The steering wheelAn F1 car steering wheel is a custom-built device that, in addition to steering the car, feeds back to the... There's more... in an F1F1 is the pinnacle of open wheel, single seater car racing and arguably the highest level of any motorsport globally.... There's more... car is an insanely technical device that allows the driverOK, so we all know what the driver is, right. I've always liked the description that F1 drivers are like... There's more... to select predetermined modes and make small tweaks throughout the lap. This is a custom bit of kit, custom-designed for each team with subtle differences between drivers.
So what does it do? Way too much for us to cover in this post, but here are some of the key functions.
The cockpit in an F1 car is extremely tight so to assist the driver in getting in and out of the car, the steering wheel is removable through the use of a quick-release hub. The rules require the drivers to return the wheel to the steering column after they exit the car and they are not allowed to throw the wheel if they are annoyed.
The part the driver hangs onto to steer the car and access all of the settings. Some are close and can be activated without taking a hand off the wheels, some of the others require a split second for the driver to make the adjustment. The handles are moulded to the driver’s hands and can be made out of hard or soft materials.
The steering wheel display provides the driver with a myriad of data including RPMRevs Per Minute, or RPM, refers to the number of revolutions the engine performs per minute. A normal road car... There's more... Leds, current gear, lap times, various deltas (car in front, car behind, sectorF1 is a data-hungry sport with numerous sensors monitoring car performance, driver movements and position on the track. In addition,... There's more... splits), batteryThe Battery (ESS or Energy Storage System) is a key part of the modern hybrid PU in today's F1 cars.... There's more... charge status, and insight into their car’s performance and issues and access to various menus. The display can also be located on the chassisThe chassis in F1 is a monocoque or shell construction that uses an external carbon fibre skin to support most... There's more... as is favoured by WilliamsWilliams Racing is one of Formula 1's longest-running and most successful teams. Founded in 1977 by Frank Williams and Patrick... There's more....
A series of progressive LEDs that show the driver where the Revs are at and go from green to red when a gear change is needed.
Similar to the menu on any one of the digital devices we use in our lives. The driver can scroll through a series of menus to select the telemetrynoun: telemetry the process of recording and transmitting the readings of an instrument. "Data will be transferred by radio telemetry... There's more... data to be displayed or go deeper into engine modePower Unit (PU) modes are a combination of settings formatted into engine maps that allow the team to adjust the... There's more... options. And yes, there is an Accept, or Enter, button.
The link between the driver and his engineerRace Engineers are a team of experts who manage all aspects of the race and communicate with the driver when... There's more... on the pit wall. A critical tool for the driver to feedbackF1 is one of the most technologically advanced sports on the planet. The cars are full of sensors that constantly... There's more... observations to the team and for the engineer to give guidance on engine modes, when to push or not, and when to boxThe term Box comes from the German Boxenstopp, meaning pit stop and is used as a reference to the service... There's more... the car. Drivers can’t talk to each other.
The same as our road cars, F1 cars have neutral. Neutral will be activated by the anti-stallFormula 1 cars are extremely sensitive machines and like any petrol-powered car, they cars can stall. Given F1 cars don't... There's more... system to keep the car running when the revs drop to stalling point.
F1 cars have reverse, but it is not easy to find. You will often see a driver stuck in a precarious position, searching for reverse to try and recover the car.
The Race Start button sets the limiter to a specific speed to allow the car to launchLaunch - dual terms... F1 teams lunch their challenger at the beginning of each season, and drivers launch the car... There's more... at its optimum, with maximum accelerationAcceleration is a calculation of how fast it takes the car to go from zero to a set time, usually... There's more... and no wheelspin.
Every race is different with factors like altitudeMost of the races over a season are at sea level, however, Mexico and Brazil are at Altitude and have... There's more..., track surface, high speed vs slow corners, track temperature and weather conditions. And then there are all of the scenarios, puncture, safety carThe FIA runs the event and is responsible for the safety of the drivers, crew, marshals and spectators. To manage..., a spin or teammate position. All of the computations are figured out, and possible options are mapped out on the steering wheel’s rotary-knob strategy settings.
MGU-KThe MGU-K (Kinetic) harvests energy from the decelerating wheels back to the energy store for later use. The power created... There's more... Settings
An F1 car’s hybridThe current Formula 1 regulations require the cars to be hybrids. Instead of conventional hybrid systems, with an electric motor,... There's more... powertrain is a highly complex system and the teams need to plan for every possible scenario – including QualifyingQualifying (Quali) is a one-hour session used to determine pole position and the order the cars will line up behind... There's more... mode, race phase, wet weather, low fule loads, engine failures or safety cars – so the team’s engineers design custom engine maps the driver can control through a rotary knob on the wheel.
