Do F1 Cars Have Power Steering?

Editorial credit: cristiano barni / Shutterstock.com

F1 cars, like any other, have two vital points: traction and handling. In other words, they need internal propulsion to move forward, and a system that offers maneuverability and thus can change trajectory. That makes me wonder, do F1 cars have power steering?

Formula 1 cars do have hydraulic power steering. Without any kind of power steering, F1 cars would be impossible to drive, as they go at such high speeds both on straights and in corners that without it, the steering wheel would be too hard to turn.

F1 cars are designed to go as fast as possible, and in corners, they experience up to 3 G’s of collateral forces. Even with power steering, the steering wheel is difficult to turn, and the drivers need physical preparation to drive the cars. Let’s go into details.

Power Steering In F1 Explained

The steering system used in F1 cars is the rack and pinion system, which consists of moving a gear on a rack (a toothed bar) so that when we turn the steering wheel, we move the rack longitudinally.

By itself, this system is very inefficient, as a lot of force would have to be used to turn the steering wheel. For this reason, in F1, a mechanically-hydraulically assisted rack and pinion steering is used so that the rack is used as a hydraulic piston.

The fluid passes to the piston through holes in the pinion to assist the pilot’s direction to turn the steering wheel, facilitating its rotation. This way, the driver doesn’t need to apply as much force when turning. As we discussed earlier, the steering wheel is still hard to turn due to the high cornering speeds that F1 cars go at.

When Was Power Steering Introduced In F1?

The first Formula 1 team to introduce power steering was Ligier in 1988. During the following decade, it entered a testing phase, in which the teams gradually implemented and improved it since it was a great innovation. In the beginning, there were a lot of discrepancies, as some drivers felt they could lose sensitivity with the tires.

There were even some teams that implemented a system to turn power steering on and off, like Williams, which was at the forefront of technical development at the time. During the 1994 San Marino GP, after Ayrton Senna’s accident, it is said that his teammate Damon Hill was told to switch off his power steering before the restart of the race, just to make sure things were alright in the car.

Some teams took longer to implement power steering, such as Sauber, in 2002. Minardi also did not implement it until 2002, as their car’s lower level of downforce did not require it. The FIA also banned electric power steering for that season, as it could be used as a driver aid.

How Hard Is It To Steer A Formula 1 Car?

Although we have seen F1 cars have power steering, it still takes significant effort to turn the wheel. It’s still hard to turn with heavy downforce helping to put huge loads through the tires. When going too slow, the car will slide due to a lack of traction and tire grip, and when going too fast, controlling the car around corners is a big challenge.

Among the most important body parts to train, drivers train their arms hard, with particular attention to their forearms, and train in the gym with steering wheels with weights to get stronger.

However, F1 is not about being strong enough to be able to turn the wheel, but about being strong and fit enough to drive the car as fast as possible for a long time, that is, for the race distance. So it’s not about how difficult it is to turn an F1 wheel or how hard it is, but about the endurance you have to last the whole race.

For this reason, perhaps turning an F1 steering wheel is not the most difficult thing in the world (nor is it the easiest), but the challenge is being able to turn it throughout the race.

Editorial credit: cristiano barni / Shutterstock.com

What Other Categories Apart From F1 Use Power Steering?

NASCAR race cars also have power steering. This is because they are supposed to emulate today’s stock cars in production. Also, they are front-wheel drive, so power steering is needed to provide effective and precise steering for drivers at those speeds.

However, many single-seater categories do not have power steering. Both Formula 2, Formula 3, and Indy Cars have manual steering. This has caused discussions about whether these categories are more physical than F1 and, therefore, if more physical preparation is needed. In the case of the Indy Cars, the cars are rear-wheel drive, so power steering is not needed at the front, and their cornering is slower than that of an F1 car.

In recent years, something that has drawn attention is the difference in steering between Formula 3 and Formula 1. Drivers such as Lando Norris or Lance Stroll have noticed and complained that the steering in an F1 car is too light compared to F3 cars with no power steering. Although F1 cars are much faster, they are also more stable and confident due to the power steering.

Many say that the steering should be made harder in F1, while others think that as it is now, it is fine. The debate is open.

Conclusion

Power steering in Formula 1 is one of the sport’s great innovations in recent decades. With the improvement of aerodynamics and the increase in speed in cars, it has become an essential element.

To turn an F1 wheel, drivers need to be physically prepared and fit, as it would be impossible for a normal person to put an F1 car at such speeds.

References

https://flowracers.com/blog/do-f1-cars-have-power-steering/

https://theautosunday.com/1495/do-racing-cars-have-power-steering/

https://paddockclubblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/tecnica-f1-el-sistema-de-direccion-asistida-en-la-f1/

https://www.reddit.com/r/formula1/comments/24ami6/when_did_f1_teams_start_using_power_steeringassist/

https://www.quora.com/How-hard-is-it-for-F1-drivers-to-steer-the-driving-wheelhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_GYVdwP1BU

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