F1 tech explained: Paddy Lowe on the mysteries of the F1 steering wheel
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jul 2016   |  10:12 pm GMT  |  46 comments

In the latest of a our occasional series of videos, Mercedes F1 technical boss Paddy Lowe takes us behind the scenes at the Mercedes factory and, against the backdrop of Lewis Hamilton’s 2015 F1 world championship winning car, explains the secrets of an F1 steering wheel.

This is very topical at the moment with the row over team radio restrictions and what a team can and cannot tell its driver. Lewis Hamilton fell foul of this in Baku when he found himself in the wrong engine mode and the team could not tell him how to make the changes on his steering wheel to the mode.

Paddy shows the complexity of a current 2016 F1 steering wheel, how the clutch and gear paddles work as well as the display on which the drivers rely so heavily now that they are limited on radio instructions.

Paddy Lowe is one of the judges in this year’s F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, the crowdsourcing challenge. This year there are two challenges around Virtual Reality projects.

The second challenge is live now – so get involved!

Challenge 2 has been set by Paddy and the Mercedes F1 team, who want fans with a technical interest to suggest ways that VR and AR can improve their communications between the track and the staff working remotely at their UK factory to boost competitiveness. This is going to be a big growth area in the next few years, so this challenge is right at the cutting edge of F1 thinking.

Currently, the two teams of engineers come up with a race strategy, review component changes and resolve any issues using audio communications and two-way video feeds between the track and the factory. The objective is to show how this collaboration could be enhanced using VR or AR during mid-season tests, practice, qualifying or race day, helping the two teams to become a more closely integrated unit, and ultimately boosting the drivers’ competitiveness.

Six winners of Challenges 1 and 2 will get to go behind the scenes with Mercedes and with F1 Management at the US Grand Prix in Austin in October where the Grand Prize winner will receive a cheque for US$50,000.

To find out more and to take part in the challenge go to the FCIP website.

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46 comments

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1

O.K. – more informative than . . .
‘turn clockwise or anti-clockwise’

But maybe a short animation demonstrating a ‘typical’ lap’s usage with a live graphic screen might better serve the ‘Technical Innovation’ section?

2

and here is a clear illustration of how experience and inexperience use their steering wheel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyYOJnMpK6U

3

ohh look its raining, quick send out the safety car.........

4

i guess they've got to be seen doing something for safety.

5

Lewis Hamilton was playing Galaga on his before Silverstone. Seriously why don't they just text across the wheel when there is a problem or is that against the sporting regulations?

6

what sports do you actually follow?.
"the driver should drive the car alone and unaided"

7

Seriously why don't they just text...

It's the information which is restricted - it doesn't matter how it is relayed to the driver. If it's not allowed, it's not allowed.

8

They can display what they like on the steering wheel, the rule specifically states radio and pitboards.

The problem with this text on the screen is that the rules state one-way communication only and that's car-to-pit. They're not allowed to transmit information to the car. So to do that they would have to program the electronics to read certain situations to give prompts, which is pointless as they could just get the car to respond automatically and they would do so if they could but it's impossible to know what scenarios will arise.

9

telemetry is only permitted one way.
I remember a time when McLaren were caught fixing car problem by two way telemetry.

10

@Jordan
I believe you may have misinterpreted the ruling - the following is the relevant excerpt from the FIA's announcement on this matter:

Detailed below are the restrictions on team-to-driver communications:

** To all communications to the driver including, but not limited to, radio and pit boards.

** At all times the car is out of the garage with the engine running and the driver on board (with the exception of any time the car is in the pitlane on the day of the race prior to or between reconnaissance laps).

I read that as all communications, by whatever means.

11

Even so, how would you expect them to monitor what the drivers are seeing on their screen during a race? They could fit a camera cockpit, but Lewis has a screen protector on which means you can't actually see what is on his and I don't think anyone's up for the job of going through the footage of so many cars to find the smallest messages. The problem with this is the fact you can't send telemetry to the car.

12

If the FIA can monitor whether the team is sending information to the car then they can surely monitor what is said. In any event, whether or not it can be monitored is not the point. The fact of the matter is they are not permitted to display messages via the steering wheel which would be considered illegal if spoken over the radio or via a pit board.

