All the secrets of an F1 steering wheel explained! (2/2)

In this second episode, we show, with exclusive images, why the steering wheel is the real control center of a Formula 1 car.

When a Formula 1 car drives in a race, its tank is emptied and its tires degrade. Throughout the laps, its behavior will therefore evolve between oversteer and understeer, with changing balance and traction depending on the conditions of the track.

In short, constant adjustments are needed to stay fast. Because the equipment can only change the angle of the front wing during a pit stop, the driver makes all other adjustments related to the chassis on the steering wheel: brake balance, differential, and so on.

CHASSIS CONFIGURATION: BRAKING

Before 2014 and the “cable brake”, the pilot adjusted the balance of the brake with a knob or a lever in the cabin. Today, brake balance, an essential parameter in the development of an F1 car, is adjusted to the steering wheel using a button marked “BB” (for “Brake Balance”) on Mercedes, “BS” on Ferrari the “BBAL” at Red Bull. It is often assisted by BB– and BB + buttons that the pilot presses with his thumb. Giving the driver more or less front or rear brake helps him to turn the car when braking or not to lock the wheels with worn tires.

Associated with braking, the “BMIG” wheel for “Brake Migration” allows you to modulate the braking effort between the front and rear. During braking, a load transfer occurs. F1 cars use this transfer to their advantage by moving the braking effort forward at the start of braking, when the driver begins to depress the pedal. Then, when you release the pedal slowly to avoid hitching, the forward load transfer is reduced. Therefore, at this time, the braking power can be transferred to the rear.

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

The pilot can adjust the migration of the brakes turn by turn using a wheel.

“Just before a bend, explains a Mercedes engineeryou can shift the braking effort almost completely to the rear to give the car a little oversteer, allowing it to turn faster, as if it were the handbrake of a road car.

At the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix, track engineer Pete Bonnington (known as “Bono”) warned Hamilton: “Front brakes are at the limit. You have to select B-bal 56 or be careful.” To answer him, the Briton pressed the “SPEAK” button: “Tell me when I can get my brakes back on.”and received the following instruction: “You can attack again. Choose point BITE 3. The HPP configuration in a few moments.

Some configurations are rarer and cannot be done using direct commands. Changing the transmission settings, for example, is done by selecting “gearbox” on a dial and then entering a numeric code. If the pilot listens to “GB 35” on the radio, press the “+10” button three times and the “+1” button five times.

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

CHASSIS CONFIGURATION: THE DIFFERENTIAL

The differential is one of the many parameters on which the pilot can intervene.

In curves, this system allows the drive wheels to rotate at different speeds to facilitate cornering and limit tire wear. The inner wheels have a lower rotation speed than the outer wheels as they travel a shorter distance.

In Formula 1 cars (as in sports cars), the differential is self-locking, ie it limits the difference in rotational speed between the two wheels, so that the torque of the rotating wheel is returned to the wheel with more grip under force. acceleration.

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

The differential can be more or less open during the three phases of a turn: input, middle and output. The steering wheels usually have a slider for the corner entrance (“ENTRY” in Mercedes, Red Bull, Alpine – “DIF IN” in Ferrari) and another for the center (“MID” Mercedes, Red Bull, Alpine – “DIF MID” at Ferrari). ).

“The differential adjusts to flying, explains Esteban Ocon a F1i. At the entrance to the corner, the differential is locked (that is, the two wheels turn at the same speed): the car is more stable, the rear is planted, it moves little “.

“In the middle of a turn, the differential is open (the two wheels turn freely): then we have a good front axle. At the exit, finally, the differential is rather locked to have good traction.

“These changes are automatic, because they are programmed: the driver activates them in the straight line before the turn and returns to the ‘normal’ mode after having negotiated the curve. Above, the engineer will predefine a configuration for the entire lap according to the speeds and the ‘g’ of the turns.

Also well placed, the control that activates the drag reduction system is either a button (called “DRS” in Mercedes, “K2” in Ferrari) or a palette installed behind the wheel (DRS ”To Red Bull).

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

ENGINE CONFIGURATION

Given the complexity of current engines, it is not uncommon to find a large number of controls related to their operation at the wheel. These control both the operation of the V6 turbo and the deployment of electrical energy, recovered by the MGU-K and MGU-H.

In Mercedes, for example, the three knobs on the bottom of the steering wheel refer to the management of the “power unit”. First, the strategic dial “STRAT”, graduated up to 16, is used to adjust the energy recovery of the ERS as well as the different maps of the turbo V6, according to the needs and fuel consumption.

