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What Does Interval Mean In F1? (Timings Explained)

Formula 1 is a competition that involves close margins. Data is crucially important in Formula 1 for everyone, from the fans to the drivers. One element of data that is used most often during the course of an F1 Grand Prix is the interval.

The interval in F1 refers the gap between two different cars. Intervals are always measured in seconds, and they are accurate to one ten thousandth of a second. When one car passes a timing loop, a timer is set off to measure how many seconds go by until the next car passes the same spot.

The interval is used to determine how far ahead or behind one car is compared to another. This measurement is crucial for teams as they strategize when to bring their car in for a pit stop. Below, we’ll look at how F1 intervals are measured, and how teams use this information to adjust strategy.

What Are Intervals In F1?

Intervals in F1 are measurements of the gaps between cars. Intervals are always measured in seconds, and you might see the race standings showing +1.209 next to a driver’s name. This means that they are currently 1.209 seconds behind the car in front of them.

Intervals are measured multiple times throughout the course of a lap, which is why they are constantly changing if you’re watching a live feed. The live feed will sometimes show the intervals between individual cars, and other times it might show the total gap of each car to the race leader.

Intervals are constantly changing as car performance varies lap to lap. This allows us to see which cars are closer to one another, and which cars are closing the gaps to the cars in front of them. It essentially allows you to keep track of the entire field without having to see them on the live feed.

In other forms of motorsport, the same interval system is used. The gaps between cars are measured in seconds, and it has become a standardized system across the entire motorsport community. Other sports such as athletics also use seconds as a unit of measurement for the intervals between athletes.

Why Are Intervals Important?

Intervals are important because they give teams real-time information on how their car is performing against the cars around them. They use this information to form the best pit strategy for their drivers. They also allow the fans to get an idea of how the field is spread throughout the race.

Intervals are the live data that tell the story of how the race is unfolding. One driver might be keeping a consistent interval of five seconds to the driver in front, but if they’re suddenly three seconds behind the next lap, then it’s likely that the driver in front has made a mistake.

It will also give you a good indication as to when a driver is starting to struggle with tire wear. If one driver is suddenly setting slightly slower lap times due to worn tires, it’s likely that the drivers behind will be closing the gap, and the drivers in front will be increasing the gap.

Intervals are much more important than just keeping the fans updated on the progress throughout the race though. Teams will also use this data to keep track of how their cars are performing during the race, and this can be crucial information for them to use.

Gap To The Opposition

Teams will always be monitoring their cars’ intervals to the cars around them. This will give them an idea of whether they are losing time to other cars, which means that their driver will need to pick up the pace or risk being overtaken by the opposition.

Teams will be keeping a close eye on the intervals between their cars and the other teams’ cars out on track, especially during the latter stages of the race. This will give them a good idea as to how their pace compares to their rivals when the tires begin to wear out.

Another important factor that teams are constantly looking at is the DRS interval. If one car passes over the DRS detection point with an interval or one second or less, they will be able to activate their DRS in the upcoming DRS zone.

DRS is a device that opens a flap in the rear wing, reducing the car’s drag and giving them a top speed advantage. This allows the cars to overtake much more easily down the straight. Ideally, drivers want to keep cars behind them at more than a second’s interval when crossing the DRS detection line to avoid this.

Planning Pit Stops

One of the keys to success in Formula 1 is having a good strategy and picking the perfect moment to head into the pits for a fresh set of tires. The element that can’t be panned ahead of time is the intervals between the cars.

Whenever a car heads into the pits in Formula 1 they will lose time. Cars lose between 20 and 30 seconds by following the pit lane speed limit and staying stationary for around 2-3 seconds while the tires are changed on the cars.

This means that the driver will fall back into the pack, and the team needs to carefully calculate their average pit lane time and where their driver will feed back out onto the track. Ideally the driver will exit the pits and back into the race in “clear air”, which will allow them to drive as fast as possible.

If the driver exits the pits behind another car they will have to drive slower during their out-lap, and they might even struggle with dirty air too. This will give other drivers the chance to overtake them in the pits and feed back into the race ahead of them after their pit stop.

How Are Intervals Measured In F1?

Intervals in F1 are measured by using transponders in each F1 car that transmit every time the car crosses a timing loop. There used to only be 3 timing loops per lap, but now these timing loops are every 150-200 meters, and this means that intervals are updated almost constantly.