13

Well you could encryt it and have codes for the drivers to remember but you would probably get caught.

Now the only thing the driver has to take care of is the clutch. I think Mercedes and/or their drivers need help with that fer sure.

14

Why not smoke signals, or semaphore? Maybe Toto could jump onto the pitwall and try some interpretive dance moves....

15

I believe smoke signals or semaphore would be considered a coded message and would still, therefore, be considered illegal 🙂

16

C63, Dammit! Bloody FIA think of everything....

17

I'd quite like to see Toto (or Boullier perhaps) trying some interpretive dance moves though - perhaps Charlie could issue a TD granting an exemption 🙂

18

James, how do they actually operate the switches with gloves on? I mean, it looks like there's very little space around the rotaries. It baffles me how you wouldn't accidentally turn the one next to the one you're trying to operate...

19

That's a very good question! The seams of the gloves are quite light these days - not too much excess material around

20

@ james... I'm sure that this was posted with all good intent but it really was 'F1 lite'. there was nothing there that hasn't been said and demonstrated many times. Now if he'd explained what each of the 'strat modes' actually did then it may be of some interest. not a criticism just a well intentioned point of view.

21

Strat mode 666 = Galaga.

22

I know this is a sponsored bits of news, but c'mon 1:31 secs with Paddy Lowe, for nothing really. Usually too much engineering makes F1 boring as most fans acknowledge, but let's say the press has room for improvement on this. (I'm talking about most press from everywhere, nobody in particular).

23

nice techie article... would be good if you could do one on engine allocation, how it all works, with fridays whats involved with engines for the practice and race on a weekend, what the mechanics have to do.. i remember your article re shell oils and how they anylise the metal in oil, also how much can full throttle be used per engine..really interested after silverstone where lewis explaining hes doing everything he can to eek more races from his engine than normal...
quite important considering it could make or brake this championship
cheers

24

Great Article James 10/10

25

More content like this JAF1.
Any chance of an analysis on...
Hearing that Lewis has suggested taking a two engine hit in one go, in one race on a overtaking track like "Spa or Monza" as suggested by Toto ...though Toto would prefer one engine hit(penalty) rather than two (is that Mercedes trying to advertise reliability instead of giving Lewis a safety margin and then having another penalty hit at another GP). Lewis needs a reserve engine for parts as he stated in Auto Sport Mag. Surely the sensible mode would be to take a two engine hit in one grand prix and only deal with one start from the back of the field.
Any thoughts ?

26

Spoke to T Wolff about this recently. Yes I think you are right - they don't want to rack up the penalty engine stats any more than necessary

Remember that they were planning to do the 20 races with four engines, so 21 races with five was very easy. Merc felt they could do it with four anyway, but left wriggle room for updates late season as they did in 2015.

27

Glad you agree James.
I think that the 2 engine plan in one race is the optimal strategy.

Another bit of Tech News ...ARM Technology Firm in Cambridge being sold to a Japanese firm. HQ still be based in Cambridge.
Maybe good news for the pound. Doesn't ARM make some electronic chip tech for F1 or did I dream that?

28

I agree too, surely just introduce two complete new engines with new turbos etc. That way give yourself a safety buffer for the rest of the year, no need to try and show off and take risks.

29

Comes with a 1000 page manual I bet.
Amazing how any driver can change so many settings as they go from one braking zone you the next. While changing brake balance , gear shifting and fuel saving, deploying ERS and harvesting deploying DR'S and still have time to get some liquid down their gullets while racing. Mega respect for F1 Drivers. Plus one applauds all the tech boys at Mercedes and other teams.
Give me a wooden walnut steering wheel in a
Bristol Saloon Car and a Dunhill Cape and gloves . On a bright leafy autumn sunny day tootling around the the country lanes of Bradgate Park in Leicestershire . That's life ?

30

How hard can it be Flamer?
I'm writing this reply to you on crappy little mobile device whilst doing a 140 with p#ss poor low beams on a moonless night, swigging from a bottle of single malt whilst lighting a Styvo with wet matches and trying to urinate into an empty stubbie.
I can't imagine changing a few dials on a steering wheel would be as hard as doing this..on a Dayton 675 ?

