The steering system provides the drivers with information on how well the car is handling. It is the most direct contact the drivers will have with the track. The steering logistics of an F1 car have changed little over the years, however modern cars now have to deal with higher downforce than before – up to 5G. The higher the G-Force, the harder it is to steer. Steering on an F1 car is incredible sensitive – half a turn of lock can turn the car through 90 degrees.
The steering wheel contains controls which the driver will use during the race. Features include buttons to turn on the limiter (used in the pit-lane), knobs to alter the car’s fuel mixture, knobs to adjust the front-to-rear brake bias, and more. There is also the crucial on-board radio button which allows a driver to contact his mechanics in the pits. The steering wheel also houses instruments, generally via an LCD screen. This screen shows a wide range of information – from when the optimum time to move up a gear is, to the current engine revs, and sector and lap times.
The snap-on connector joining the steering wheel to the steering column is one of the most complex parts on an F1 car. It must be strong enough to withstand all the steering forces and it must be detachable very quickly so that a driver can get out of the car within five seconds.
Each steering wheel takes up to 100 hours to make and will cost around £20,000. The main four materials that are used are carbon fibre, aluminium, titanium and rubber. The wheel itself is made up of about 120 separate components. In total, it weighs in at around 1.3kg.