Teams and fans used to have to work with 3 intervals per lap to get updates on their driver’s progress. However, in recent times Formula 1 has added more timing loops to the track that measure the intervals between cars. Instead of the cars’ times being measured just three times during a lap, they are now measured every 150 meters through mini sectors.

Each Formula 1 car has a transponder installed on it. Whenever the transponder crosses a line on the circuit it records their time. This data is then translated into the interval between the cars which we are able to see on the live feed, and it is measured by the lap times that they are getting through the mini sectors.

These transponders allow each car on the circuit to be tracked at any point in time. The intervals between the cars can be measured anywhere on track, and they are updated every 150-200 meters, which allows for a much more consistent and accurate interval to be displayed on the live feed.

Why Are Intervals Measured In Seconds?

Intervals are measured in seconds as it is the most accurate, and easiest, way to measure the distance between cars. F1 uses time, rather than distance, as distance doesn’t take into account the speed at which the two cars are travelling.

The timing system also makes it much easier for intervals to be measured in seconds rather than in distance. This is because distance can be difficult to get a grasp of when you take into account the different speeds that cars are going and how this might be influencing the interval.

For example, a car might be physically closer around a hairpin simply because it’s a slower corner, but they still need to take the time to get around the corner. Through fast corners on the other hand the distance might be longer, but the cars are traveling faster, so the time difference between them is actually much smaller.

Measuring in seconds removes this variable as the time is recorded when both cars pass the exact same point on the circuit. This allows the system to get an accurate and consistent reading at different points on the track.

How Accurate Are Intervals In F1?

The intervals in Formula 1 are incredibly accurate. They can measure the time up to one ten thousandth of a second, even though it’s usually only reported to one thousandth. This allows the fans, drivers, and teams to see the exact gap between the cars and how it changed from corner to corner.

With the timing loops placed in 150 m intervals on the track, the time between cars is measured very frequently due to the speed F1 cars travel. This is the reason we can instantly see the leaderboard update when there has been an overtake or if a driver drops down the order due to a spin.

These state-of-the-art timing loops have helped to keep fans as up to date on what’s happening in the race as possible. If you go back just a couple of years, fans would have to wait for the next major sector to be given an update. This system has been a key piece of the puzzle to the immersive experience that Formula 1 brings to its viewers.

What Is The Smallest Winning Interval In F1?

The smallest winning interval in F1 was 0.01 seconds and it occurred at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1971. Peter Gethin beat 4 other cars over the line, with all five cars being separated by a mere 0.06 seconds. In 2002 a Ferrari one-two finished 0.011 seconds apart.

The closest finish in Formula 1 history came at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix. Monza, the temple of speed, was an even faster circuit back then without the chicanes that it has today. Chris Amon was looking at a sure victory as he held on to the lead of the race with just ten laps to go.

However, Amon was hit with mechanical trouble, leaving Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert, Peter Gethin, and Mike Hailwood all fighting for the victory at Monza. The famous Parabolica corner launched five cars onto the main straight where they all finished within 0.06 seconds of one another.

It was Gethin who took victory in his BRM over Ronnie Peterson by just 0.01 seconds. It’s a close call between this race and the 2002 US Grand Prix where Schumacher finished 0.011 seconds ahead of Barrichello. The problem is that Formula 1 only measured two decimal places in the 1970s, so we’ll never know the exact interval between first and second.

The Largest Winning Interval In F1

Winning by a large margin over the rest of the competition is quite a statement for a driver to make. Some drivers can absolutely dominate a race and finish way ahead of the rest of the field, and this shows just how great they performed.

The largest winning margin in Formula 1 history came at the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix. Despite taking victory at the first race of the season, Jackie Stewart only qualified fourth on the grid for the second round, while Jochen Rindt took pole position.

Stewart didn’t have a great start either, losing two places on the opening lap. In fact, it wasn’t until lap 56 when Stewart actually took the lead of the race, which makes this feat so much more impressive. Stewart inherited the lead from Chris Amon when his engine gave out.

From the lead of the race, Jackie Stewart powered ahead of the pack, lapping second place Bruce McLaren twice during the race. The final winning margin that Jackie Stewart had over McLaren was five minutes and 12 seconds – more than two laps.

Final Thoughts

Intervals refer to the gaps between F1 cars and they are very important. They allow fans to follow exactly where their favorite driver is, and they allow teams to plan strategies and know where their car will exit the pit lane. Finally, they also allow drivers to know when they’re vulnerable to DRS.