The steering wheel of a F1 car has now evolved into a modern day marvel which allows the driver to adjust hundreds of parameters at speeds of more than 180 mph. The steering wheel allows the driver access to numerous information about different car systems and allows him to change various settings such as differential, engine fuel mixture, clutch settings etc.,
The Picture here is of steering wheel of a Sauber C33. So, let’s take a deeper look into this great piece of engineering.
The screen, which you seen in the picture is a PCU-8D LCD Screen, which has been made by the McLaren Electronics. The screen is 4.3 inches wide with a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels. It can display numerous pages of information such as lap count, lap times, split times, gear indicator and much other information.
This displays the engine lights and allows for optimal gear shifting as the lights give the driver indication when to shift to a higher gear. This also displays engine warnings.
The neutral button is yellow coloured (in here) and its function is to put the car into neutral from 1stgear. So, when the driver wants to engage neutral he has to keep the N button pressed and has to downshift beyond first gear to get into neural. If the N button is not pressed the gearbox won’t downshift beyond 1st gear so it’s a fail-safe mechanism to prevent engaging neutral during a race.
On reaching the DRS Zone if the driver is within limits to engage the DRS he gets a beep in his ear which confirms that he is within a second of the car ahead and can make use of the drag reduction system button to get closer to car ahead and maybe even overtake.
The box button, which is below the neutral, when pressed, informs the pit wall that the driver is going to come into the pits.
BRAKE BAL SWITCH:
This adjusts the front and the rear brake balance.
BRK+ AND BRK- BUTTONS: (Denoted by orange and green respectively.)
These change the brake balance between a programmed position and the current BRKBAL rotary position.
ENTRY ROTARY SWITCH:
This allows the driver to change the differential settings as he goes through different corners. Differential mainly helps adjust the speed at which different wheels rotate, like the speed of the left and the right wheel can be adjusted differently. The settings usually change from corner to corner but it also depends on how the driver likes the car to behave into the corner.
(VISCO- Indicates Differential exit settings which has been described later)
Acknowledge confirming set-up changes. Also used when the driver’s radio is not working properly to indicate a ‘Yes’ response
Differential Offset Torque Rotary Switch: (Indicated by PREL)
This is used to control the engine torque settings. Basically, controls the torque or the power being delivered by the engine. So, when the track conditions are poor such as during rain or when the track is new and greasy the driver can set the engine torque to a lower value which will allow for smoother drive. On the other hand if the track is offering good grip, the torque settings can be maximised to get the optimal performance.
The oil Button is used by the driver to activate the auxiliary oil tank for the engine. This is done when there is a failure of main oil pump.
BP(Bite point) Button:
This button is used to activate the clutch bite point find procedure. Finding the bite point is of utmost importance in making good starts of the line so finding the optimal bite point is very important and it differs from the circuit to circuit. The drivers usually find the clutch bite point during the three free practice sessions.
Tyre Rotary Dial:
This is used to select the circumference of the tyre, and to adjust the electronics according to the different circumferences. So, there are different settings for each type of tyre. In the picture, you can also see the three colour coding red, yellow and green, these are used by the driver to indicate the degradation so that the pit crew can plan the strategy accordingly.
Fuel Rotary Dial:
This is used to change the engine fuel mixture i.e more the fuel going into the engine more will be the power delivery. Therefore, this rotary dial is used to control the fuel consumption and so is of great importance strategy wise.
Multifunction Rotary Dial:
DIAG: Controls the default system.
PERF: Controls the engine modes.
ENG: Controls the Rev limiter.
DASH: Controls dashboard options.
CC: Cruise control; deactivated for qualifying and race.
SHIFT: Controls the shift type.
CLU: Controls clutch bite point offset.
TURBO: Controls the turbo-compressor.(Part of the Turbocharger)
VISCO: Differential corner exit setting.
BRK: Controls MGU-K(Motor Generator Unit) recovery limits.
BOOST: Controls MGU-K boost limits.
OT (Overtake) Button
Pressing this button activates different settings, which give optimal performance required by the driver in case he needs to overtake the car in front.
Pedal Map Switch:
This is used to change the pedal maps i.e when the driver presses on the accelerator pedal how much acceleration has to be offered or how much braking has to be applied when he presses on the brakes. Also, how much the driver has to press to get certain amount of acceleration and braking can also be set using this switch.
Controls the energy harvest system i.e the ERS. This switch is used to either generate or consume energy during a lap.
This button when pressed prevents the car from going above the pitlane speed limit.
Reverse Button (R):
This is used to put the car into the reverse gear. But the way in which this button works is similar to the working of the neutral button. So, when the driver want to engage the reverse gear he presses the R button and then downshifts using the downshift lever to the reverse gear. However, if the R button is not kept pressed the car won’t downshift beyond first gear so it’s a fail-safe system to prevent engagement of reverse gear during normal race proceedings.
Apart from these buttons and dials there are also two gear levers(one for up-shift and other for down-shift) and two clutch levers mounted at the back of the steering wheel. In addition, the button layout and configuration is different for different teams and even for two drivers driving for the same team. So, the steering wheel layout mainly depends on driver preferences and on his ease of access. (Nishant Raj)