Gary Anderson: The details behind F1's trick steering clampdown

Ex-Formula 1 technical director Gary Anderson offers his view on the FIA's newest technical directive aimed at limiting aerodynamic advantage gained through front suspension systems.

Gary Anderson: The details behind F1's trick steering clampdown

It’s interesting to see the FIA is taking a stand on what constitutes an aerodynamic advantage by tackling the lowering of the front ride height with steering lock in Formula 1.

The FIA is using a 5mm change from lock to lock as the threshold for legality, but this is difficult to police.

With the steering straight ahead, you can slide a block underneath the car that has 5mm clearance and then turn the steering onto full lock. If the car touches the block when you do that, then it would not be acceptable - and if it cleared it, then it would be OK.

The big question is, why are the teams trying to achieve this – and if they can do it, why should it be illegal?

A Formula 1 car will have understeer in the slow and medium-speed corners, which reduces as the speed increases and aerodynamics become more dominant.

Also, the faster you go, the more effect the front wing angles will have on the balance of the car.

Drivers normally like a car with a little touch of understeer at high-speed, which gives them confidence that they know what the car is going to do and makes available that little cushion of feel before the car snaps into oversteer.

If you have this sort of balance, then as you go slower the more understeer you have.

The front ride height of an F1 car is critical. A normal static ride height would be around 20-25mm ground clearance and half-a-millimetre can make a significant difference to both the overall amount of downforce and the balance of the car.

If someone was clever enough to lower the front ride height with steering lock, then it will increase the overall downforce mid-corner and it will move the centre of pressure (the point where all the aerodynamic loads push down on the car) forward – especially in medium- and slow-speed corners where the steering lock is increasing.

As you add more steering lock, the front will also get lower again and improve front grip.

So how is this achieved? We used to look at the aero data in five different steering lock positions, listed below with the steering angle:

1) Straight ahead, when the priority would be reduced drag for higher top speeds.

2) Three degrees, which would be a fast corner. For this position, you need the centre of pressure to be stable – so the same as straight ahead.

3) Six degrees, which is a medium-speed corner. For this position you want the centre of pressure to start to move forward.

4) Nine degrees, which is a slow corner. For this position, you want the centre of pressure to keep moving forward.

5) Twelve degrees, which is basically a hairpin. Again, the centre of pressure needs to keep moving forward.

Between two and five, you are looking at a centre of pressure shift of something like 1.5%. If you can achieve this, there will be two benefits: firstly, the car will have less understeer as the corners get slower, and secondly, as you reduce the steering lock on corner exit the car gains rear grip, which helps the traction coming off the corner.

If, for any reason, the aerodynamic characteristics are the opposite way around, the car will be a right pig to get a balance for that gives the driver any confidence.

In the old days, the front push rod was mounted off the lower wishbone, so was fairly benign to changes of steering lock.

Now the front push rod is mounted off the upright, so depending on its pickup location you can play with the car’s ride height by varying steering lock.

This drawing of the Red Bull front upright assembly shows just how far inboard the push rod pickup actually is.

Red Bull RB13 push rod suspension
Red Bull RB13 push rod suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

So depending on its location front to rear, you can alter the amount the pushrod effectively lengthens or shortens as the upright goes through its arc with steering lock varying. The more lock, the lower the car will get.

The only negative could be that it can alter the steering weight through the varying steering locks and drivers like Kimi Raikkonen don’t like this as they use the weight of the steering to judge the balance of the car.

This probably isn’t something the FIA should be banning, but some team has probably called foul play and caused this reaction even though it is the same for everyone.

As long as any change in ride height is achieved mechanically, I believe it is completely legal. Yes, it will induce an aerodynamic change, but so does any ride height change.

I also believe that the acceptable 5mm is a lot when it comes to centre of pressure shift, so it is just another one of these things that the commentators will rabbit on about and will confuse the viewers even more.

shares
comments
Baku Vettel's "worst feeling" of F1 season

Previous article

Baku Vettel's "worst feeling" of F1 season

Next article

My JA on F1 top five F1 drivers of 2017

My JA on F1 top five F1 drivers of 2017
Load comments
How Verstappen has become F1 champion material Prime

How Verstappen has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle Prime

Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be set to be another close contest.

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen Prime

The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen

The 2021 Formula 1 title battle is finely poised with six races remaining, as just six points separate championship leader Max Verstappen from seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. In such a closely-fought season, the outcome could hinge on several small factors playing the way of Red Bull or Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021
Can Whitmarsh appointment help Aston succeed where its F1 rivals failed? Prime

Can Whitmarsh appointment help Aston succeed where its F1 rivals failed?

Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll is determined to make the group a billion-dollar business. MARK GALLAGHER analyses his latest play – bringing former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh into the fold

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021
Remembering Switzerland’s first F1 winner Prime

Remembering Switzerland’s first F1 winner

Stepping up to F1 in 1962, Jo Siffert shone with Rob Walker Racing Team and BRM before his career was abruptly ended in a fatal crash at Brands Hatch in 1971. Kevin Turner looks back at the life of Switzerland's first F1 winner on the 50th anniversary of his death

Formula 1
Oct 21, 2021
What Verstappen is risking with his current stance on 2021 F1 world title defeat Prime

What Verstappen is risking with his current stance on 2021 F1 world title defeat

OPINION: Max Verstappen is back in the lead of the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ championship, with the season’s final flyaway events set to get underway in the USA this weekend. But a defensive stance he’s recently adopted could have a lasting impact for the Red Bull driver when it comes to his chances of defeating Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 21, 2021
The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest Prime

The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest

Despite appearing to adjust to life as a Ferrari driver with relative ease, it was far from straightforward under the surface for Carlos Sainz. But, having made breakthroughs in rather different routes at the Russian and Turkish races, he’s now targeting even greater feats for the rest of the Formula 1 season

Formula 1
Oct 20, 2021
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Prime

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Tim Wright.

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021