can attack more or bumps that they can avoid, their lap times will start to tumble, and they’ll have an edge over their competition. This is why some drivers are much faster than their teammates around some circuits compared to others, despite having the same car.


• F1 drivers need to memorize F1 tracks, but they do so easily simply by driving on them

• They don’t just need to know where the corners and straights are

• F1 drivers must also be able to judge things like kerbs, bumps, and elevation changes, and know how to take advantage of them to go faster

How F1 Drivers Learn Tracks

Formula 1 drivers need to do their best to learn every single track on the calendar to the best of their abilities. The better they know a track, the better they will perform when driving on it. This will ultimately help them to get the better of their teammate and their competitors.

Each driver will have their preferred method of learning tracks. Every person is unique in how they learn and take in information, which means what might work for some drivers won’t necessarily work for other drivers. This is important because there are several different methods that drivers use to memorize circuits.


The first and most important way F1 drivers memorize racetracks is practice. We’ve all heard the quote “practice makes perfect,” and when it comes to Formula 1, drivers take it to the next level by practicing until they can’t get it wrong. Drivers can sometimes do hundreds of laps in testing to get a feel for the car or for a circuit.

Drivers will have three hours’ worth of free practice for every Grand Prix weekend. The only exception is on a Sprint race weekend, where the drivers will only get two hours of free practice. Free practice sessions are important for drivers when it comes to learning more about the track and the conditions they can expect during the weekend.

Drivers will use practice sessions to their advantage when it comes to learning the track and pushing their limits. However, it’s still important for the drivers to know the track layout and be familiar with the track even before they head out for their first practice session.

Many drivers will do track walks before a race weekend. This allows them to become familiar with the track layout, elevation changes, kerbs, and the bumps in the surface of the tarmac. 


The majority of Formula 1 drivers learn tracks from pure experience. Formula 1 drivers have over a decade’s worth of racing under their belt, and many of the circuits featured on the F1 calendar are also used in junior single seater series that drivers may have raced in. Drivers often memorize these circuits at a young age and never forget them.

The more laps a driver does around any given circuit, the better their understanding of the circuit will be. Therefore, drivers who have raced around Silverstone since they moved up form karting will know the track much better than a driver who is experiencing Silverstone for the first time when they reach Formula 1.

Nevertheless, Formula 1 drivers would have been watching the sport while making their way up through the ranks of the motorsport ladder. Simply by watching onboard footage a driver is able to memorize a circuit and become more familiar with it.

Driving on the circuit is still completely different though, especially when you’re driving a Formula 1 car for the first time. Even if a driver has experience on a track from Formula 2 they still need to spend some time to get used to how they need to drive a Formula 1 car around the same track.


F1 simulators are incredibly accurate, and each team will have their own that the drivers can use to learn new tracks, setups, and help the team better understand where things could be improved. Simulators are most useful for new tracks that the drivers haven’t raced on before, either at all or just in an F1 car.

A good example of this could be any of the new circuits added to the F1 calendar in recent years, such as the Jeddah circuit and the Miami track. However, it’s also useful for learning tracks that were once on the calendar but have been absent for some time, such as the Istanbul and Mugello circuits that returned in 2020 (and 2021 for Istanbul Park).

Simulators can also help drivers better understand changes to existing tracks, such as the alterations made to the Albert Park Circuit in Australia for the 2022 season. However, simulators are also just useful for getting in valuable practice when not at the track, and while this isn’t necessarily ‘memorization,’ it is still incredibly useful.

Visualization Techniques

Many drivers prefer to use visualization techniques to memorize race tracks. While this can be difficult for some drivers, there have been others who have made this technique work well for them over the years. Visualization is a difficult skill to perfect, but it can also be incredibly powerful.

Sebastian Vettel is one driver who was well known for his use of visualization during his successful spell at Red Bull. The young German driver would sit in his garage with his eyes closed, visualizing the perfect lap before putting in a stellar qualifying performance.

Some drivers struggle to use visualization techniques and will instead use other elements to memorize circuits. Simulators are a great way for drivers to visualize the circuit without being on it, and it’s also more interactive than a simple onboard video.

