Anatomy of a steering wheel A1GP

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Have you ever wondered what do all the buttons on an A1GP steering wheel actually do? Championship leader for A1 Team Ireland, Adam Carroll, takes us through this fine bit of kit, button by button, lever by lever. There is more to it than right or left.

1 – PowerBoost Button

“On the left hand side you have the first button at the top, which is marked PTP. This stands for Push to Pass, but in A1GP, it’s known as PowerBoost. This gives you the increased power in the races that could end up in an opportunity to overtake, but you only have a certain number of uses for each race, four times in the Sprint race, and eight times in the Feature. The buttons needs to be pressed for more than half a second before it activates. It might sound like a short time but when you are in the car it feels like ages. Maybe it’s like that so that it doesn’t go off if you accidentally catch it. You have to make sure it’s a nice good press to feel the boost."

2 – Neutral

“The next one down is neutral, which only works in first gear. So when you come into the pits or you are on the grid or pulling up to the garage you just go into first gear, hit the neutral button and then the car goes into neutral."

3 – Start

“The S button is for start. It’s like a burn-out mode where it lifts the rev limiter a little bit. When you are in first gear you don’t quite get everything and it keeps back a little power because you don’t need that amount of revs to get away at the lights. If you hold it, it will give you full revs to spin the wheels and get temperature in the tires, but I don’t find I really need to use that."

4 – Empty

“This one has nothing on it because it hasn’t been allocated for any specific function yet."

5 – Engine

“E is for…I don’t know…E is for engine. The only reason I had to think about that was because once the engine is on I don’t think the button does anything."

Red toggle switch

“The left toggle changes engine software maps which are different parameters of the engine. You’ve got positions 1, 2 and 3, but we don’t really need to change them. You are meant to keep it on but there are three different positions."

7 – Pit-speed limiter

“This first button on the top at the right is the pit speed limiter. This is always used when you are in the pits and when you are doing race pit stops, it keeps you at the mandatory speed limit. You have to watch your speed and you take as much speed on entry, but you have to get down to 60kph by the line. You don’t press it to get down to 60kpm, it’s up to you to get down to the speed limit, but then once you press the button it limits the revs of the engine so you don’t go over. That’s why you see cars getting done for speeding in the pits because either they don’t press it or they have pressed it too late and haven’t got down to the required speed before they press the button."

8 – Radio

“Your radio button is the next one so you obviously press that to access your radio to talk to the team back in the pits. It’s not a constant open channel. You have to hold it down all the time you want to talk, so whenever you talk on the radio your finger must be pushed down. That sounds hard work, but it’s never really a problem."

9 – Reverse

“R is for reverse gear, not that you should ever need it. If you do need it, maybe on track due to a spin or whatever, you have to go to neutral, pull the clutch and hit the button, hold the button down and it selects reverse. You then lift the clutch back, go back, stop, depress the clutch and then press neutral again. Select first and you are away."

10 – Reset

“The next one is reset which is for if alarms go off or anything like that happens. That’s where the E button on the other side comes in. If you want to switch the engine off, you don’t switch it off by the master switches on the dash beside you, you actually push E and R down together. So when you come in to the pits in practice and the guys roll you back into your garage, you select neutral, then E and R to turn the engine off."

11 – Page

“The last button on the right hand side is Page, which rotates the display on the screen. There are a couple of pages to select and they give you details of RPM, gears and speed and the last lap time. It doesn’t show you your position in the race."

Shift lights

“These two bars are your gear shift lights, and increase with the engine revs to indicate when you should change up a gear. They go from left to right and are green, amber, blue in that sequence but the ones you have to concentrate on are the blue ones. You don’t have to look at your shift lights, they are out of your vision but they are a nice bright blue so when you come to the right point you know when to shift. Once the revs build up then it goes, green green green, amber amber amber, blue blue blue. So once you see that the first blue light is on, by the last blue light you’ve got to be ready to bang and change gear."

Yellow toggle switch

“The right toggle is for the clutch. There are numbered positions all the way around to nine, but we only use the first three. All it does is determine the biting point of the clutch. I have it on position one because I like a clutch that is very close to me. A lot of people have it half way down but I like to know when I am coming off the clutch because if it’s too far away you are left guessing exactly where it is."

Clutch and gear levers

“To change gear in an A1GP car, you must use the paddles behind the steering wheel, not a gear lever. The left hand lever changes the gears up and the right hand side of the wheel changes them down. The other levers operate the clutch. The clutch is exactly the same for both sides, it just depends on your preference, which lever you use. I always start with my clutch on the left hand like I would with my left foot on the grid for I always use my left hand. All in all, it’s a very nice steering wheel. You need quite a nice thick chunky wheel because you need to hang on to the thing. It’s a pretty wheel and it does everything it’s meant to do."

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