Formula 1 cars are incredibly high-tech machines. To get the best from them, drivers constantly tweak and tailor a multitude of settings during a race to keep the car operating at peak performance. It’s intricate, precise work – conducted at 200mph in the heat of competition. And the control centre for all this? The steering wheel.
The latest Scuderia Ferrari SF90 racing car, as driven by Sebastien Vettel and Charles Leclerc, has a steering wheel so packed with buttons and switches, you wonder how F1 stars could possibly understand it all. But they are trained to use it, and know it like the back of their hands. Now, thanks to the Ferrari Store, you too can practice being a Formula 1 racer by buying your own replica SF90 steering wheel 1:1 scale model, handcrafted in the Amalgam studios in carbon fibre and aluminium and featuring buttons and controls.
If you want to understand it, though, where do you start? First, let’s look at the obvious areas. At the top is a multi-function display, which feeds information to the drivers in real-time. Above this are warning lights for things such as engine revs, and whether the car has DRS (drag reduction system) active. To the side of the screen are dual lights that repeat the coloured waved flags at the side of the circuit. The ‘N’ button selects neutral, while ‘P’ activates the pit lane speed limiter.
In the lower half of the steering wheel are controls that will be familiar to Ferrari road car drivers – Manettino switches. The large central Manettino, wearing the Ferrari prancing horse, is a multifunction dial. It controls certain engine functions and other settings: consider it a ‘short cut’ dial for quick access. The Manettino to its left adjusts the hybrid power unit, and the dial to its right is for engine mapping – note the colour gradient from ‘eco’ green to ‘full power’ red.
The bottom-left Manettino, labelled ‘Grip’, is used at the start, to give the perfect amount of clutch slip and torque. The far-right Manettino is another multi-function switch, used to engage recover mode and other lesser-used functions. And the switch in the middle, surrounded by the colour-keyed square? This engages different modes for the internal combustion engine – ‘WU’ for warm-up, ‘PSHQ’ means ‘pre-start heat qualify’ and so on. The ‘SC’ setting is for when the safety car comes out during a race.
F1 steering wheels have even more controls built in. Where the driver’s thumbs lie, below the ‘N’ and ‘P’ buttons, are two rotary dials labelled ‘DIF IN’ and ‘DIF MID’. These alter the differential settings on corner entry and mid-corner. Drivers can use these multiple times during a lap. Four further longitudinal rotary dials control brake shaping (BS), engine torque (TRQ), engine braking and state of charge. Alongside these, embedded into the Alcantara, are two pressure controls to alter the brake balance front-to-rear.
As if this wasn’t enough, drivers also have buttons to press – the pit radio, DRS drag reduction system (K2), an ‘OIL’ button that activates an additional oil pump, ‘C’ for the drinks bottle and even a button to confirm an instruction from the pit wall. Don’t forget, all the time they are flicking the gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel, too (and operating the clutch paddle from a standing start).
The Scuderia Ferrari steering wheel is a genuine work of F1 technological art. And you too can now own a replica, and impress your friends by explaining to them what every button, rotary dial and Manettino switch does. It is guaranteed to make the daydream of being an F1 pilota just that little bit more real…