F1 Steering Wheel buttons, lights and rotary dials

Steering Wheel Setup :

The steering wheel in an F1 car is an insanely technical device that allows the driver 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. 

Quick-Release Hub

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 RPM Leds, current gear, lap times, various deltas (car in front, car behind, sector splits), battery charge status, and insight into their car’s performance and issues and access to various menus. The display can also be located on the chassis as is favoured by Williams

RPM-Indicator LEDs

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 telemetry data to be displayed or go deeper into engine mode options. And yes, there is an Accept, or Enter, button.


The link between the driver and his engineer on the pit wall. A critical tool for the driver to feedback observations to the team and for the engineer to give guidance on engine modes, when to push or not, and when to box 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-stall 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. 

Race Start

The Race Start button sets the limiter to a specific speed to allow the car to launch at its optimum, with maximum acceleration and no wheelspin. 

Strat Settings

Every race is different with factors like altitude, track surface, high speed vs slow corners, track temperature and weather conditions. And then there are all of the scenarios, puncture, safety car, 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-K Settings

An F1 car’s hybrid powertrain is a highly complex system and the teams need to plan for every possible scenario – including Qualifying 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. 

Differential Balance

The differential balance is used to adjust the setting through a corner., 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.

Brake Balance

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

Energy recovery, or harvesting, allows the driver to recovering energy from teh MGU-H or MGU-K and store it in the battery for deployment 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. 

Pit-Lane Speed

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 pits 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 lane so the driver doesn’t have to worry about delicately balancing the right foot on the throttle pedal to maintain that specific speed. 

Pit Confirm

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. 


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. 


DRS (Drag-reduction system) activation. The button opens the rear wing to reduce drownforce and therefore drag, giving the car around 12 – 15 kph of extra speed. The DRS is closed automatically as soon as the driver brakes, returning the downforce 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 clutch 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.

Dealers choice

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.


DAS or Dual Access Steering was a Mercedes AMG 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. 




Andrew Burden

The author Kiwi F1 Fan

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