The secrets of the cockpit and the hyper-technological steering wheel of the Ferrari SF-23 dreaming of the coup in Monaco
Ferrari is the workplace that everyone dreams of. The Top Employer Italia certification told it for the third year in a row. Ever since the Formula Uomo launched by Luca di Montezemolo, Maranello has become the place where everyone would like to work. Too bad the genius of Red Bull, Adrian Newey, never understood this, but that's another matter. In Ferrari, however, there is also a job that isn't exactly comfortable. It is that of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz: the cockpit of the SF-23. A normal person can't even get into it. And to think that the seat is made to measure, modeled on the shapes of the two pilots who, however, feel like sardines in a can when they get into the cockpit. It must be said that this applies to all 20 single-seaters that will give life to the Monaco Grand Prix between the Monte Carlo guardrails this weekend. If you are not a jockey driver you cannot be comfortable behind the wheel of a Formula 1 where you undergo accelerations of 5g in corners, fly at more than 350 hours in a straight line and when you brake you feel your heart leap into your throat. The Principality race does not have the same effect, but other factors come into play. You can't go wrong by a millimeter, otherwise you'll end up on the wall and it's game over. Leclerc is well aware that he used to travel these narrow streets with the school bus and now whizzing by at almost 300 km/h. He's been on pole for two years, but he hasn't won. Two years ago he was not even able to start after crashing at Piscine while trying to improve his lap record. “It's a narrow track, the surface is often bumpy and to go fast you also have to trust your sensations. When you drive around in a Formula 1 car, basically you don't have a moment to breathe, and in qualifying, when you push to the max, a real adrenaline rush pervades the cockpit. I believe that no circuit transmits these sensations…”, said Charles the other day.
To race in Formula 1, you have to be a super athlete, used to multitasking. Until about thirty years ago, when the gearbox was still manual and not at the wheel, there were those who came out of the 78 laps of the Monaco GP with wounded and bleeding hands. A torture. Even today we don't mess around: while you accelerate, brake, try to overtake an opponent or defend yourself from an attack, you also have to press the button that allows you to talk to the box, the one that allows you to drink a sip of water, often as hot as pee and maybe even adjust the handle that allows you to vary the braking between front and rear. The steering wheel of a Formula 1 Ferrari looks like the cabin of a jumbo car. Except that you are alone, without a co-pilot who can help you and if you delay the movement by a tenth of a second you risk hitting a wall in the face.
The curious thing is that each team has its own specific steering wheel and even each driver demands customization. The Ferrari steering wheel, illustrated in the drawing by Paolo Filisetti, has very little resemblance to a traditional steering wheel, even those found on sportier cars. The paddles for changing gears, introduced by John Barnard's Ferrari in 1989, have by now been adopted by everyone, even by the most normal road cars and are not newsworthy. What amazes us every time is the amount of buttons, levers, throttles that a driver can operate during a race. “There are more than a thousand functions that we can manage with our steering wheel”, explain Charles and Carlos. Now that in addition to the camera car there is also the helmet camera, steering wheels are no longer a secret for viewers who can understand the difficulties of a driver. Up to 23 commands can be counted, without thinking of all the information illustrated by the multifunction display, starting with the small LEDs that suggest when to change gear. Take a look at the drawing and try to memorize buttons and levers. You have to study just to remember what each one stands for. If it is easy to guess that the top left button "N" is used to engage neutral before stopping in the pits and the one with the word "P" on the right is the one that engages the limiter when entering the pit lane, for the others you need a review. And mind you that pilots use them without even looking at them and traveling at high speed. “This is why working on the simulator is very useful. We have to be able to know where and how to touch a button, a knob, a lever”, explain Charles and Carlos.
Paolo Filisetti has tried to tell us what all those commands are for: from left to right the N (NEUTRAL) button for neutral (1), next to it the PC (PIT CONFIRM) button to confirm the instruction received from the box (2) followed by right from the one that opens the radio communication with the box, RADIO (3). On the right side, button 10 - (number 4) scrolls down through the pages of the display while (1+) scrolls them up (5). "P" is the pit speed limiter control and when activated the screen shows PIT LIMITER with the instantaneous speed shown simultaneously (6). Below, the rotary selector that manages the center curve differential (7). The K2 button activates the DRS (8). The engine brake (9) is highlighted by the EB sticker. While KOed, he activates an additional oil pump to increase lubrication (10). The vertical wheel TRQ manages the motor torque (11). Positioned, in this case, on the right side, the clutch lever (12) can be seen (used only at the start). The selector, indicated by the writing ENG, allows the selection of the engine maps (13). The (14) controls several functions, including ERS, REC (recovery), which operate together with (15), the large central knob that manages various modes of the heat engine. In the centre, below, the strategy selector of the hybrid part of the PU (16). On the left, the multifunctional rotary switch (17) for SPK or spark plug advance, Tur (wastegate valve pressure), TYR (tyres) and pre-set recovery programs. Same position and color choice for the TIRE selector (18) which, with TRQ, modifies the throttle response. BS (19) manages the delivery of the battery charge. CHR (20), on the other hand, sets the charge mode manually and SOC indicates the maximum desired/possible charge level (21). OK confirm settings (22). The rotary selector manages the curve input differential (23). All clear isn't it?