The Porsche 919 Hybrid Racing Steering Wheel


When people buy cars, do they really think about the design of the steering wheel?  Does it matter if the wheel has two, three, or four spokes with a different design?

Have you personally thought about how a steering wheel on a racing car may be different?

While modern cars have some options on a steering wheel that include bluetooth, cruise control, menu buttons, or even different chassis settings (think Ferrari’s manettino), more sophisticated race cars have knobs and switches that resemble a 1960’s Star Trek control panel.

"Stuttgart. Setting the direction is the most trivial task of the steering wheel in the Porsche 919 Hybrid. The drivers of the Class 1 Le Mans prototypes in the FIA World Endurance Championship have a computer in their hands. They operate 24 buttons and switches on the front as well as six paddles on the reverse side to control the most complex racing car built by Porsche to date.…There is a large display in the centre, which displays a multitude of information to the driver. This includes the speed, what gear is engaged, the currently selected motor management, and the charge status of the lithium ion battery, i.e. how much electrical energy is available to be called up to drive the front axle. The electric motor on the front axle supplements the turbo charged two litre, four cylinder combustion motor, which drives the rear wheels. The control button at the top left is used to select the displayed information, while the drivers use the control button in the right grip handle to dim down the display brightness at night. The identical control button in the left grip handle is for the volume of the pit radio, and the fourth rotary-type control at the top right varies the interval timing of the windscreen wiper.The buttons and switches on the steering wheel were carefully positioned in co-operation with the drivers, to facilitate reliable operation at racing pace. The most frequently used buttons are positioned along the top outside edge, so they are easily reached with the thumb. The blue button at the top right which is almost always in use, is the headlamp flasher, used by the fast prototypes to warn the slower vehicles in the WEC field before they are lapped. When pushed once, it causes the headlamps to flash three times. In daylight, the drivers keep their thumb on it almost permanently, as naturally the headlamp signal is more difficult to perceive at that time.The red button at the top left is also highly frequented. It is used to demand electrical power from the battery, the so-called “boost”. The drivers can boost to pass but must be clever about rationing the power. The amount of energy per lap is specified. The yardstick is one lap in Le Mans, where six megajoules are available. The amounts are converted accordingly for shorter circuits. The amount of energy a driver uses in the middle of a lap to get free of the traffic will not be available at the end in the straightaways.A bit further inside on the right and left are the plus and minus switches to adjust the front and rear traction control and to distribute the brake balance between the front and rear axle. These (yellow, blue and pink) are not used quite as frequently.The orange buttons further down operate the drinking system (on left) and put the transmission in neutral (on right). The red button at the bottom left is for the windscreen washer, the red one on the right side activates the cruise control to restrict the speed in the pit lane.[via Stuttgart, Germany., Porsche. 2014.  The Steering Wheel of the Porsche 919 Hybrid – A Multifunctional Control Center. [Press Release] Retrieved from]"

If you think that race car drivers simply focus on hitting apexes, think again.  They are trying to maximize speed through driving technique while maximize the chassis abilities of the car as well.  This, is a separation between the modern driver and a race car driver.

The steering wheel is the most used interface with the car.  The next time you may be wondering why buttons were placed on a steering wheel or what primary controls were placed on the wheel, you can thank racing technology, F1 and LMP, for the feature.