Posted on , by Rob

Car Setup options in F1 2012

F1 201x car setups are variable. The ranges you have to play with are determined by the track you are on.  This means two main points.  It's probably perfectly acceptable to run the same setup on nearly every track, as while the values on screen stay the same, their real world values change to suit the track, thus it's more like having the setup reflect an overall driving style.  The other point is that it's confusing to people who are well versed with car setup in other games and real life, where setup is not track dependant. They run the risk of setting small differences which have no effect in the game.  For example a front wing value of 1 does not produce the same downforce at Monza as it does at Monaco.  I made this mistake initially in my setup.  I went out with small differences between ride height and front and rear wings, thinking I don't want to go to big or the car would be too biased in one direction, only to find the setup changes of a few notches of front wing made no discernable difference.

 

Aerodynamics

F12011 Aero Aero is king in Formula One.  A cars lap speed is mostly influenced by it's aerodynamic setup.  There are three main components to aerodynamics on a Formula One car and the game only makes two obvious.  Front and Rear wing settings can be found on the Aerodynamics page of car setup and these values control the amount of downforce generated at the front and rear of the car.

Wings should be the first and most important thing tweaked on a car setup.  It's easiest to think about wings like this: Front wing determines how fast you can go round corners; how much understeer your car generates.  Rear wing determines how fast you can go down the straight as well as how much oversteer you get during cornering.  Wing settings also influence braking distance.  A higher wing setting means the car is more stable under brakes and will stop faster.

Formula 1 cars also use the undertray (bottom) of the car to generate downforce, by channelling airflow through particular points. For this to work effectively, the car needs to be the right distance from the ground.  A general rule is the lower the car can run, the faster it will go. Think of it like the lower a car is to the ground, the easier it is for the car to be sucked to the road.

Mainly Influences:

  • Top Speed
  • Front wing influences corner entry
  • Rear wing influences mid corner

 

Braking

F12011 Braking Brake balance influences stopping distance and how your car enters a corner (especially when trail braking).  As a cars brakes are applied, the weight of the car moves forward, thus in general front biased brake balance should help a car stop more quickly.  On a road car this is managed by putting larger brake discs on the front than back.  Brake balance can also play a part in when and how often your wheels lock during braking.  Locking wheels are bad.  When wheels are locked, they're sliding over the top of the road and are no longer slowing the car down (as they're sliding, they're not griping the road).  Locked wheels also cause flat-spots, which make the tyre resemble a 50 cent piece and make the car harder to drive.  An approach I take to setting brake balance is to first determine the corner where braking is most critical to lap time and then set my brakes up to work best for that corner.

Brake pressure effects how easily your brakes lock.  A higher pressure will make it easier to lock the brakes but it will also make the car stop faster. It's a trade-off and depends on brake balance also.

Brake size determines how long your brakes work effectively during the race.  On high force braking tracks like Canada and Monza, large brakes will mean you'll have more effective brakes at the end of the race. The trade-off is more size = more weight, so your car will be heavier and slightly slower.

If your front wheels are locking under braking you have too much front brake bias.  If your car is "squirming" around under brakes, you have too much rear brake bias. 

Mainly Influences:

  • Stopping distance
  • Car handling on corner entry

 

Balance

F12011 BalanceARBs, or anti-roll bars reduce the amount of lateral roll through corners.  The higher the value, the lower body roll.  It is also used to control levels of understeer and oversteer.  A bias toward the front tends the car to understeer and bias toward rear will tend the car towards oversteer.  Configuring the ARBs to be too stiff all round will cause the inside wheels to lift off the ground when cornering and this will reduce grip and traction.

ARB's also work in tandem with springs (see below) to stiff the car, so spring settings must also be considered when ARB's are adjusted.

Mainly Influences:

  • Car handling on corner entry

 

Suspension

f12011 suspension As mentioned in the aerodynamics section, ride height determines the amount of downforce generated by the undertray of the car and comprises as much as 40% of the total downforce of an F1 car.  That's too huge a number to be ignored.  Ride height also affects the ability of the car to ride kerbs or bumps in the track.  Too low a ride height will cause the car to bottom out over bumps.  Once a car bottoms out the downforce generated by the undertray becomes zero (as effectively the airflow is cut and stalled). 

Ride height can also be used to help influence car balance by way of weight transfer.  This is performed by raising one end of the car higher than the other, pushing the centre of gravity either forward or back.  As with ballast, a raised front will shift weight rearward and reduce front end grip, tending the car to understeer, while a relative raised rear will help cure understeer and tend the car to oversteer.

Springs have a few functions.  A soft setting allows the tyre to maintain contact with the road over bumps, providing more traction and grip.  Soft springs also mean you have to run a higher ride height.  Downforce increases exponentially with speed, so the faster you go the more downforce you generate.  Downforce pushes the car down effect ride height.  Thus if you run soft springs on a fast circuit you run the risk of bottoming out on fast corners and losing control.  Springs also effect body roll (as mentioned in balance and anti-roll bars) and help tune understeer/oversteer.

Mainly Influences:

  • Ride height impacts mid-corner stability
  • Corner entry (softer front springs to reduce understeer or harder rear springs)

 

Gearbox

F12011 Gearbox The typical recommendation is to select the 1st gear ratio that will propel you off the line the fastest and select the 7th gear ration that will cause your engine to hit the rev limit just before the braking point of the fastest part of the circuit.

But what do you do in between?  You can either space the gears evenly from 1st through to 7th or you can bias low gearing and have a long 7th gear, or vice-versus. 

F1 2010 is confusing in that I would expect if you set all the gear markers in a line, you would be at the same speed in all gears (have the same ratio/number of teeth).  However that's not the case.   You can clearly see that all in a line (the default) results in different top speeds in each gear. 

Also think about traction when you consider gear ratios. A higher ratio will result on more traction but not accelerate as hard. What this means it that in some corners it's better to have more traction than wheel spin, so the end result is greater acceleration; while in others, wheel-spin doesn't come into it, so purely a lower gear ratio is better.

My preference is to set the car up with a high 1st gear, giving my good traction and a much lower 2nd through 6th gear, very closely spaced.  My 7th gear is generally high, so I get good top end speed and good acceleration through the corners.  The only downside is I'm susceptible to overtakes when I'm in 7th gear a pulling low revs.

Mainly Influences:

  • Top Speed
  • Traction out of corners

 

Alignment

F12011 Align Camber refers to the angle your wheels make with the ground.  A highly camber tyre means the tyre leans either in or out from the car.  F1 2010 does negative cambers only (a sensible idea) which means the tyre leans in toward the car at the top.  A larger negative camber increases the ability to turn the car (reduces oversteer).  This is because when the cornering forces are exerted on the tyre, the tyre deforms and more contact patch is on the road, offering up more grip.

The flipside of negative camber is that when you accelerate in a straight line you have less tyre on the road and therefore less grip and either can't accelerate as hard or get snap oversteer on corner exit. 

A high speed track like Monza would require little negative camber compared to a circuit like Monaco.

Toe operates on the other plane to Camber.  That is, Toe-in means the front of the tyre is closer to the vehicle than the rear of the tyre.  F1 2010 always deals with Toe-in.  More Toe-in causes more straight line stability at the cost of turn in response.

How does camber interact with toe?  When a wheel is cambered, the interaction between the tyre and the road surface causes the wheel to tend to want to roll in a curve, as if it were part of a conical surface.  This tendency to turn increases the rolling resistance and tyre wear. A small amount of toe-out will counter the effect of negative camber on rolling resistance.

Mainly Influences:

  • Rear toe-in effects car handling on corner exit
  • Front toe-in effects ability to turn into corner

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