In F1, everything is taken care of down to the smallest detail to try to extract the maximum potential from the driver and the car, in a sport where even a thousandth of a second determines success or defeat.
In the modern era of F1, engineers also meet the driver’s needs for driving comfort and modern steering wheels are in reality real on-board computers, far from their primary function of guiding the car. They are specially designed by the teams to try to obtain the maximum efficiency according to the pilot’s riding style. Scuderia Ferrari has always played it safe on this front and has historically met the needs of pilots in terms of cockpit and steering wheel customization.
Modern steering wheels, especially those from the hybrid engine era, control countless parameters of these ultra-sophisticated single-seaters. It is therefore important that the pilot can interact precisely and quickly with all the knobs and rotary dials on the steering wheels. It is precisely for this reason that each rider needs their own customization of the button layout, depending on their driving style.
On the Ferrari SF21, Leclerc and Sainz have apparently similar steering wheels, but actually very different. If we were to reverse the steering wheels, the two pilots would not be able to perform all the functions required on the radio by the track mechanic during the sessions. An anecdote about this goes back to 2018, when, during a show in Milan, Sebastian Vettel used Kimi Raikkonen’s steering wheel and hit the barriers looking for the clutch.
A lot of work from the Maranello technicians on the wheel is mandatory every time there is a new driver in the team, and with the arrival of Sainz at the start of the season, his entire team of engineers has worked everything winter to provide him with a steering wheel that suited his needs. The newly arrived Madrid driver from Mclaren used a very different steering wheel from the standard Ferrari for a few months and therefore requested that certain features be implemented on his new steering wheel when he arrived in Maranello.
A macroscopic aspect concerns the design of the levers which control the clutch, located in the rear part of the rim of the flywheel: compared to Lerclerc, that of Sainz required a substantial revision, adopting two levers rather than one. In fact, Leclerc only uses one paddle, which can be operated with the right hand initially, and with an ergonomic grip for the third and fourth fingers of the hand.
This solution was requested by the Monegasque at the beginning of 2020 to improve the release of the clutch during the start-up phase. Carlos Sainz, on the other hand, prefers the double-lever solution, one independent of the other. The two clutch levers that Sainz initially use are also different, the one on the right being shorter than the one on the left.
The handle of the two clutch levers also has a lower height than that of Leclerc, which required a modification of the rear part of the flywheel. In fact, in the lower part there is a support which protrudes from the front part, forming a sort of hump calculated to the limit so as not to rub against the pilot’s legs in the cockpit. This work was obviously done to meet the demands of the Spanish driver, without completely disrupting the shape of the steering wheel used by Ferrari.
As for the front, the ruffles look a lot more alike and for the untrained eye it is difficult to grasp the diversity of the choices. Sainz himself did not go to reverse what was the basic layout used by his teammate Leclerc and much of the control panel was retained. Since the Mclaren rim was much more simplified, Sainz preferred to take inspiration from his teammate and study all the differences, keeping the solutions implemented on Charles Leclerc’s wheel.
In the lower part, the rotating dials are practically identical and control all the main parameters, which can also be viewed on the multifunction display in the upper part. The main wheel (with the Ferrari logo) is virtually unchanged, except for a few small differences in the order of the modes to be displayed. It activates preset parameters that regulate the mapping, fuel flow and hybrid system, choosing between « Race mode », « Safety car mode » or « Stand mode »…
The selector at the bottom right (arrow 1) is the one most used in qualifying and which modifies the maps of the heat engine, which can be selected in 12 different modes (1 min -12 max power). The substantial differences can be found in the upper part of the steering wheel, where Sainz personalized it more than Charles Leclerc. The yellow numbered wheels (arrow 2) above the steering wheel handle control the battery maps on the left (soc in), and the engine brake (EB – Engine Break) on the right. Leclerc controls the differential parameters with these selectors, while Sainz interacts with them via the knobs on the sides of the screen (arrow 3).
The large buttons on the sides of the steering wheel are unchanged for both and operate neutral (N) and the speed limiter for the pit lane (P). Sainz, near the radio button, has a button that tells the engineer that he has picked up the call in the pits (PC – pit confirmation – arrow 4). Leclerc instead uses this button to activate the pump which brings water to quench his thirst.
The purple CHR button just below, on the other hand, activates the “recharge” mode of the battery (arrow 5). Leclerc, for his part, has the word “SLO” (slow), and we often hear his engineer calling the pilot to activate this button at the end of the session, to set the engine in the most conservative mode possible. Most of the other functions are standardized for both riders, with the difference that Sainz uses the two buttons on the back and top of the steering wheel to change the brake balance and control the brakes “by wire” (wireless).
The whole part of the display and the LEDs is imposed and regulated by the FIA and is therefore substantially uniform for all teams. From the central LEDs, the pilot observes the engine revolutions which indicate when to change gears. Power units have an imposed limit of 15,000 rpm. With the DRS open, or with the override button activated, the first pair of LEDs on the left will light up. This can be customized by the pilot, but generally almost everyone has complied with this choice. The three vertical LEDs on the left and right of the screen are activated when the clerk of the course intervenes and are colored with the color of the flags displayed by the marshals in order to warn the driver in real time.
What is displayed on the screen is fully customizable by the teams and the driver. Ferrari offers a screen layout that allows parameters such as the temperatures of all four tires and brake discs to be viewed simultaneously during the race. The parameters most used by all the teams are the lap time, the time delta to respect in the event of Safety Car or virtual Safety Car, speed and the battery charge indicator. For the latter, Ferrari uses a horizontal bar across the bottom of the screen for both drivers, with the indicator filling up with green when the battery is at 100%.
There you have it, you now know a little more about the differences in the setting of the steering wheels between the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers in 2021. Don’t forget to leave a comment to see if you liked this article or if you have any questions. , we will try to answer them quickly.