Formula 1 in Melbourne 2019: Short preview and wheel-feature

The first race of a new Formula 1 season is for us one of the most exciting things. After all the effort and and commitment our colleagues in Brixworth and Brackley put into this new car, seeing it for the first time in the Formula 1 in Melbourne 2019 is simply amazing.

Still, judging from the performance in Barcelona, it looks like we will have a proper fight on our hands in Melbourne. But an Formula 1 season is not just about who comes out of the blocks quickest. The most adaptable and agile team will come out on top.

And after narrowly losing to Sebastian Vettel last year in Melbourne, we’re back in full swing in 2019. Lewis Hamilton drove the fastest lap of the race, but still could not beat the Ferrari team. He finished as second behind Vettel.

But we have shown in the past that we are fast and flexible and that we can handle every curveball thrown at us. So we’re ready for the fight and look forward to the crazy rollercoaster of a new F1 season. Furthermore, this season we don’t just want to look forward to the next race with you, but we also want to give you some exciting insights into our technique.

Featured this Week: How Does a F1 Steering Wheel Work?

Formula One cars are very complex machines – even their steering wheels are not exactly self-explanatory at first glance. Our 2019 steering wheel has a total of 25 buttons and switches and, of course, the clutch and the shift paddles. Five of those buttons and switches change the brake settings of the car. Another three switches control the differential, the apex and the exit of a corner. The rest of the buttons and switches have a variety of different purposes, from adjusting the settings of the Power Unit to changing the data that is displayed on the screen, activating the radio or the pit lane speed limiter.

The most important buttons

The importance of the button depends on the situation. If, for example, a driver can’t hear his race engineer anymore, the volume control of the radio suddenly becomes very important. If you were to ask a driver which button he thinks is the most important, he’d probably choose the “Strat” switch as it has a big impact on the performance of the car.

It controls the Power Unit modes and will impact both the performance of the internal combustion engine as well as the deployment of electrical energy of the MGU-K and change the recovery of energy of both MGU-K and MGU-H. Since there are different mileage allocations for each strategy mode to balance performance and reliability, the driver will usually be told by his race engineer which “strat mode” he should use at a given time

The most used functions of the steering wheel are by far the actual steering itself as well as gear changes. On a typical lap in Melbourne, for example, the driver will use the shift paddles around 50 times. In addition to steering and shifting, an F1 driver will make a number of adjustments to the brake balance, fine-tuning the car to different corner characteristics.

Are there any difficulties operating an Formula 1 steering wheel?

The fact that the drivers wear gloves and that the buttons are relatively small, doesn’t make the operating the wheel any easier. To reduce the risk of accidentally hitting the wrong button, the team uses buttons that are also used on airplanes. These high-reliability buttons are not only made to endure a high number of actuations, they also require a strong tactile force and give the driver a sold click feedback when he presses them. The team has also installed small plastic rims around certain buttons to minimise the risk of hitting a button on accident.

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Bradley Lord is Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Communications Director. At the age of four he joined his first Formula 1 race. Since then he's a big fan of motor sports in all it's facets.