Technique - Steering wheel of the Formula E car explained

Driver of the No. 7 Faraday Future Dragon Racing car, Jérôme D’Ambrosio takes us through the complexity of his steering wheel.

Technique - Steering wheel of the Formula E car explained

Belgian D’Ambrosio drove for Marussia Virgin Racing Formula 1 team in 2011 and replaced Romain Grosjean for one race at Lotus F1 in 2012. The 31-year-old has been driving for Dragon Racing since 2016, and scored his first victory in 2015 in Berlin.

D’Ambrosio took time to walk us through the buttons and switches of his steering wheel.

Steering wheel of Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Dragon Racing
Steering wheel of Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Dragon Racing

Photo by: Olivier Delorme

Let’s start with the back of the steering wheel. “The middle paddles change gears, like with most other race cars. The paddle on the right shifts up, and the one of the left is used for downshifting,” he explained.

“The lower paddles control the regeneration [of energy]. In some corners, I lift my foot off the throttle, then pull on this paddle and start braking. I let go the paddle when I release the pressure on the brake pedal. The top paddles are use to activate the Fan Boost to boost of the engine power.”

Steering wheel of Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Dragon Racing
Steering wheel of Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Dragon Racing

Photo by: Olivier Delorme

The face of the steering wheel is far more complex. “Let’s start with the blue radio button on the top left corner,” D’Ambrosio said. “The white button next to it is used to change the pages on the screen. The next two grey buttons [LAP] are used to change the number of laps I can run. Pressing on these will change the energy targets I have to reach. So, if we change strategies during the course of the race, I press on one of these buttons to readjust the energy targets not to run the battery out before I reach the pits.

“The red button on the left [N] is used to select neutral. The yellow button [FCY] located underneath is used during a full course yellow, it’s like a speed limiter. The green button on the right [MARK] serves to mark en event or to change a setting. The blue button on top is pressed to fully reset the energy at the end of a session of a race. The yellow button beside it is used for the standing starts.”

Steering wheel of Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Dragon Racing
Steering wheel of Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Dragon Racing

Photo by: Olivier Delorme

The Belgian then explained the function of the three rotary switches located at the bottom. “The red one on the left controls the regeneration of energy. The middle, yellow switch does a fine adjustment of the regeneration, because I can fine-tune the total amount of regen as well as the profile of regen, according to my braking pattern. The third, green switch on the right regulates the power of the motor. We can adjust it for the practice sessions, for qualifying and for the race.”

Not like in Formula 1

D’Ambrosio then went on to explain that the Formula E steering wheels are very different from the ones used in Formula 1. “For example, in F1, the driver is told what to do to adjust his controls and buttons. The engineers tell the driver something coded, like ‘Red 3, Rev 4’ by radio, and he adjusts the switches accordingly. Here, in Formula E, we have to make these decisions ourselves and constantly modify the settings to suit the handling of the car, the power that’s available, the drainage of the battery and its regeneration.

“The screen provides me with a lot of information. I can see the number of regenerations I can do, the battery temperature, the level of charge of the battery, the brake bias, the brake temperatures, tire pressures, lap time and the difference with my best lap time. I can also monitor the level of energy the car is using, and that crucial for the last lap I’m covering to make sure I’ll get to the pits. I also see the target of energy level I must attain on the next lap. So I have a several things to look at and monitor while I’m driving the car,” D’Ambrosio concluded.

 

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