Second, the purple button in the center of the steering wheel regulates several parameters: “WET” (for rain), “BRIG”, “DASH” (for “Dashboard”: the screen), “BITE” (sicfor the clutch), “DISP”, “EXIT” … These commands combine several adjustments in a position of the dial, in order to increase the performance of the engine, or its useful life, to manage the consumption, according to the circumstances.

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

For example, the “TRQ” knob (in Ferrari) – or “TORQ” (Red Bull) and “TORQUE” (Alpine) – modifies the torque offered by the engine and the way it adapts to the driver’s pressure. on the accelerator pedal. You may want to reduce the torque to medium revs to facilitate steering by “smoothing out” the torque curve and saving the tires.

Although the torque button is located on most steering wheels, the number and function of the different controls depends on the engine. Moving from the Mercedes block to the Ferrari V6, Valtteri Bottas had to learn how to use his “power unit” differently:

“There are two different things: energy deployment and strategy, observes the Finnish pilot. With the Ferrari engine, the driver has to do many things manually, while in the Mercedes there are more automatic modes, such as “attack” or “defense”. The driver has more responsibility with a Ferrari V6, at least in Alfa Romeo. “

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

Finally, third, the right turquoise wheel determines different power-related values. It’s called “HPP,” for “High Performance Powertrain,” which is also the name of Mercedes ’engine department located in Brixworth.

Each number corresponds to a specific combination of mixing richness and injection time, which must be selected according to track conditions, including rainfall.

The four engine manufacturers each have their own configuration. At the wheel of the Ferrari, for example, the “WU” selection on the center knob adorned with the Rampant Horse indicates the warm-up time of the internal combustion engine, while “PSH” means “pre-start heat level.”

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

THE FINGERS OF ENGINEERS

Full of sensors, a Formula 1 car sends millions of measurements to the pits via telemetry.

On the other hand, garage engineers cannot send any instructions to the car. If they detect something in the data stream that needs to be fixed (an overheated engine, a faulty sensor that needs to be cut, etc.), they should ask the driver to make the change at the wheel, turning a dial and pressing a button. , or by entering a numeric code …

Which isn’t easy at 300km / h, but scrolling through a screen, counting button presses, or pulling the steering wheel (as in Mercedes ’2021 DAS system) is part of the job!

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

That’s why drivers need to know their steering wheel upside down, as it changes from season to season:

“The steering wheel is constantly evolving, explain a F1i our dear interlocutor Jody Egginton. Its appearance often remains the same, but its functionality can be changed. For example, if you change the engine manufacturer, the settings related to the powertrain will be completely different. And then, depending on the season, the regulations, you can play more in one setting than another, have more complicated differential adjustments, and so on.

“It is something that the pilot has to learn every year, because many elements are reviewed from one year to the next. Normally, when we’re sure the driver is comfortable with the setup, we release the steering wheel specification at the end of the winter tests. ”

Steering wheel F1, F1 2022, Technique, steering wheel, buttons, steering, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc

THE BUTTON WAR

That said, no one is infallible and the pilots are wrong.

During qualifying for the last Monaco Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton mistakenly selected “16” on the “STRAT” wheel by turning it to the left instead of going to the right for “STRAT 2”, the more appropriate way for classification). As he lacked top speed, he realized his mistake, interrupted the lap and left again for another attempt, but too late.

In Baku last year, he mistakenly pressed the “brake magic” button, which caused him to fire directly and lose valuable points in his duel with Max Verstappen. In 2019, the Dutch rider spent almost the entire Monaco Grand Prix in the wrong pair mode, forgetting to return to standard mode after the pit stop.

That’s why teams add plastic contours (see the yellow arrows above in Mercedes) or small spacers, to avoid unintentional pressures.

Sometimes the steering wheels give great results to Formula 1 drivers!

THE “TECHNICAL EYE” SERIES: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TECHNIQUE IN FORMULA 1

– DRS; anatomy of a device

– What is a flat fund for in Formula 1?

– The station’s secrets in Formula 1

– How is a Formula 1 seat made?

– Why is hydraulics essential?

– What are the functions of the front wing?

– What are the different concepts of the front wing?

– DRS, anatomy of a device

– How does the suspension of a Formula 1 car work? (first part)

—Why is it important to cool down?

– How are tires chosen?

– The tire, the mystery and the rubber ball (1/2)

– The tire, the mystery and the rubber ball (2/2)

– How to place the tires in the correct “operating window”?

– How does the suspension of a Formula 1 car work? (second part)

– The gearbox, much more than a transmission

– The direction of a deciphered Formula 1

– Secrets of the gas tank

– How to place the tires in the correct “operating window”?

– Why are side deflectors so important?

– What is the purpose of an S conduit?

– What are the rotating paddles used for?

– What are the front brake blades for?

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