In the past though, drivers didn’t have the high-tech simulators that they have today. Drivers would memorize circuits using onboard footage from when they or other drivers have driven at the circuit in the past. Drivers would also use a simple track layout map and track walks much more often than they do now.

Tracks Are Always Changing

Memorizing Formula 1 circuits might seem easy, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time on a simulator, but there’s nothing like the real thing. Oftentimes there can be small inaccuracies in some elements of a simulator, such as the bumps in the track surface or the kerbs at the apex of a corner.

Over time, drivers will understand the circuits that they spend a lot of time on. However, it’s important to consider the fact that circuits can deteriorate over time, are often resurfaced, or can even present different conditions that make it more difficult for the drivers even if they know the circuit well. 

Sometimes large parts of them are changed too, which requires drivers to rememorize different sections. This could be a corner’s radius changing slightly, a new kerb being added, or even major changes to the track layout.

How Do F1 Drivers Choose Their Racing Lines?

F1 drivers choose their racing lines largely by considering the basics of cornering, with a focus on their braking point, hitting the apex, and accelerating smoothly out of the corner. The weather conditions, stage of the race, their car and their driving style all affect their optimum racing line.

The racing line is the fastest way to get around the racetrack. The racing line is incredibly simple in theory. Drivers start from the outside of the track when they start their braking phase. The middle of the corner is the apex, which is the point at which a driver unwinds their steering wheel and accelerates out of the corner. The driver will then aim to exit the corner as wide as possible.

In reality though, there is more than one way for an F1 driver to approach corners. Drivers choose their racing lines based on the approach that suits their driving style, and the approach that gives them the fastest lap times. Sometimes drivers may need to adjust their racing lines throughout the course of the weekend based on feedback from their race engineers.

With the racing line being the fastest way to get around the track, it’s an incredibly basic element that is learned from the drivers’ young karting days. While the basics of the racing line might stay the same for a given track, drivers may find slight variances that suit their car or driving style better.

Why Drivers Have Different Racing Lines

While the majority of drivers will have the same racing lines, there are some cases where drivers will take unique approaches. Sometimes drivers who have different driving styles will take a corner differently. 

For example, a smoother driver would take long sweeping turns, trying to make their corner as long as possible so they can keep the average cornering speed of their car as high as possible. Aggressive drivers on the other hand will have a more direct approach, attacking the kerbs and apexes as much as possible.

If a corner is particularly unique, such as the banked corners at the Zandvoort circuit, drivers might use different racing lines to suit their driving style or car better. Racing lines may also change over the course of a race, as weather conditions change, tires degrade, and fuel loads decrease.

How The Racing Line Changes In The Wet

When it starts to rain the racing line will change. In dry conditions, the racing line has more grip because of the rubber that is laid down by drivers as they constantly drive over the same patch of tarmac. As the track becomes rubbered in, cars will have more grip, and lap times will become faster.

However, when it starts to rain, the very same racing line that gave the drivers more grip and allowed them to go faster becomes incredibly slippery. This is why we often see drivers moving off the racing line when approaching corners. Braking on the racing line is where the car can lose all of its grip as a result of the now wet rubber.

In the wet, drivers will often move slightly to the middle of the track when they start their braking phase. When the car has slowed down enough, they will turn into the corner, crossing over the normal racing line and only accelerating again when they’re back on the grippy bit of the track.

It’s important for drivers to memorize circuits especially when they have to drive in wet weather due to the fact that the racing line will change. The driver needs to understand where they can brake and steer their car without losing grip on the slippery rubber. Not only does the driver lose a lot of grip, but they also lose a lot of their visibility if they’re behind other cars.

Visibility Changes

The rooster tail of spray behind a Formula 1 car driving in the rain will severely detract from the following driver’s visibility. This is when memorizing the track becomes crucial to a driver’s ability to keep their car on the racing line and out of the barriers.

Drivers need to use muscle memory to focus on finding their braking points and hit apexes while driving almost blind. Drivers can often have almost no visual reference when driving behind another car in the wet and react purely on instinct and feel when racing in the rain.

