What Is An Apex In F1? (Racing Line Explained)

When it comes to motorsports, the apex is one of the most important parts of the corner. Achieving the fastest possible lap is done by hitting the apex perfectly on each corner and going as fast as possible. Many people, however, may be unfamiliar with what an apex actually is in F1.

The apex of a corner in F1 is the point at which the driver is closest to the inside of the track. It’s the part of the corner where the driver begins to shift from slowing the car down to bringing it back up to speed. It’s important to hit apexes right, as this will equate to faster lap times.

The racing line is one of the most basic aspects of motorsport, and it’s one of the first things that a driver would have learned in their career. Most Formula 1 drivers have been using racing lines since they started out in karting. In the article below, we’ll discuss the apex and racing line.

What Is The Apex Of A Corner?

The apex is the tightest part of the corner, where the driver changes from slowing the car down to accelerating. It’s essentially the transitional phase of the corner. At the apex, the driver begins to unwind their steering wheel to move towards the outside of the track on the exit of the corner.

Corners are made up of three parts. The entry of the corner is the first part. This section involves the braking phase and the point at which the driver begins to turn into the corner. Then there is the exit of a corner, which is where the driver is accelerating out of the corner and straightening their steering wheel. The apex is the middle section of the corner.

The apex is very important, especially in Formula 1. If a car does not hit the apex at the right spot, it means that the driver is losing time. A driver can miss the apex of a corner if they don’t slow the car down in time or if they lock their brakes during the entry phase of the corner.

What Is A Double Apex Corner?

There are some unique corners in Formula 1 that have double apexes. These corners are a real challenge to get right because the drivers really need to focus on hitting both apexes perfectly, or else their entire lap could be ruined from one small mistake.

A double apex is when a corner has two curves going in the same direction. For example, the last corner at the Hockenheimring is a double apex. If the driver misses the first apex, it’s highly unlikely they will be able to make their way around the corner quickly, and they’ll likely miss the second apex.

A double apex corner is usually longer than a normal corner and the drivers pull more lateral G-forces through a double apex corner, making it even more challenging. The driver needs to judge their racing line perfectly through a double apex corner.

What Is A Late Apex Corner?

Some corners in Formula 1 have a late apex. This is typically found on longer corners that have a sweeping entry. Late apex corners can be tricky for drivers because it’s an unusual type of corner throughout motorsports, and many mistakes can be made.

The best example of a late apex corner is the first corner at the Shanghai International Circuit in China. The corner has a long sweeping entry before closing and becoming tighter. These are corners we don’t often see in Formula 1, and they can make for exciting racing.

The way to approach a late apex corner is to stay as wide as possible on the entry to the corner. The driver will then begin to slow their car down and aim for the tightest part of the corner, which is often much later than where you would find it on a “standard” corner.

What Is The Racing Line On An F1 Track?

The racing line is the fastest way around an F1 track. Racing lines are one of the first and most basics motorsport skills that drivers learn. It’s essentially the only way to drive a Formula 1 car around a track in a fast enough time to qualify near the front or perform well in the race.

The racing line will be very similar for many circuits in terms of the overall concept. The idea of a racing line is to use as much of the space that is available on the track in order to make the corners as “straight” as possible and the track as short as possible. The less the driver needs to turn the steering wheel, the faster they will go.

When entering a corner at the end of a straight, the driver will position their car on the outside of the track. This gives them the space to open the corner up rather than having to take a tighter angle and having to use more steering to get around the corner if they were to enter the corner on the inside line.

After braking and slowing the car down, the driver will turn their steering wheel and point the nose of the car towards the apex, trying to get as close to the edge of the track possible, often on the inside kerb. The driver will then accelerate while unwinding the steering, aiming for the outside of the track. Again, the further the car can go to the outside the straighter the corner becomes.

The Racing Line Has More Rubber

Because all drivers try to use the racing line, this section of the track will be rubbered in. This happens over the course of the weekend as more and more cars drive around the track and lay rubber down on it. When the racing line is rubbered in, it will be noticeably darker than the rest of the tarmac.

Since there is rubber being laid down on the racing line, the cars will have more grip when driving on this section of the track. When the cars have more grip, they can go faster around corners, making the racing line an even quicker way around the track.

The racing line is even important when it comes to the start of the race. Pole position is always placed on the racing line because the tarmac on this section is rubbered in, and it gives the leader the advantage of starting on the fastest line. This means that the driver will have more traction and less wheelspin when they accelerate at the start of the race.

Is The Racing Line The Same For Every Driver?

Not all drivers use the same racing line, even at the level of Formula 1. However, it must be said that it depends on the circuit they are driving on. Some circuits have a clear racing line that is much faster than any other line and in this case all drivers will be using the same racing line.

However, some circuits, such as Bahrain for example, have a unique design that means that many drivers use different racing lines in some parts of the track. This is especially true for the notoriously difficult turns 9 and 10. This corner complex has a decline, and the cars arrive at the corner relatively quickly.

This means drivers need to brake while going downhill at high speeds, which can often result in a heavy lock up and the car running wide at turn nine. Each driver has a different solution to this problem and how they approach the corner. A lot of it depends on how their specific car’s balance is set up.

Some drivers prefer to stay as wide as possible going into the corner and easing onto the brakes before turning into the apex and exiting in the middle of the track. This method is faster going into the corner. Other drivers stick to the middle while braking and exit as far to the right as possible, giving them a better exit onto the following straight.

The Racing Line When Overtaking

When it comes to overtaking, the racing line is still followed but the attacking car will usually need to go off the racing line in order to overtake. The defending driver might also move toward the inside of the racing line to prevent the attacking car from overtaking them on the inside of the corner.

