Glancing at a modern Formula 1 race car’s steering wheel reveals a very complex contraption, and it’s just as in-depth of a wheel as it suggests.
Mercedes-AMG, the reigning F1 champion, recently published a video with driver Valtteri Bottas to give fans a closer look at what action each button performs. Obviously, some of the finer details are shrouded in mystery since the team doesn’t want to give away any of its performance secrets. For example, Bottas shows us the “Strat” knob, which controls power mode settings during a race. The driver shares his favorite, but Mercedes-AMG comically bleeps out his selection. Sorry, Ferrari, you’ll never know.
The knob can control different modes for defending a position during a race, attacking another car for an overtake maneuver, and more.
Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 steering wheel diagram
Speaking of the knobs and buttons, they’re made the same way as aircraft knobs and buttons to prevent any accidental selections with the slip of a hand. Maxim reported in 2016 that each steering wheel also costs twice the amount of the average car sold in the U.S. at a whopping $60,000. No one said racing was cheap. The race team says in the video that each driver typically has three steering wheels with them, and each has grips molded to fit a driver’s hands exactly.
Other nifty buttons include the “PL” button, which holds the designated pit lane speed even if the driver has the accelerator mashed. Pit lane speeds vary per track, so the team must set this speed for the driver depending on the circuit. There are also the rotaries on the steering wheel, which control differential adjustments. Flicking the rotaries to different positions can change torque transfer between the rear wheels and optimize the right amount for corner entry and in the middle of a corner.
Not every team’s steering wheel looks identical, but they do feature the same components. Teams are free to design their own to suit their drivers and what they think will give them an advantage come race day.