Evolving Track And Race Conditions

But it’s not just wet weather that can cause drivers to take new racing lines. As the race goes on, their tires will degrade or they’ll pit for new ones, and both scenarios affect the level of grip they’ll have into and out of the corners. If their tires are wearing out fast, they’ll need to brake earlier and often accelerate later, all while adjusting how aggressively they take the corners.

With fresh tires and lower fuel loads later on in the race, drivers can brake later, turn in more aggressively, and accelerate sooner, meaning they might alter their racing line without compromising speed through the corner just as a result of having more grip. They might also alter their racing line when attacking or defending against other cars, and this can change from corner to corner.


• F1 drivers choose their racing lines based on many different factors

• While the basics of a racing line stay the same for every track, different drivers may take slightly different approaches

• The ideal racing line can change as a result of the track conditions

• Racing lines may also change over the course of a race due to grip levels or if a driver is attacking or defending

How Do F1 Drivers Choose Their Braking Points?

F1 drivers choose their braking points by practicing and getting experience driving on the track. They’ll pick the latest possible point they can brake and use markers of some kind to hit the same braking point every lap. This could be a bump in the track surface, a marker board, or even a tree.

One of the most important parts of driving a Formula 1 car fast is the braking phase. The term “last of the late brakers” has become incredibly popular in all of motorsport, not just in Formula 1. It’s well known that the later you brake, the faster you can go, and so choosing the right braking point is crucial.

Many drivers will know where to brake from previous experience and practice that they have had on the circuit, but there are a few elements that change every year that drivers need to keep in mind. These factors will influence how they choose their braking points on a racetrack, even if they have driven there before.

The Car

The first element is the car. Every now and then there are big changes in the regulations that change the way the cars behave on track. Every season the team also develops a new car, which means that the characteristics and behavior of the car changes too, even if it’s not a result of massive rule changes. These small tweaks will affect how late a driver can brake.

The Track

The other factor to consider is that the race track itself changes. Over time, the tarmac on the track deteriorates, the amount of grip on the track changes, and the weather conditions change. All of these factors can influence where the driver’s braking point will be going into any given corner.

These factors make it incredibly challenging for drivers to find that perfect braking point that they need to hit every single lap. Oftentimes simulators can’t accurately replicate these variables, which means that drivers need to explore this properly during practice sessions. 

Free Practice

Drivers will also use free practice sessions to find their braking points. Drivers will start off braking relatively early for a corner before gradually pushing their braking point later and later with every passing lap. Drivers will use specific markers on the side of the track to ensure that they know exactly where they are braking every time they enter each corner.

Drivers can sometimes use small elements on the track that might seem insignificant to other people as braking points, and it’s not always the big markers on the side of the track. It could be a gap in the fencing, a specific bump in the surface of the tarmac, or a tree on the side of the track in their peripheral vision.

Once they find the latest point at which they can brake and still slow their car down in time for the corner, they will begin to practice it over and over until their muscle memory kicks in. Once their braking point becomes muscle memory it becomes much easier for them to hit their braking point consistently every lap.


• Being the fastest in F1 is often about braking later than your opponents

• This makes choosing the right braking points key for drivers

• Each driver will choose their braking points based on their car, the track, and their driving style

How Does Telemetry Help An F1 Driver?

Whenever drivers head back into the garage during a practice session we often see them studying a sheet of paper. This sheet of paper has important data on it, known as telemetry. Sometimes we’ll see drivers in deep conversation with their engineers about the telemetry, and that’s because it holds valuable information about their performance.

The telemetry is data that is recorded using sensors on the car, and they give a detailed breakdown of how the driver used their throttle, brakes, and steering while driving the car. Telemetry can be compared to their teammate, or their fastest lap to see where the driver is gaining or losing time.

Data, Data & More Data

The driver and their race engineer can use telemetry to determine where they can brake later, accelerate earlier, or even change their steering angle in a given corner. All of this can be analyzed without using any form of onboard footage, just the graphs that are provided by the telemetry graphs.

