At speed around Spa in the latest Formula 1 simulator
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Aug 2011   |  11:02 am GMT  |  76 comments

This morning I had the chance to drive in the latest generation mobile simulator, which has been designed and built for Shell by ex Ferrari and Red Bull electronics chief Anton Stipinovitch.

The simulator, based on a 2009 Ferrari chassis with 2011 electronics, is due to be launched publicly later today, but I had an early go this morning here at the circuit and it’s mind blowing.

Stipinovitch’s company, All in Sports, is based in Modena and does a lot of work with Ferrari on their in house simulator. The new mobile version, which Shell plans to take to events all over the world, uses the same graphics as the Ferrari simulator, which are accurate to 5mm!

Sim designer Anton Stipinovitch

It has mini actuators to simulate movement. Belt tighteners also convey some sense of G Forces to the body, but Stipinovitch says that G Seats are the next step in simulator technology. These will simulate the physical challenge of driving an F1 car and will mean that teams can do away with the huge pods on giant hydraulic rams, which are the basis of many simulators. Once that technology has been rolled out on the factory based units, it will come to mobile sims like this one and then fans can experience something very close to the reality.

The steering wheel is full of state of the art 2011 electronics, using the McLaren made FIA ECU which all teams must use. The software allows engineers to work on set up, aero balance and all the usual parametres.

Driving the car out of the Spa pits and heading down the hill to Eau Rouge, you get a real sense of what it is like, as the tyres are cold and the downforce hasn’t loaded up the car yet, passing gingerly through Eau Rouge, you accelerate up through the gears to around 310km/h before the first serious braking zone at Les Combes. Here you can feel the downforce blend away. Once the tyres are up to temperature and you get the feel for the downforce, the double left hander at Pouhon is really fantastic, but I couldn’t get through the Bus Stop chicane without spinning; the car really is sensitive through there.

The simulator is deliberately not set up to make it easy, it is the real thing, as the F1 drivers use it and it gives you a real insight into how tricky these cars are to drive at low speed. It’s hard enough to get into the area where the downforce is doing what it should, without even beginning to push the limits and find the final few tenths of a second; to me this is unimaginable.

With strict testing bans in place, simulators are becoming increasingly important in F1, both for setting up cars, testing new developments and for training drivers. Stipinovitch works closely with the Ferrari Driver Academy, run by Luca Balidisserri and with drivers like Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez.

As well as helping drivers stay sharp when they have no chance to go testing, simulators are vital for training drivers to use new systems and switches for DRS, KERS, brake bias and many other controls. Training drivers to be better at multi tasking is now a huge growth area in F1.

I found the whole experience fascinating and you will too if you get a chance to try it. Shell plans to travel widely with it and to give as many fans and guests the chance to experience it as possible and get closer to an understanding of the sport and what the drivers experience.

I’ll talk to them about trying to get some JA on F1 readers onto it at some point. It’s something all F1 fans should try to experience.

It is a simulator like this which Robert Kubica will be using when he steps back into the cockpit next month for the first occasion since his accident in February.

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Hi James,

I can't wait for this sim to go travelling, after attempting karting recently I can't wait to get back out on a track, even if it's virtual!



This available NOW .... with Oversteer ( Circling ) therefore G suits would give you this -


Oops ... sorry meant to say ... Wouldn't give you this...


James you could at least give us a video!


Where abouts do you live Andrew? If you're in the UK I reckon you'd love a track day in a formula renault.I karted at Uni and this was a great next step, really lets you feel what a single seater is like! Check your local circuit, or if you don't mind travelling get down to Thruxton. Amazing.


I live in London, trying to get myself a track day soon. I've got one lined up in a Caterham 7, but my feet don't fit, so I'm considering chopping off a couple of toes!


P.S. for the inevitable replies, I'm UK size 11 3/4 or Euro 47.


Hahaha, understand totally about the toe removal! I canc confirm that I have size eleven feet and a stupidly long body and I manged to shoe-horn myself in without losing anything other than my dignity!


Hi James,

This looks fascinating. What was you best lap time compared to the F1 drivers?

Alastair Baldwin

OK, I'll ask. How much is it?


...and will it fit in my living room without having to call the builders in.


And what was you personal best lap time?


Didn't manage a spin free lap!


Is it the camera angle or are you look a bit wide in Eau Rouge shot posted above? Did you manage to go flat out there?

