Why F1 steering wheels have over 20 buttons – and what they all do

F1 technology

F1 steering wheels serve an obvious and important function. But F1 drivers use them to do much more than just point the car in the right direction.

This year designers have had to squeeze in buttons for Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems and Drag Reduction Systems along with the usual array of toggles, switches and levers.

Now F1 is being broadcast in high definition it’s easier for us to see what the driver’s up to at the wheel.

This video from Mercedes gives an introduction to some of the settings their drivers have to tweak while they’re on the move:

Here’s a closer look at Sauber’s steering wheel and what their drivers have to control while lapping at over 200mph:

Sauber steering wheel

Sauber steering wheel

Button Function
N Puts gearbox into neutral
B Activates Kinetic Energy Recovery System
Oil Activates supplementary oil tank for engine
KRec (dial) KERS recovery setting
Ack / Yes Acknowledge to confirm set-up changes. Also used when the driver’s radio is not working properly to indicate a ‘Yes’ response
Probl/No Sets a marker in the telemetry to indicate a problem was encountered. Also used when the driver’s radio is not working properly to indicate a ‘No’ response
Entry / Prel / Visco (dials) Change differential settings for corner entry, pre-load and corner exit
MFRS (dial) Multifunctional Rotary Switch (centre dial) which controls various settings. Used in conjunction with + and – buttons to change options
PL Turn pit lane speed limiter on/off
BP Find clutch bite point
W Activates Drag Reduction System
R Radio
Pedal (dial) Change throttle pedal map
Box Used when the driver’s radio is not working properly to indicate the driver is coming into the pits
D Drink bottle
Krel (dial) KERS release setting
RPM RPM limiter
Tyre Adjust electronics to suit different tyres
Left gear paddle Shift down a gear
Right gear paddle Shift up a gear
Lower levers Clutch

In addition to the various controls, drivers also receive information via the lights on the steering wheel.

On the Sauber steering wheel the displays are:

  • RPM indicator (upper LEDs)
  • FIA flag signals (left and right LEDs)
  • Gear selection (centre LED)
  • Speed and sector times / MFRS options (left and right screens)

On some cars, such as the Red Bull, this display cluster is mounted behind the steering wheel.

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104 comments on Why F1 steering wheels have over 20 buttons – and what they all do

  1. Jev said on 25th April 2011, 3:44

    don’t forghet to add: restart, replay, save, garage, and quick setting button. or is that GT5?

    anyway, i prefer simplicity, but my car steering wheel also has lots of button on and around the wheel (audio system, cruise control, lights, etc). i never drive above 200mph tho…

  2. Very cool – wow that’s a lot of buttons to press at 200 KM/h!!

  3. Actually funny that people call it steeringWHEEL. Nothing of it reminds me of a wheel anymore ;-)

  4. Loving the secrecy about the back side of the wheel!

  5. i wish there’s a steering wheel full set

  6. like it :) 8)

  7. MclarenBoy said on 1st September 2011, 12:44

    Nico says in the begging of the video that its his steering wheel but at the end he says he has to go give it to Michael because its Michael’s. :D. BK

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