However, moving further to the middle of the track when going into a corner is slower, and the driver will be compromising their speed on the next straight. This means that if the attacking driver takes the wider and faster line, they will get a better exit and hit a higher top speed on the next straight.

Some of the more strategic drivers will use a “dummy overtake,” which is where they force the driver ahead of them to move to inside line by moving to the middle of the track. Once the lead car has moved to the inside to cover them, the attacking car will quickly shift to the outside of the track to use the faster line and force their opponent to take a tighter line through the corner.

Why Do Drivers Go Off The Racing Line In The Wet?

Drivers may go off the racing line in the wet because the rubbered in section of the track becomes greasy and slippery, leaving the cars with much less grip. The racing line might be the fastest way around the racetrack, but oftentimes this is only true for dry weather conditions.

Going off the racing line and onto the more abrasive side of the tarmac can provide drivers with much better grip. In the rain, we often see drivers braking slightly more in the middle of the circuit, off the racing line and taking a wider entry into the corner, often missing the apex entirely.

They may then cross over the dry racing line and exit back on the outside of the track. This is not necessarily the ideal line to use, but it does prevent the drivers from sliding off the track or spinning. Kerbs become very slippery in the wet too, and racing lines often incorporate kerbs, meaning the driver needs to change their line when they’re too slippery.

Drivers will also sometimes move off the racing line on a straight. This is sometimes done to get out of the spray coming off the car ahead of them. The spray off the back of an F1 car can lead to extremely poor visibility, which means drivers often try to stay out of it as much as possible. Drivers may also drive off the racing line on a drying track to cool wet or intermediate tires.

How Do Formula 1 Drivers Pick Their Braking Points?

Drivers pick their braking points by using markers on or around the track, and it’s unique to each driver. Some drivers may use the marker boards on the side of the track, others might use a tree or a kerb to find their braking point. Even a certain bump on the track can be used as a braking point.

Braking points are crucial in Formula 1. Essentially, the later you brake, the faster you go. This is because the driver spends more time at full throttle rather than braking.

Braking later, however, is not an easy task. It takes a lot of courage, especially in a Formula 1 car, and many drivers will have similar braking points. However, even braking one meter later than another car can make a difference in overall lap time over the course of a race.

Drivers will fine tune their braking points throughout the race weekend during practice sessions. They will pick one spot to start with and push their braking point slightly later with each lap until they find the limit where they do not have enough time to slow the car down before the corner. Drivers will then keep practicing their optimal braking point until it becomes muscle memory.

Times When Braking Earlier Is Better

Although braking as late as possible is normally faster, there are some exceptions to the rule. It’s not always as straightforward as braking as late as they possibly can, and in some scenarios, it’s better to brake slightly early.

If a driver brakes earlier and uses the same amount of braking force, they can accelerate out of the corner earlier and faster, which gives them advantage on the following straight. This technique is often used on corners where there is a long straight coming up, such as the hairpin before the long straight at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.

Braking earlier is also an important part of the switchback overtaking maneuver. For the attacking driver to get their car rotated quicker and accelerate earlier to get alongside the car they want to overtake, they will need to brake earlier than them. If the car ahead brakes later and goes too deep into the corner, they can switch to the inside of the corner on the exit to overtake.

Factors That Influence Braking Points

Drivers must choose their braking points carefully in Formula 1. There are some factors they need to consider when they hit the brakes and begin to slow the car down for the upcoming corner. The first is, of course, whether they are braking as late as they possibly can.

The second factor they will consider is whether braking earlier might help, such as when they need a good exit for the corner coming up. Drivers will also try to avoid braking while their wheels are on the kerbs or on painted lines, as this can upset the balance of the car or cause them to spin out.

Drivers also need to avoid braking on a bump in the circuit. If the brakes are applied right on top of a bump in the circuit, it’s likely the wheels will lock up instantly because there is no friction between the tires and the road, resulting in an unstable car.

What Is Corner Cutting In F1?

Corner cutting is when a driver goes off the track and gains an advantage from it. Sometimes a driver can make a mistake, and they have nowhere to go but through the tarmac run off on the inside of the corner. Lewis Hamilton did this during the opening lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

If a driver cuts the corner and gains an advantage from it, they must either give the place back to the car behind them if the incident occurred while fighting for position, or slow down enough to eliminate any advantage gained if they were defending. Otherwise, they will be given a time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

If a driver cuts a corner during practice or qualifying, their lap time will be deleted. Deleted lap times do not count, and the driver will need to set another lap time if they’re trying to set a qualifying time. Formula 1 drivers do not cut corners on purpose unless it’s to avoid a crash or another incident with other cars.

Exceeding Track Limits

It’s not just corner cutting that is policed in Formula 1, but also track limits. The track limits are normally defined by the white lines on the edges of the track. Drivers will sometimes exploit tarmac runoffs in order to gain an advantage, and this can result in a penalty or a deleted lap time in practice and qualifying.

Some corners on Formula 1 circuits have tarmac runoffs at the exits of the corners. These technically do not count as part of the track, as there are white lines painted on the circuit to separate the runoffs from the track.

Drivers gain an advantage by using these areas to make their corners wider and straighter. The driver can accelerate earlier and faster by using this tarmac runoff, which gives them an advantage in their overall lap times.

Not only can they accelerate earlier, but F1 drivers can also brake later at the entry of the corner since the corner is not as tight, leading to a faster overall cornering speed. Formula 1 has become strict on drivers exploiting this loophole, and they often monitor the cars on certain corners to prevent them from exceeding track limits and gaining an advantage.

Final Thoughts

An apex in F1 is the part of a corner at which the driver is closest to the inside of the track. Hitting the apex properly is important for fast lap times. The racing line (the fastest line around the track) will help determine the location of the apex.