Dom Duhan on Driving in a Formula One Simulator
Yesterday, I posted a first story on Team Redline’s Dom Duhan who got the chance to prove himself in a professional-grade Formula One simulator of an undisclosed Formula One team.
As promised, Dom has taken some of his time to write about his experience, explaining how the high-tech simulator compares to simulations we use every day.
By: Dom Duhan
The F1 sim felt similar to what we already drive (it wasn’t RF Pro, but a bespoke sim) I acclimatised to the sim pretty quickly despite not driving it before. I found it surprising that it was so close to what we already drive, however learning nuances on the fly was a little difficult! I decided as soon as I got it to really attack it.
Firstly careful of kerbs, I found that out with a couple of crazy moments testing the limits in the first 8 laps or so, gravel traps with high FFB and the motion platform are entertaining to say the least. Even running a couple of wheels on the kerbs vibrated the whole platform so much it was difficult to keep in a straight line. I was worried about the physicality with the high FFB of it before I started but after a few laps you get used to the forces, though I wasn’t as smooth as normal and the car was harder to counter-steer.
The car feel on track was very good, and due to the motion platform coupled with the strong force feedback, I received much more in the way of sensory input. I would say that it felt like F1C, high speed corners in general were quite easy to take, you could control the snappy moments if you predicted it. The slower corners were more tricky getting the power down and generally much more fun, you had to be aggressive to be fast however.
Braking was literally slam on the brakes as hard as possible then release as the aero effect reduces. I had to match the RPM to down shift which was a bit tricky at first as all I wanted to do was slam down 4 gears haha, in fact this took me some time to get used to and I still didn’t get it right at the end.
The brakes were important, firstly I used a load cell brake, felt great actually. What I did find funny was the sim racer technique of using the brake to turn the car with a little bit of throttle worked well, though I didn’t change the setup (I would have put more rearward brake). The engineer told me that they never like to run brakes to the rear, brakes are determined by how much locking there is on the front, so once the fronts no longer lock-up that should be the optimum brake bias. I said that sim racers use the brakes more for steering into a corner and run low brake bias – his response was that in a real life situation it was too dangerous to run brake bias too far back.
So after running around 3×8 laps and feeling very ill from the Field Of View bizarrely, I was satisfied with the performance. I know its easy to say but without this I could have put in about 100 laps and I think I would have been much faster. Still there were a few surprised people there.
Lastly, the engineer told me that simulators will be as important as wind tunnel technology in future, so much can be tested at a cheaper cost using simulators over track days. The sim is also perfect for drivers to get used to the controls in the real cars, something as sim racers we know about, however most F1 drivers don’t have a keyboard in the cockpit hehe. I can foresee simracing teams being involved with testing for F1 teams, providing telemetry, replays even rudimentary setups.