Technical Setting things up


Karting amateur
Maybe we need a thread about setup in the technical section but quite simply there are a multitude of things that can be changed. These include things like wheel camber, brake pads, wing angle, suspension rebound, suspension stiffness, tyre pressure, ride height, rake, gear ratios, engine mapping, etc.

Each one of these has a direct or indirect effect on the other. If one driver has a really good balance, good pace and good handling, traction etc. in his car then taking one setting from the other car will unbalance the other settings already in place. Optimum setup is about a harmony between all of these adjustable parts and that harmony must critically resonate with the driver's input. Driver input is also another variable which can be controlled and tuned.

In relation to McLaren, as it is thier driver pairing that raises these questions at the moment, I believe the problem is that Jenson, as a variable, has a more limited range than Lewis. This means that the team have to try to bring the car to him whereas on the other side of the garage there is more of a convergence - where the driver and car can be brought to each other with more effect.

I really want to go into a lot more detail on this but let me post that as a starter and see if it jogs any of you to input on this approach to evaluating things.
I think it might have something to with the fact it's fairly impossible from the outside to know exactly what teams are doing with their set-up or how they go on about analysing wind tunnel data or what have you... we completely rely on what team bossses are willing to divulge. It's impossible for us to comment on what we can't actually see. We can tell when a car looks unbalanced or lacks traction for example, by watching them on the track but we have no idea exactly how the teams go on about trying to remedy that. We rely on what they say. It's not something we can really debate about.
It was a bit simpler in the old days, when you could tell cars' downforce settings simply by looking at the size of their rear wings.
I don't think it's impossible to comment at all. I think it is very possible to comment. There is a lot of information that is not divulged but there is enough for us to build a picture. Obviously not to go and set up an F1 car ourselves but certainly, if we have the aptitude, to be able to build a good high-level picture. Having a knowledge and an understanding of what setup changes can be made and how changes have an effect on how the car behaves is obviously a great advantage when entering into this realm of discussion.

To simplify things, if we ignore the aero we can learn a lot from Kart setup. There is an enormous wealth of video tuition, both amateur and professional, on YouTube about Kart setup and dialing a Kart into a track or driving style.

Setup is something that I am quite able to get my head around and I feel comfortable discussing it with anyone. It is most certainly the technical side of the sport and so I can see why many fans would be bemused by it or shy away from it.

The racing is obviously a much simpler spectacle if you watch with the caveat that it's just a race and the fastest driver at each circuit will win and everything else is magic beyond our understanding but the reality is that it's a lot more complex than that and we would be doing ourselves a disfavour by dismissing that which we feel we cannot understand. Personally, I wouldn't enjoy the sport half as much if it wasn't for my interest in the technical aspects and how this plays out on track at the hands of a driver. I strive to learn all the time and "I do not understand" is a phrase for me that normally precedes "How can I try to understand?".
The things that I can think of are:

Aero: Rear Wing angle, not much else you can do at the back.
Front Wing angle, more flaps and endplates to adjust so a more settings to try.

With more downforce you will have greater traction, and medium corner speed, and lower downforce will give you a higher top speed.

Geometry: Toe-in/out, toe-in will make the car track truer in a straight line, whereas toe-out will give increased cornering stability.
Camber, almost always is negative as it improves cornering speed significantly. More camber will have an effect on traction due to a smaller contact point, but top end speed is improved.
Caster is usually about 5 degrees on F1 cars, but not much adjustment can be made.

Brakes: Very simply bigger brakes reduce stopping distances but increase drag. Teams will try to run as small hubs as possible.
Another factor is that Brembo and Carbon Industries supply brakes, with Brembo offer more bite but will fade, and CI offer less initial performance but will continue providing good performance well into the race.

Susupension: Springs can be loosened so more kerb can be taken on apex, and the car is protected, but it will cause the car to roll and understeer.
Dampers will vary how long it takes for the car to bottom out, but it wont make a huge difference.
Ride Height is also adjusted in the suspension, with lower ride height being more favourable as a lower centre of gravity will hugely improve cornering grip, but has to be high enough so it does not bottom out at top speed when the car is pushed into the ground.

Steering: Can be made to be more or less sensitive, and ratio's changed, but this is more to do with driver preference.

So in short set up is all about endless compromises, but a large amount of it is done on computers and simulators before the race with mostly fine-tuning occurring in practice.

With regards to Button's performance, I expect the new updates are not to his liking, or his Chassis is flawed in some way, possibly cracked.
It's tough to comment on because while we can tell when a team has improved downforce or traction or mechanical grip it's nearly impossible to know how exactly the teams went about this. And it's also hard to tell whether improvements are due to upgrades or a better understanding of setup.
I would highly recommend to anyone interested on the subject of car set-up:


I read it as a kid and was hugely impressed with the wealth opf technical information included in this. It was written in 1988 so might be a bit dated when it comes to the finer points of today's technologies but in terms of basics behind the science of racing I haven't read anything better.
When one car is fast and the other isn't, then the car is fundamentally fast. There can be no doubt about that. However, in order to achieve the potential of that car then you need to find an optimum setup and drive to complement it - unless there is an issue with one of the cars then the lack of pace is clearly down to setup and driver input.

They would have certainly x-rayed his chassis by now. If it was cracked, they would know about it. They would also have load tested it on a rig for any anomalies. There will always be subtle differences but if this was the cause of Button's problems then McLaren would be well aware of it by now.
ExtremeNinja - I'm not trying to be contrary when I say this, but I disagree in a way with you..... Imagine this situation - you have a driver who is driving the car to the absolute edge of adhesion at every moment. This could be thought of as the fastest the car could go.

However, another driver may be able to take the edge of adhesion, and step over the edge, and as such drive the car in a different way, and go faster (or slower)....

In 1995, Berger and Alesi were driving their Ferrari to the limit of adhesion. However, almost the first time when Schumacher sat in the car for the first time, he went 1 second faster than they had been going on the same circuit!
...and to be sure that we stay on topic, this scenario is normally where the driver has a wide range of application. Drivers like Senna, Hamilton, Schumacher, Alonso and many more before my interest in the sport fit into this mould. Almost certainly, one of the biggest variables in getting the most out of a car is the driver.
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