Yes, driving still exists in F1…

We sometimes think that standardized and tech-packed F1 cars are easy to drive and that they will all require the same drive. Which is wrong.


The appearance of ground effect F1 (according to the 2022 technical regulations) did not disrupt the hierarchy among drivers: the good drivers of 2021, the bad ones (like Daniel Ricciardo) remained so. That is, while driving differently behind the wheel of F1, some have experienced more or less temporary difficulties. Max Verstappen, for example, suffered from the steering wheel covered with weak front Pirellis typical of the 2022 F1s. But after Red Bull made the front of the RB18 more aggressive, the Dutchman regained the lead over his team-mate.

Another driver was injured: Carlos Sainz. Although he adapted quickly and without problems to his first Ferrari, the SF21, he struggled to exploit the potential of the F1-75, which was brilliantly demonstrated by his team-mate Charles Leclerc. But until then, the Spaniard, who drove for four teams in seven seasons, always adapted well to his different cars (for example, unlike his successor Ricciardo, he managed to find the business world of very atypical McLarens).

The fact that a chameleon like Sainz is having trouble taming the F1-75 certainly confirms that some drivers adapt more easily than others, but above all, F1s are completely different machines, which is understandable from one season to the next in the same team. demonstrates that there are machines. . This refutes the idea that Formula 1 cars will be easy-to-drive and uniform cars.

So the drive is still there – and perhaps more than ever with F1 2022.

F1 steering wheel

CHANGING your habits

Although Carlos Sainz immediately understood how to drive Ferrari in 2021 (9-13 in the standings over Leclerc, but 5.5 points higher in the standings), he struggled to get the quintessence of F1 -75 at the start of the year:

“In my first campaign at Ferrari I had very few problems with the car, but last season was very frustrating. From the first races in 2021, I knew where the limit of the car was. It was only necessary to find one or two tenths in a certain type of corner.

“But this year, when I finally had a car that could fight for the win, I found myself more than two tenths behind my team-mate… that’s never happened to me before.”

Driving, Formula 1

Unwilling to divulge technical secrets, Carlos Jr. was content to point out that the problem was mainly with his transmission speed in certain corners, where Charles Leclerc outperformed him:

“I had to completely change my riding style. Mainly what I didn’t do well with this car was a certain driving style, a certain cornering speed.

“Such things happen in a driver’s career. Sometimes you jump in a car like in 2021 and you don’t have to do anything: just drive it and you’re instantly fast. And then, other times, you drive another car, you think you’re having a good time, but then you compare it to others and realize you’re not that fast…”

leclerc pilotage

“I had to change my driving style and drive in an unnatural way. I had to do a not-so-spontaneous drive that took a lot of time. There are cars that you drive naturally, while others you have to drive while thinking. Last year I had to think a lot behind the wheel.

“I had to let go of a part of my brain when I was driving, I knew I had to negotiate this kind of turn in this way, I had to approach someone else, him differently, etc.

“Now I’m sure a hundredth of a second, a thousandth of a second disappears when you’re thinking about the next turn.”

ricciardo, Saintz, piloting

We don’t drive consciously

To understand these words of Sainz in a concrete sense, we can rely on the testimony of Daniel Ricciardo, who had a very similar experience at McLaren.

Interestingly, two Australian single-seaters built around very different rules (2021 MCL35M and 2022 MCL36) forced themselves “reactive driving” :

“Usually when you approach a corner, your mind is already on the exit, He explained to our Australian colleagues Competition. But with [voiture 2022], what happened was more like, ‘Okay, I’m in the braking zone’, then ‘I’m now in the cornering zone, then ‘entering the acceleration phase’, etc. I had to consciously cut everything out.”

“It’s as if I were discussing the loop in five separate stages, when we should have solved it in one piece. In short, I waited, I reacted, it was very difficult to predict when I approached the rope.

“And when I was trying to trust the car and trying to make things difficult, I was going to the wire and thinking, ‘Why am I here?’ Why is my trajectory the way it is?’”

engineer, F1, driving


Since the debut of F1 ground effects last year, there has been an added challenge for Sainz and other drivers. Today, we have somewhat forgotten this, but today’s cars are mechanically less complex than their predecessors:

“The team listened to me and knew where my difficulties were, says the Spanish pilot. However, with limited budgets and technical regulations, the existing cars are very simple. You have very little freedom to play with the settings.

“Until very late in the season, we were able to provide some elements that helped me use the car better. Plus, when you mess around with the settings, you run the risk of getting lost, and it takes forever to find the right direction.”

Piloting Saintz

The suspension, a key component of Formula 1 development, underwent a serious streamlining treatment last year. Hydraulic systems – used by some stables in diving shocks – were banned. As inertial shock absorbers (or “inerters” in jargon) that absorb the oscillating rebounds of the wheels:

“On the previous generation of F1s, the ride heights gave you a lot of options, McLaren F1 technical director James Key explains. Now all cars are more or less the same. No more inerters, shock absorbers are stiffer. In short, our range of tools to get out of complex situations has narrowed.”

ferrari steering wheel


Although it has a narrow parameter palette, it found the user manual for Sainz Ferrari F1-75 From the Canadian Grand Prix. But he had to wait until Mexico for his riding to become natural again:

“Compared to the beginning of the season, I drove instinctively. You no longer had to think while driving. Time came easier. Annoyingly, I started whistling after the car lost its competitiveness.

“But you have to admit that Charles did a better job than me both in driving and in racing. He immediately felt more comfortable in the car than I did. It took me almost the whole season to get back to the level I was at last year.

Also read:

The Sainz case, like Ricciardo (extreme case) or Verstappen (minor case), shows that if F1 cars have assistance (sequential gearbox, signals for gear changes, support from engineers, telemetry, simulators…) in a certain way , should be tested with a certain style.

Standardization in Formula 1, fortunately, has not yet polluted the driving!

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