Drivers will often study telemetry throughout the race weekend to see where they can improve. By establishing how they are losing time against their teammate, or their fastest lap, drivers can adjust their driving style to improve their overall performance.

How F1 Drivers Prepare For New Tracks

F1 drivers prepare for new tracks through time spent in the simulator. This allows them to understand the track even before it’s fully built in some cases. However, they will also do track walks closer to the race. Finally, they’ll then learn the track for real in the first free practice sessions.

Driving on a brand new circuit can be challenging for drivers because they don’t have any prior experience on it. This means that the drivers obviously don’t understand the track as much as they would understand another track they’re more familiar with.

The upside here is that everyone is on the same page. Nobody will be an expert when it comes to knowledge on the specific circuit if nobody has ever raced there. It’s all about who can memorize the track most accurately and in a short space of time.

Similar To Normal Driving

If you’ve never driven on a particular road before, it’s difficult to visualize it or even memorize it. You can see which direction you need to drive and which way each corner goes, but when you’re on the same road it might look entirely different in terms of the elevation changes, the scenery, and the surface of the tarmac.

Formula 1 drivers must be able to memorize any new circuits that join the calendar if they’re going to perform well and minimize their mistakes out on track. The drivers have several different ways in which they can memorize the circuits before even arriving there, but the most important elements will take place on the physical race track.


Formula 1 drivers don’t have the time to visit new tracks before they are added to the calendar. Moreover, many tracks are still in their preparation phase during the season, as they overhaul the circuit to become compliant with FIA Grade 1 requirements, which means that it’s mostly a construction site until closer to the Grand Prix weekend.

This is where simulators come in handy. Formula 1 simulators are state of the art, designed with real Formula 1 car monocoques. These full motion simulators also have laser scanned circuits and they can feed telemetry straight to the engineers, allowing them to analyze the driver’s inputs and behaviors on track in real-time.

Drivers will often spend a lot of time in the simulator before heading to a brand new race track. This is the best way for the drivers to memorize a new race track even while the track is still under construction in the real world. These accurate simulators allow the drivers to perfect their racing lines and braking points early enough.

The problem with simulators though is that they still aren’t 100% accurate. While they might give the driver a good indication of what the track layout is like and usually what the surface will be like, they don’t offer the genuine feel that the driver will have out on track. But for brand new tracks, it’s usually the best the drivers can do until the race weekend.

Track Walks 

The drivers often do track walks before the Grand Prix weekend starts and this allows them to take the time to become familiar with their environment and what the track looks like. The track walk is the first time that drivers will see a brand new track in person, and it will give them a chance to pick out some markers they can use as braking points and see what the surface is like.

Some drivers prefer to cycle around the circuit whereas others prefer to walk around the track with their engineers. There’s a lot going on during a track walk, and it’s much more than just a leisurely stroll around a multi-million dollar state of the art racetrack (which we’ll go into more detail about in the next section).

Track walks are crucial for many Formula 1 drivers, but others still prefer the simulators and prepare for the weekend ahead in other ways. When it comes to new circuits that join the calendar though, drivers need to do everything they can to memorize the circuit as quickly as possible before they get into their cars for the first practice sessions.

Free Practice Sessions

Free practice sessions are always crucial to any Formula 1 weekend. Teams and drivers will usually use free practice sessions to optimize their car setup and gather data on how the tires are performing, as well as how their race strategy will look during the Grand Prix.

However, when it comes to new circuits that have been added to the calendar, free practice sessions are even more important. It’s the first time that the drivers will drive a Formula 1 car around the track. They need to use this limited amount of time to get the most out of their car.

While drivers would have already done hundreds of laps on a simulator and even walked the circuit before they got into the car, there’s nothing like the first time they drive the car on the track. Drivers will have a completely new experience on the track while driving their cars.

Drivers will be using the first free practice session to find their way around the track, getting a feeling for the surface, the amount of grip they have, and how their cars react to the kerbs. We often see drivers making mistakes during free practice sessions at new tracks as they begin to explore their limits.