If there's a chance JAF1 readers to try it out in Singapore, just give me a shout. I'm definitely up for it.


"I’ll talk to them about trying to get some JA on F1 readers onto it at some point. "

oooo Me please 😀



As usual, I have to remind that James owes something to us, his no-UK based fans.

Especially in Spain...


Did i hear Portugal?

Bah, Spain is close enough for this...


Or the US! 🙂


Or good ol' Aussie land


James, you should try running the Williams FW31 at - an F1 car simulation that you can run in the comfort of your own home. It's absolutely awesome. OK, you won't get the experience of motion sat in a household chair but the car and tracks are supposedly accurately simulated. The tracks, including Spa and Suzuka, are claimed to be within a couple of mm - including the bumps - and the car simulation was done in collaboration with William's simulation department and includes very detailed set up options.


I should also add that you can access the telemetry data from the simulated car using the McLaren ATLAS software that is provided free of charge - not that it means anything to me. 🙂


Whilst this is all good stuff, it is surely a sad state of affairs that young drivers have to 'learn' on a simulator rather than driving an actual car. It seems crazy that we expect drivers to come into F1 this way.


You are only looking at part of the story - the drivers get EXTRA mileage on these machines, just as commercial pilots do, and in complete safety. The steering wheels nowadays look more complex than any control mechanism I've ever seen, and the more time they can spend familiarising the better.


Am loving the fact that the data analysis screen for a state-of-the-art simulator from one of the richest teams in one of the technological sports on the planet still uses Windows XP - over 10 years old!


Sometimes XP just holds an advantage, certainly over Vista with 3rd part software.


Nothing really reliable uses any form of windows, it uses Unix or Linux.


Windows itself is actually very reliable and stable. It's third party software (especially Nvidia graphics drivers) that cause all the problems.


That looks - and sounds - incredible!

Any chance you could have a bit of a look into the technology used by the teams to map the circuits so accurately, James?

Just finishing an MSc that essentially involves creating digital maps and terrain models so very interested indeed!


I'd love to give that a go!


>The new mobile version, which Shell plans to take to events all over the world, uses the same graphics as the Ferrari simulator, which are accurate to 5mm!<<

I take it that the exclimation mark was for the very poor tolerances on the graphics placement! 5mm is NOT very good reproduction in F1 terms and if the whole system is that poor a representation of the original then it is not up to much.... I would be far more impressed by something sub millimeter!


The way I read it, was that the resolution of objects being viewed is accurate to 5mm. In the same way, satellite images have a resolution of a few meters or so. I am not talking about Spy satellites, those resolutions are usually top secret, but I would of thought was <1 meter.


It's 5mm of the actual landscape, not the screen, yes


Hi James,

I've only ever seen the simulators with the big pneumatic cylinders that move the whole rig around. The G seat you mentioned sounds interresting if it can recreate the same sensations without the need for the massive (and expensive I'm assuming) pneumatic cylinder systems. Are you able to elaborate any more on how these G seats work?

Also, any word on whether this simulator will be coming to Canada anytime soon???

Thanks James, love the website.


Yes I too would like to know how a G seat works, I can imagine using compression pads taken from flying G suits to simulate the braking compression, but that is only operating on you body surface, whereas the moving hydraulic rigs do produce a proper effect even if it's only up to around 1g.


I'm very sceptical that they can simulate G's realistically without throwing you around with rams -- and even rams can only load up the forces above 1G for a tiny fraction of second.

The idea seems to defy the laws of physics to me.



I don't think it will feel anything like the same. G's affect every part of your body simultaneously in the same direction, including all your internal organs.

Think about it -- if something pushes you in the back to simulate acceleration, the only way you can counter it is by pushing against that force using your feet on the peddles and hands on the steering. If it was real G's your hands and feet would actually want to be pulled off the pedals and wheel as you're pushed in the back.


If someone applies 200 newton of force to the back of your head, that is a good way of simulating a decelerating cars effect on your head, put rams on all your body parts and it can have a good simulation effect.


It;s cutting edge tech. I'll do something on it, when I can find out more


I think the 5mm tolerance relates to the 3D track model in which case, given the size of the area modelled for a track like spa, it is pretty impressive and must have been very painstakingly mapped!


Also interested to hear more about the "G Seats" you speak of.


How heavy did the steering feel? I always wonder if it's very electronic and distant, or more direct like a go-kart.


James, do you knw which simulator Kubica will use next month?


