HOW DOES AN F1 STEERING WHEEL WORK?
It may look like a Playstation controller on steroids, but this is F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton’s steering wheel. Engineers working for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team have laid out all of the important steering elements so the British driver can reach them with his thumbs, without needing to take his hands off the custom-made grips. That makes the wheel safer to use because it means even the tightest hairpin bends don’t require hand acrobatics. Changing the steering wheel only takes a few seconds when there’s a problem – the settings are saved onto the car’s computer. Such a specialised bit of kit doesn’t come cheap, though. Each steering wheel will set you back $73,000.
This dial allows Hamilton to control how much power is delivered to each of the wheels and, therefore, the speed at which they spin when turning a corner. By changing the setting, he can limit the amount of underand oversteer. It also impacts fuel consumption and the wear and tear of the tyres.
The drag reduction system opens a wing flap at the back of the car, giving a short speed boost of around 12km/h. However, this tool is only permitted on certain stretches, or “zones”, of track.
3 SKIP 1/10 PRESET
This button allows Hamilton to access all the 100 control sensors in his car. It can be used to turn off faulty sensors or activate other ones for tactical reasons.
Press this once and the gearbox switches to neutral. Press and hold for reverse gear. The button is located on the front of the steering wheel and not on the back with the gear levers to ensure that it’s not pressed by accident.
5 PIT-LANE SPEED LIMITER 6 PIT CONFIRM
The Limiter restricts the car to 80km/h. Hamilton hits the Pit Confirm button to give the okay to a message from his crew.
7 BRAKE BALANCE
These buttons control the delicate balance, or bias, between the front and rear brakes. It’s crucial that Hamilton gets the bias spot on: too much rear braking will make the car spin, while being heavyhanded with the front brakes will stop the car from turning in.
Similar to 6. Another button used to confirm messages or instructions from the team of engineers in the pits.
If Hamilton notices something unusual, such as a dodgysounding engine, he can mark the potentially damaged part or system error for later analysis.
10 STRATEGY REGULATOR
Instead of having to scroll up and down through lots of different options, this button means Hamilton can quickly switch between preset modes such as a high-performance or energy-saving setting.
11 MULTI-FUNCTION DIAL 12 HPP REGULATOR
These two dials regulate settings such as braking, cruise control and torque, as well as managing the fuel mixtures and ignition timings in the engines to suit different weather conditions.
13 RACE START
At the start of the race, the car has to reach its maximum performance level within seconds. Pressed shortly before the race begins, the Race Start button gets Hamilton off the line as quickly as possible.
One of the most important functions in the car: over the team radio, Hamilton can communicate with his team in the pits during the race and quickly let them know about any unfolding problems.