A Formula 1 race car driver must be at their best. They must have super-fast response times, high levels of intelligence, the ability to multitask and think tactically and strategically while having a deep understanding of the F1 car’s technologies. It helps, too, that they are also world-class driver!
Unfortunately, the F1 teams do not publish the exact cost of their racing cars’ steering wheels; however, it is estimated that Formula 1 steering wheels cost between $40,000 and $100,000. These complex devices serve multiple functions in the car and are extremely complicated.
Each driver’s steering wheel is uniquely designed for the driver. Even within teams, the two drivers may have different steering wheels as defined by the F1 drivers’ personal preferences. We will show you why these instruments are so costly as we go through the article.
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Why is a Formula 1 steering wheel so expensive?
Formula 1 cars have a steering wheel that acts as the primary repository for information.
F1 Steering Wheels are Made from Expensive Materials
F1 steering wheels are made from the following primary materials:
- Carbon fiber
Every wheel is made up of hundreds of components. These components include the steering wheel, display, circuitry and circuit boards, carbon enclosure, quick-release mechanism, electrical connectors, as well as steering.
Drivers will use three to four steering wheels per season. Each wheel requires 80 manhours to construct.
Formula 1 Steering Wheel Very Important
It would be difficult for drivers to function at their best without the F1 steering wheels.
F1 Wheels Follow the Same Principles as Military Aircraft
Fighter jets use a system called HOTAS (Hands-On Stick And Throttle) so that the pilot can
- Move the aircraft
- Adjust the throttle
- The radio should be activated
- Control the radar
- Activate the defensive systems
- Fire the ordinance
- Turn the steering wheel to the nose
without taking their hands off the “stick.” It makes it possible to fully concentrate on flying the mission without looking down and finding the controls in the cockpit.
F1 Steering Wheels Allow The Driver To Optimize The Workload
F1 racing drivers operate at the very limits of their own and the vehicle’s capabilities.
F1 driving is intense and carries a heavy workload. Drivers would only need to be at one corner on an F1 circuit.
- In the company of other drivers at the same speed (200 mph), you can speed down a straightaway at 300 km/h (200 miles per hour).
- Slow down to 50 km/h by applying a 6g brake force. F1 brakes do not require assistance and must be activated with more than 150 kgs muscle.
- As they turn into the corner, they adjust the differential to increase the car’s ability to rotate.
- You will feel a 4g lateral force (sideways) when you turn the steering wheel
- You can speed down the straight and feel a 2g acceleration force.
- If necessary, drivers should also activate or deactivate DRS wings.
- They also must manage the MGU-H and MGU-K systems to ensure the battery is sufficiently charged so they can defend or attack a competitor.
F1 cars can lap most circuits in less than 2 minutes. During this period, the driver will shift gears approximately once per 30 seconds.
This demanding work is repeated by drivers in cockpits at temperatures exceeding 112° Fahrenheit (45° Celsius), and can last up to 70 laps for as long as two hours.
The driver must also be mindful of other factors.
- The condition of the car’s tires.
- The temperature of your brakes and tires.
- The engine temperature.
- Fuel levels.
- The condition and wear on each wheel.
- Their competitors’ positions and any potential threats.
- You can see the tactical opportunities, but you also need to keep an eye on the longer-term strategic picture.
- Discussions with the team about strategy and other factors.
The driver must constantly adjust the brake bias settings, activate and deactivate DRS wings, maximize energy regeneration systems, and respond to the many downloads of information.
Without a central system that delivers filtered data to the driver, it would be difficult to handle such a heavy workload.
Drivers should not be distracted by anything but the race.
This is the purpose of the F1 steering wheel.
What Can An F1 Driver Control With The Steering Wheel?
The steering wheels are not separate for the accelerator and brake controls. All other controls are available via the controls mounted on to the steering wheel.
F1 steering wheels include 25 buttons and switches, as well as the clutch and gearshift paddles.
Steering the Car
The steering wheel’s primary function is to move the car.
The driver must be able, at all times, to control the steering wheel without having to reach for their hands.
It must be of the right size and shape to optimize its performance. F1 steering wheels have a width of 27 cm.
Releasing the Clutch and Selecting Gear
F1 racing cars use semi-automatic sequential gearboxes. This technology allows you to select the next gear immediately, up or down by simply adjusting the paddle at the steering wheel.
During the race, your clutch will automatically control. The clutch can be engaged by pulling the paddle at the wheel. When the car starts moving, the clutch automatically activates when a new gear selection is made.
Adjusting the Brakes
The steering wheel has several buttons and switches that enable the driver to change the car’s brake settings.
These controls allow drivers to adjust the brake force applied to the front or back to optimize braking at different corners.
The engine braking can also be adjusted by the driver.
Setting the Differential Settings
Other controls let the driver adjust the amount torque delivered to each of the wheels. These settings can be adjusted several times per corner by the driver.
By changing the torque to each wheel, the driver can use the engine to ‘steer’ the car through the corners. This setting can also be used to prevent the rear wheel spinning from being accelerated out of bends by applying too much acceleration.
Drag Reduction System (DRS).
The following driver presses a button at the wheel when the F1 car is in the DRS zone. This raises a flap on the rear wing and decreases airflow drag.
This can vary depending on the circuit and increase speed by up to 10 km/h (6 mph).
How to Control the Power Unit Settings
This switch controls the Power Unit modes and will impact both the internal combustion engine’s performance and the deployment of electrical energy of the MGU-K and change the recovery of energy of both MGU-K and MGU-H.
All data is displayed on an information screen
More than 20 sets of information are available to the driver.
These data include
- The engine revs.
- The Real-Time Speed
- Average speed
- Use of fuel.
- Fuel remaining.
- The tire wear rate.
- The Tire pressures
- Speed required to maintain the safety car’s delta.
- Red, yellow, or black flag warnings by the race director
- How far ahead is the car in front, measured in terms of time?
- Battery energy status
- Braking System Bias.
- The team uses a messaging system.
- The race director will issue warnings.
- Lap Number.
- You’re welcome to take laps.
- The fastest lap times
- The current lap times.
- The Last lap of Time.
- The difference between lap times
Building an F1 car is an enormously expensive exercise, and even with the 2021 caps will still cost upwards of 145million (£102million). The steering wheel is an intricate piece of equipment, which takes many manhours and can be personalized.
Considering the complexity of the wheel and its importance to the F1 driver at under $100,000 (£70,000), it seems a bargain!