Now your talking would love a go on that but what F1 fan wouldnt


Fantastic. We all want to have a go!!



While on the simulator, were you told "Alonso is faster than you?" 🙂


Can't wait to get my grubby mits on one! As for the G seat...need look no further than my girlfriend. She turned out sofa into a vitrual 'G seat' when Canada over-ran.

"Why isn't it finished?" !WHACK!



I would be great if you can post a video recording with you behind the simulator wheel with a "live" walk through while attacking the circuit


I've bought and used the 'ferrari virtual academy' simulator. According to ferrari it was the best F1 simulator and similar to the one they use themselves. Seems that it based on one of the commercial available car simulators. Personally however, I prefer the 'Life For Speed' simulator. It allows you to setup the car completely (around 60 parameters) and that way you can learn a lot about how a car behaves (and it it cheap). I would really recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about dring a racing car.


All great stuff, but the ban on testing was meant to cut down costs. So now the top teams are spending big money on ever better sims. I wonder if there is indeed any real cost savings.


Great article James.


I'll volunteer to try it out! 😉

I've always been interested to see how these compare to PC simulators like Rfactor or even the Gran Turismo series. I would especially be interested in how the G-Forces feel compared to a real racing car, and whether you can really "feel" the car in the sim like you can on the track.


what I don't get is how they can simulate long G-force sequence like Turn8 in Turkey. That must be very difficult to achieve IMO


Some major teams use r factor pro, same engine as r factor.


I thought the simulator of Ferrari was based on netkar as is the 'ferrari virtual academy' simulator. So what is the relation with this simulator ?


'Training drivers to be better at multi tasking is now a huge growth area in F1.' So can we expect the next generation of grand prix drivers to be predominantly female?


That looks like fantastic fun.

Is there any more further back shots? I love watching the Red Bull simulator move (often violently) under the drivers as they go through corners like Eau Rouge.


One of those in my loungeroom would be pretty good. 🙂


This looks awesome! Would love to have a blast on a 'real simulator'.

Are these going to be travelling with the GP circus or will they have a bad too?

Dear Santa,

I've been very good this year...


Yes it will be at a few races, I think, plus other events around the place. Keep an eye out for it


That's base not bad... (iPhone auto correct)!


Awwww no video.

Very interesting though.


Not allowed - it's in the Spa paddock. FOM rules


Hi James,

What is the purpose of a simulator built by Shell rather than Ferrari themselves? Is this a PR related exercise or is this something to do regarding fuel consumption/formula during the weekend?


No, it's a simulator to help fans, members of the public, guests etc get closer to understand what F1 drivers experience. It wasn't built by Shell, they commissioned it from the guy who works with Ferrari on their sim. That's all.


James, I have often thought that should I win the lottery on of the first things I would look to buy would be a real F1 Sim with the pod on big rams.

Any idea what you would have to offer one of the top teams to make a copy of theirs? They might be top secret but everything has a price in the real world. Any ideas?


if you have around £35K, you could buy this one...



That simcraft simulator looks poor - better ones are like this - they have facilities to actually have oversteer feeling as well ( Simulator circling ) Check it out.

Radical Man !


Is this where Sky is headed - could we see sensible sized simulators hooked up to a real F1 car racing in real time, where the spectator in the simulator is just a passenger.....Imagine going to the pub on Sunday evening and telling everyone that you overtook Alonso on the outside at Eau Rouge...except that one of your mates [maybe the little guy sulking in the corner...] would 'be' Alonso!


Hi James

A couple of questions, did you experience any motion sickness?, I tried a sim at Silverstone last Christmas, felt queasy from the moment I 'pulled out of the garage', even though I knew the circuit. Others I know of have also had similar problems.

Secondly, what do you know about the top teams sims?, I understand that the Red Bull one might run on a rail?




Not in this sim, no. But I do suffer from motion sickness frequently, so it was nice not to get it here!


Gee, i hope shell pay up to bring it to Australia next year..

As fans, we are screaming for that.



Have you tried Pure Tech Racing in Horley, Surrey?

I got a 30 min race experience as a christmas present and its brilliant. There are 10 cars each costing £125k which move up to a metre in any direction simulating up to 1.5G.

Racing was very hard - my best lap time was a 1m14s compared to the "course record" of 1m01s.


Hi James,

I'd happily give up a testicle to get my ass in that seat. I only really need 1, right??


U sit to high in that so not real enough 4 me

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