Mystery surrounds Vettel's secret third paddle

Ferrari is at the centre of fresh Formula 1 technical intrigue with the appearance of a mystery new paddle on Sebastian Vettel's steering wheel.

Mystery surrounds Vettel's secret third paddle

The new element, which features only on the German's car and is not being used by Kimi Raikkonen, has fuelled speculation that the team has found a clever way to boost its performance through the changing of some car settings.

The team tried to keep the presence of the paddle a secret, but it was spotted after the German's pole position lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix when he stopped on the grid for post-qualifying interviews.

It features on the right-hand side of the wheel, above the clutch and gearchange shifter.

Ferrari has been tight-lipped on what the paddle is for, but it has denied early rumours that it is being used to alter engine map settings to help keep its exhaust blowing in corners when off-throttle.

Such behaviour is unlikely, though, with the FIA having made clear pre-season that it would clamp down hard on teams that tried to change engine settings to deliver off-throttle blowing.

Speaking about Renault's blown rear wing and what teams were and were not allowed to do, Whiting said: "I don't see any problem with it provided we are sure they are not operating their engine in a false mode - a mode that wouldn't be normal."

Rotary sensor

The Ferrari paddle may however be linked to some kind of setting that needs to be changed mid-corner – either on differential, engine mapping or energy control - because its positioning appears deliberate to allow it to be used when the steering wheel is being turned.

Furthermore, the fact that the paddle has a rotary sensor means it is something that can be adjusted in incremental steps, rather than simply being an on-off switch.

 

Speaking on the latest episode of Motorsport Show, technical analyst Craig Scarborough said: "When I first noticed this, I put it away as one of those little changes, but there's something unusual about this paddle.

"You can see there's a rotary sensor there, so it's a variable thing. So it's not him switching something off, it's him demanding either something increasing or decreasing around the car."

Steering wheel push

Ferrari is no stranger to making tweaks to controls at the back of a steering wheel.

When the FIA changed the rules ahead of the 2017 season to allow only a single clutch paddle and increase driver influence on the launches off the start line, teams introduced several modified systems.

Ferrari SF16-H, back view of Kimi Räikkönen's steering wheel
Ferrari SF16-H, back view of Kimi Räikkönen's steering wheel

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari brought in a single long, offset wishbone (above) to allow the drivers better feeling and ability to control the traction from the rear wheels amid rules that forced linear relationship between paddle application and throttle.

Prior to that, it was possible for the clutch paddles to be mapped to give a wider window in which to make the perfect start.

Mercedes F1 W08 steering of Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes F1 W08 steering of Lewis Hamilton

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

But during pre-season testing last year, Lewis Hamilton ran with two paddles for the clutch that allowed the driver to place his fingers inside for greater control (above).

Ferrari SF71H steering wheel comparsion Vettel and Raikkonen
Ferrari SF71H steering wheel comparsion Vettel and Raikkonen

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

These were refined for the first race of the season from the testing spec (left) to the proper spec (right).

Ferrari SF70H steering wheel comparsion Vettel and Raikkonen
Ferrari SF70H steering wheel comparsion Vettel and Raikkonen

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

For May's Spanish Grand Prix in 2017, Ferrari introduced a similar solution on Vettel's steering wheel (above), which was initially built in titanium and then in carbon fibre.

Vettel retained the system until last year's Singapore Grand Prix, when he made a poor start and then collided with Max Verstappen, after which he reverted to the same system as Raikkonen for the Japanese Grand Prix.

 
shares
comments
The template for great F1 racing in 2021

Previous article

The template for great F1 racing in 2021

Next article

Manor boss Booth leaves Toro Rosso role

Manor boss Booth leaves Toro Rosso role
Load comments
Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold? Prime

Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold?

OPINION: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckoned Max Verstappen winning the French Grand Prix – an event where Mercedes had previously been dominant – would signal “we can beat them anywhere”. Here’s how that claim stacks up looking at the rest of the 2021 season

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1 Prime

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1

The French Grand Prix offered a surprisingly interesting spectacle, despite the headache-inducing nature of the circuit. But IndyCar's Road America race offered far more in terms of action - and the increased jeopardy at the Elkhart Lake venue might be something Paul Ricard needs in future...

Formula 1
Jun 22, 2021
French Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

French Grand Prix driver ratings

The French GP was a weekend decided by tiny margins both at the front of the field, as Red Bull inflicted a comeback defeat on Mercedes, and in the battle for the minor points places. That's reflected in our driver ratings, where several drivers came close to a maximum score

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes Prime

How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes

The French GP has been a stronghold for Mercedes since Paul Ricard's return to the calendar in 2018. But that all changed on Sunday, as a clever two-stop strategy guided Red Bull's Max Verstappen to make a race-winning pass on the penultimate lap - for once leaving Mercedes to experience the pain of late defeat it has so often inflicted on Red Bull

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
The Mercedes lap that puts F1 victory fight back on a knife-edge Prime

The Mercedes lap that puts F1 victory fight back on a knife-edge

Red Bull led the way after the first two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, but only just ahead of Mercedes. There was all the usual practice skulduggery complicating the performance picture, but one aspect seen at the world champion squad gave it a ‘surprise’ lift, as it looks to leave its street-circuit struggles firmly in the past.

Formula 1
Jun 19, 2021
How Ferrari got its F1 recovery plan working Prime

How Ferrari got its F1 recovery plan working

After its worst campaign in 40 years, the famous Italian team had to bounce back in 2021 – and it appears to be delivering. Although it concedes the pole positions in Monaco and Baku paint a somewhat misleading picture of its competitiveness, the team is heading into the 2022 rules revamp on much stronger footing to go for wins again

Formula 1
Jun 18, 2021
The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness Prime

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

Long-awaited wins for ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen in IndyCar and IMSA last weekend gave F1 a reminder of what it is missing. But with the new rules aimed at levelling the playing field, there’s renewed optimism that more drivers can have a rewarding result when their day of days comes

Formula 1
Jun 17, 2021
The F1 figures Red Bull and Mercedes can't afford to see again Prime

The F1 figures Red Bull and Mercedes can't afford to see again

OPINION: An interloper squad got amongst the title contenders during Formula 1’s street-circuit mini-break, where Red Bull left with the points lead in both championships. But, as the campaign heads back to purpose-built venues once again, how the drivers of the two top teams compare in one crucial area will be a major factor in deciding which squad stays in or retakes the top spot

Formula 1
Jun 16, 2021