What a green track is in Formula 1 – and why it causes problems for the drivers

F1 drivers face a variety of conditions during a season, a green track being just one of them. What exactly does this mean and how does it affect drivers?

Wet, dry or somewhere in between, F1 drivers have to adapt their driving style to track conditions every time they hit the track.

Maybe there will be a headwind in the big braking zone at the end of the pit lane, which means you can be a bit later and take more speed with you.

Maybe that same wind shifted 180 degrees between qualifying and the race, meaning there’s a tailwind if you drop anchor and hope it stops.

Adaptation is everything, with one requirement for drivers being a ‘green’ track.

What does a “green” track actually mean in Formula 1 and how does it challenge the drivers?

Photo by Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images

What is a green track in F1?

A “green” track in F1 does not refer to the actual color of the racing surface – unless you are driving the Virtual Racing Line in the official F1 video game…

Instead it relates to the condition of the track and an apparent lack of grip.

At the start of a race weekend, when there have been no cars on the surface, the track is said to be ‘green’, meaning it’s not rubberized and isn’t as fast as it can be.

It lacks grip, but as more F1 cars – and those in the frame series like Formula 2 and the W Series – turn laps, more rubber is broken down.

Once a track is gummed up, it is no longer referred to as a green track.

The associated challenges

Obviously, when the track is ‘green’ in F1, drivers with a lack of grip cannot push as hard as they normally would.

Attempting to take a corner at full throttle in eighth gear for the first 10 minutes of training usually ends with a one-way trip through the litter box and a nice chat with a barrier.

Sometimes a track can even turn green again after qualifying and just before the race.

If it rains heavily overnight, the laid rubber can be washed away, leaving the track in the same condition as if it were ‘green’.

Until a track is fully broken in, drivers will take things easy and remember that you can’t win the race in practice or qualifying, but you can certainly lose.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

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Zack Zwiezen

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