31

Jeez you should be wearing you beer Googles Slugger Sarsippious ????
Driving an F1 car with a steering full of dials and gadgets is more intensive than a Daytona 675 or Nascar or an IndyCar while doing all your business ?. Maybe if you had Will Ferrel in a smoking jacket driving and playing the Jazz Flute while doing all your business maybe more of an extreme ???? or even reading War and Peace in a sidecar .

32

With Tolstoy and yourself I will agree, that reading War and Peace is a modern day necessity!
Oh and apologies for confusing you with Flamer, apparently it's quite common around here as I get confused with some punk called Sarcipuss all the time as well ?

33

Oh come on Sarsippious Leave The Flamer alone ??
Sarcipuss now that's a name ? in the mane ? Thats some cool cat from Red Dwarf-Giggidy.

34

Ps Truimph Triple looks meaner.
May not be as dandy as a Daytona 675.

35

No matter what they do, they'll never beat Kimi's wheel from his Lotus days 🙂

For those that never saw it:

36

For those ‘who know what they’re doing’?

37

I assume you turn the knob in the middle for Raspberry Ripple, Mint choc chip or plain Vanilla....

38

@tim w
Come on Tim! Anyone can see its "wheel of fortune"
What self respecting driver wouldn't have this game on his "steering wheel"
Please.?

39

Once you see it you can't unsee it.

Kimi's wheel, spoiled forever...

40

Was this worth it? It's so shallow and brief, it doesn't explain any f1 tech or reveal any mysteries. Everybody knows there are gearshift and cluch levers and a strat mode switch. I saw the title and was hoping for some insight into Baku or Chassis Default 0,1, or the info they've added since the radio ban, on fuel and temps. Bit patronising really for readers of a specialist site like this.

41

So we have an incredibly complex F1 car with an equally complex computer operating system controlling numerous parameters in the car from engine strats to gearbox and brake bias and we have a driver interface that equates to nothing more than stone age technology with buttons, switches and rotary dials, really, that's the best the so called bleeding edge racing series can come up with for their drivers? Wake up F1 today I can buy off the shelf a heads up display for my bicycle that interfaces with any number of sensors relaying data constantly to a tiny monitor mounted to my sunglasses. No wonder there are a mind numbing number of potential settings on that steering wheel, how could you possibly control such a complex set of parameters with an incredibly limiting driver interface of buttons, knobs, and switches. We moved from rotary dial, to push buttons to the amazing interface on smartphones that do any number of complex tasks with finger swipes, presses, and pinches, I can even accomplish things by talking to it. F1 needs to get with the program and provide an intuitive interface for the drivers to drive their cars. Do they really want to invest in VR and AR for on-site and remote engineers sitting on their rear ends discussing the finer points of the incoming telemetry, when the driver of the car hobbled with stone age tech is clueless how to resolve issues created by those engineers with giant monitors, a mouse and keyboard. I'm stunned!

42

I think you could make a case that all naked bikes have a meaner look to them though the handling and in particular that of the 675s front end is unmatched imo.
Been riding one model or another since 03 and you couldn't pay me to change to something different.

43

I agree regarding the front end on the 675 but the new Truimph Triple is more of a street muncher rather than a snappy 675 (though I haven't tried the new triple 3 yet but might give it a whirl on a test one day, I hear they've introduced a new ABS system too. )
Any ways I doth my cap to you Sarsippious for defending the 675 so eloquently and I continue a saunter on the slow windy road in a Bristol ?

44

Those days aren't to far away for myself however until then I'll be diving into the apex with a fist full of front trying my best to scrape my knees on the bitumen.
These 675s scream to be ridden hard and I wouldn't do a disservice to them by riding them any other way ?

45

sounds like someone's desperate to. Are some cash selling vr to mercedes. they surely don't want any of their engineers being nauseous at a critical moment in a race. it sounds crazy to me. there is no need for it.

46

The article refers to Lewis finding himself "in the wrong engine mode" in Baku, but my understanding is that he was in the right engine mode, but that mode had been incorrectly programmed. The reason why it took him so long to resolve the issue is that he was searching for a problem with his settings, but there was no problem to find.
Anyone care to confirm or clarify this?
I suggest this is an example of where drivers are having less and less fundamental understanding and control of the car

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