Formula 1 interval
David Merrett /

Even away from all of the obvious technical engineering language, Formula One is as confusing as any other sport when it comes to its recognised jargon and colloquialisms. Intervals are often mentioned during F1 coverage. On the timing screen, there is whole lot of information to keep track of but it’s simple once you know how to read it.

As you can imagine, there is all sorts of complex data to follow during a Formula 1 weekend. Where the drivers stand, the number of laps completed, how fast each car is going, pit stops, tyre wear, fuel usage, and so much more besides. Because of that, broadcasters show watchers as many infographics as they can so that you have the option to keep track of it yourself. Sometimes, however, those graphics will feature terms you aren’t sure of, including ‘intervals’.

The Time Difference Recorded Between Each Driver

F1 drivers neck and neck
Kimi Räikkönen /

During each racing broadcast there is a timing screen. On it, you may see ‘interval’ written at the top. The interval number refers to the times shown for each driver and are placed in order of where they are on the track. Put simply, the interval is the time difference recorded between each driver. So, for example, should Sergio Perez be leading a race with Fernando Alonso chasing him down in second, there will, of course, be a time difference between the two. If next to Alonso’s name there is a +0.436, then it means he is 0.436 seconds behind the leader.

This, of course, carries on as you go down the field. Should Max Verstappen be behind Alonso in third and he has a +2.158 next to his name, then he is 2.158 seconds behind Alonso in second. These times and distances, or intervals, are automatically recorded as the cars scorch around the circuit. Occasionally, the numbers change and aren’t intervals but instead time gaps from the car in question to the leader. When the graphic changes and states “leader”, then the numbers shown represent how far each car is behind the car in first place.

In this case, third-placed Verstappen is 2.158 seconds behind Alonso who in turn is 0.436 seconds behind the leader, Perez. Verstappen therefore would have a graphic reading +2.594 which is the overall time gap between himself and the leader. This carries on all the way down the field. Each driver as an interval time between themselves and the one in front, as well as how far behind the leader they are overall.

You may even see graphics showing how far the 8th placed driver is from the third, as the commentators may believe the driver in question has a chance of reaching the podium and their progress will be checked repeatedly. The F1 terminology isn’t always self-explanatory. Once you have it explained, however, it really isn’t too difficult to grasp and really does help you to take in more of what is going on and enjoy the experience much more.