This function does as the word states. When the driver experiences something that needs to be reviewed at a later date, like wheelspin, missed gear or unexpected engine behaviour, the driver can push the mark button and record to a precise moment so the team can go back and review it.
The differential balance is used to adjust the setting through a cornerIn formula 1, a corner is much more than a turn on the track, it is a considered and deliberate... There's more...., shifting the balance left or right. Controlled via a single scroll knob or a set of scroll knobs allow the driver to change the setup in small increments to maximise the balance for every corner.
Like differential balance, the brake balance is also controlled through a scroll knob that can adjust the setup in small increments. Drivers can change the balance during the race, ensuring that they have the right balance for each corner.
Energy recovery, or harvestingHarvesting refers to the capture and storage of, otherwise lost, energy for use on a flying lap or when needed... There's more..., allows the driver to recovering energy from teh MGU-HThe MGU-H (Heat) uses excess exhaust gases from the engine to feed power to the energy store, which is then... There's more... or MGU-K and store it in the battery for deploymentBattery deployment purely refers to the battery being used to create more power. This can either be from the engine... There's more... when needed. The red lights at the rear of the car flash to signal when the car is harvesting power. So in qualifying, for example, a driver might do two preparation laps to get teh tires up to temprature, but also to get maximum charge in the batteries.
Given that pit crews consist of humans who are, let’s just say, fragile in their construction, you don’t really want race cars coming into the pitsThe Pits refers to the area immediately outside a team's garage where they are able to work on the car,... There's more... at 200 mph. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, F1’s rules set maximum pit-lane speed at 50.5 mph. There’s a button that limits the car’s speed as it enters pit laneThe Pit lane is a 3.5m wide access lane that runs parallel to the race track that the cars use... There's more... so the driver doesn’t have to worry about delicately balancing the right foot on the throttle pedal to maintain that specific speed.
After hearing in comms to “box”, the drivers confirm manually that they heard the communication and that they will be pitting on that specific lap. This is important to ensure the pit crew is ready for the right car when it comes in.
OvertakeAn overtake is when one car passes another. It sounds obvious but it is not as simple as that. The... There's more...
The Overtake button gives the driver a short boost in engine and hybrid power and can be deployed to assist in a pass. Also known to some as push-to-pass.
DRSThe Drag Reduction System (DRS), is designed to do exactly what it says, reduce drag, resulting in the recipient gaining... There's more...
DRS (Drag-reduction system) activation. The button opens the rear wingF1 cars require dowforce to travel and corner at such significant speeds, with the rear wing generating approximately 20% of... There's more... to reduce drownforce and therefore dragDrag is the resistance caused by air hitting a solid object as it is propelled forward. When the solid object... There's more..., giving the car around 12 – 15 kph of extra speed. The DRS is closed automatically as soon as the driver brakesF1 car brakes are similar to normal road cars, only they are made with different materials and operate under considerably... There's more..., returning the downforceDownforce is a measure of how much vertical aerodynamic load is created by a Formula 1 car’s aerodynamic surfaces. The... There's more... to the car for the rapidly approaching corner.
F1 steering wheels have at least two sets of paddles and sometimes three. The frst two are for the clutchAll cars with a gearbox use a clutch to engage the engine and deliver power to the transmission. F1 cars... There's more... and gear shifting. Where you see a third set they may be set to give the driver quick access to specific strategic settings, engine setups, overtake mode, DRS, etc.
F1 drivers lose several kilos during a race so hydration is important. A button on the steering wheel activates a pump that supplies fluids through a drinks hose.
Drivers have the ability to have their own unique setup mapped and associated with a button. This may be a starting sequence, a set-up for a particular corner or anything you can imagine.
Other Secret Buttons
All sport is driven by competition so therefore innovation and advances in technology. F1 is at the cutting edge when it comes to pushing the limits and finding an edge, so it is reasonable to expect that there are functions within the steering wheel that are closely guarded secrets.
DASDual-Axis Steering, or DAS, is an innovation that appeared on the Mercedes in 2020. The team's engineers added a function... There's more...
DAS or Dual Access Steering was a MercedesMercedes-Benz, a brand of the Mercedes-Benz Group, has been involved in Formula One as both team owner and engine manufacturer... There's more... AMGAn iconic sports car brand, AMG was founded in 1967 by two former Mercedes-Benz engineers. The company would go by... There's more... innovation introduced in 2020 (and banned at the end of that year) that allowed the driver to change the toe of the front wheels by sliding the steering column in or out.