Other Important Elements

Memorizing a new track is never an easy task in Formula 1. Every driver has their own preferences when it comes to the circuits that they like, and the circuits that they don’t like. They’ll even have specific sections of the tracks that suit them better than others.

When drivers are trying to memorize a circuit, they often try to compare some corners to corners that they already know, and they may even take the same approach to the corner. This helps the drivers to familiarize themselves with a particular corner on the track quickly, and therefore gives them a starting point they can work from.

Formula 1 drivers often make notes on the track map based on their simulator work too. This can include anything from braking points, the gear they need to be in, and their cornering speeds. Drivers will study these track maps before heading to the new track to memorize the circuit, and they might adjust them over the course of the race weekend.


• When new tracks are added to the F1 calendar, all of the drivers are in the same boat regarding their lack of experience on it

• This presents opportunities to get an edge over competitors

• Time spent in the simulator and doing track walks can help a driver learn a new track quickly

• The first free practice session is where the driver will truly begin to understand what it’s like to drive on the new track

F1 Track Walks Explained

The track walk is an incredibly important part of the Grand Prix weekend for many drivers, but not for all of them. Track walks usually happen on a Wednesday or a Thursday before the race weekend. Drivers often walk around the circuit with some of the lead engineers as well as their race engineer. Track walks will still be done even if the driver is experienced and has raced on the circuit before.

Track walks allow the drivers and key crew members to take a detailed look at the race track. Not only does this help the driver to memorize the circuit, but they also get to take a closer look at the conditions of the track. For example, they can spot sections of the circuit that might offer less grip because they are deteriorating, and get a closer look at the severity and types of kerbs.

Changing Their Approach To Corners

Drivers will investigate new kerbs that have been implemented to see how they can approach the corners and how they can attack them when driving their cars. Drivers will use this information when going into practice sessions, as it could mean that they need to take a unique approach to the corner compared to previous years.

Drivers will use their time on track walks to connect with their engineers and talk about the challenges that they might face. This can give the drivers and the engineers a head start when it comes to the car setup and how they approach the free practice sessions.

Why Other Team Members Do Track Walks With The Drivers

Formula 1 drivers rarely do their track walks by themselves. Unless they choose to cycle around the track, drivers are usually surrounded by important crew members that form part of their team, namely their top engineers and their own race engineer. 

Thursdays are usually incredibly chaotic at a Formula 1 track as the entire team gears up for the weekend ahead of them. The few hours that the driver and engineers get together allows them to connect and regroup in between all the chaos and the rush of preparations going on in the pit lane.

Engineers will often share their insights on car setups and how their car will react to the track. Engineers will be keeping an eye out for any changes that have happened on the track since the last time they raced there. For example, there could be loose tarmac in a particular corner, or one section of the circuit might be more rubbered in than the rest, offering the driver more grip.

Since the engineers are experts in how these advanced cars work and what they need in order to optimize their performance, it’s the perfect (and only) opportunity for them to be on the track with the driver and talk them through their thoughts and strategies ahead of the race weekend.

Why Don’t All F1 Drivers Do Track Walks?

Not all F1 drivers find track walks to be useful. There are some drivers, such as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, who rarely or never do any track walks throughout the course of the season. This is largely because they have many years of experience racing on these tracks.

Some drivers believe that track walks are nothing more than a historic practice that used to be important before state of the art simulators came about. For this reason, they choose to skip the track walks and spend their time elsewhere.

While this is partly true, it also means that they don’t get their first sighting of the track conditions until they head into their first free practice session. Nevertheless, it seems as though this approach has worked for Hamilton and Verstappen in the past. Despite not taking part in track walks they are still some of the best performing drivers on the grid


• Track walks are opportunities for F1 drivers and their engineers to assess track conditions before a race

• This can be useful for getting a closer look at the track surface, kerbs, and other features

• Not all drivers find track walks useful, and some rarely do them

Final Thoughts

F1 drivers do need to memorize the track if they are going to perform well. Each driver will have their own preferred methods of memorizing tracks. Formula 1 drivers usually use simulators to learn new tracks, and they often also make use of track walks before the race weekend starts.