Paying Attention: A modern F1 car is amazingly intricate, advanced, and complicated. Designed to a specification (a “formula”) dictated by the F.I.A., (Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile, the ruling/sanctioning body for most international racing) that all who hope to participate in the F1 series have to adhere to (and…it’s not easy to have your team/entry accepted…the best way to think about joining the F1 series to think about of it as the equivalent of being accepted into the Royal Family of Automobile Racing, i.e. not easy and you can’t just marry in).
The technology in the series is astounding and–so goes the common thought–ultimately works it way down to the daily driver that fills the roads of the world. Managing all of this technology requires massive computing power which is controlled when the car is on the track by the driver, who makes selections, adjustments, and commands via a steering wheel that is actually a very sophisticated computer. F1 cars typically have two steering wheels, one a purely mechanical one designed to be used then the car is being transported or moved around the paddock; the other is the brains of the car, installed only when the car is to be on the track in racing or testing, and that one is pretty much kept under lock and key–you don’t want to lose it because the car will not operate without it and a replacement (if available) is going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars. WIRED magazine did a very nice piece on the modern F1 steering wheel and, if you have any affection at all for open wheel racing, you should give it a read.
Also, if you want deep background on F1 Technology, the very best book currently available is Ferrari Formula 1 an in-depth look at the world’s most glamorous auto racing team and technology from inside the Scuderia; Ferrari allowed the writer/photographer team(Peter Wright, a former Lotus F1 Team Engineer was the writer) unprecedented access but with a twist: they couldn’t publish the book, which covers the 2000 model Ferrari F1 car, for two years after the access period to allow the technology described in such great detail to become obsolete (that’s how fast F1 changes).