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Pirate Driving
October 22, 2011 6:58 AM   Subscribe

"I had to drive with only one eye open as the camera was blocking my other eye, quite tricky," he said. Luca DiGrassi tests an eye-level camera in an old Toyota F1 car.
posted by juiceCake (58 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
He slightly fucked up the line at 2:14 right?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:25 AM on October 22, 2011


(pretty cool BTW, not a big F1 fan but am a big Top Gear fan which has kindled a little bit of an interest in racing)
posted by nathancaswell at 7:26 AM on October 22, 2011


So what does it look like?? I can't believe they didn't show it.
posted by desjardins at 7:35 AM on October 22, 2011


^ Scroll down, there's a youtube embed.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:40 AM on October 22, 2011


I'm off to turn a lap at Catalunya in Forza 4 with an eye closed, see how hard it really is to do.
posted by Keith Talent at 7:48 AM on October 22, 2011


Okay, I've watched the YouTube video 3 times - at what point do they show the helmet?
posted by desjardins at 8:01 AM on October 22, 2011


If all roads were this curvy and everyone was required to drive this fast we would no longer have to have the "don't text while driving" discussions.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:04 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


He slightly fucked up the line at 2:14 right?

Yep. Locked up a front wheel on entry and that screwed his turn in. You see the quick correction just as he turned in. Despite the tyre warmers, it was a first lap out of the pits and the setting sun (with lengthening shadows on the track) makes for weird trackgrip conditions. It's pretty easy to make a mistake on new tyres anyway, but when the track is shadowed where it was the last time you were out (like 15 minutes ago even) it can lose a lot of heat. Track heat is much more of a variable than people realise. This was likely pretty recent and 'winter' testing in places like Spain means colder air temperatures but consistent weather. So you get good, dry, running but the track surface grip can be a bit random unless the sun is on it all the time.

Okay, I've watched the YouTube video 3 times - at what point do they show the helmet?

They don't unfortunately. The only camera is in the helmet. You see other people filming him but god knows where that footage is.
posted by Brockles at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


How much do drivers study a map of a new track before venturing out and driving on it? Do they get a general idea and then just go out and do it, picking up a little more speed with each lap until they have it down? Or do they literally memorize each turn and detail before ever getting behind the wheel? When you see it from this view there's obviously not a lot of time to evaluate your next few moves.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2011


Something I particularly like about this is how to show people one of the most common mistakes that drivers make when they start to learn to drive - that of looking at the apex. It's interesting to see quite how early Lucas looks away from the corner. Especially when you consider that his eyes will have tracked away before his head.

People tend to look at the apex and keep correcting right up to it (and so screwing up their line). If you're looking at your apex more than out of your peripheral, chances are you're on the wrong line. Lucas is always looking through the corner (you know, cos he's good). You're supposed to have got your line right when you've turned in and there shouldn't need to be correction after it for the most part.
posted by Brockles at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Drivers will often walk and/or drive around the track in a road car to learn the layout before taking to it in an F1 car.

I really enjoyed that video, the car mounted cameras are much too high.
posted by Harpocrates at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2011


How much do drivers study a map of a new track before venturing out and driving on it?

Assuming good/serious ones - a lot. They walk it. Normally a number of times and before and after they drive it too. You will know the corners and which way they go and how much time is between them. They often also do a decent amount of simulation (yes, including X-Box!) to get the rhythm of the track, but they do very much know what to expect before they go out. Constructing a fast lap on a new track is pretty involved and how you approach that in mental attitude and discipline (it's easier to over drive rather than be just slow on a new track) is a strength of drivers in the lower formulae that have limited track time over a weekend. You can't just keep pounding at it until you get it right, you have to work at it in a structured manner.

When you walk the track, you get to see things like reference points like flagging posts, trees that line up in a useful way, surface changes, camber changes of the track that may help or hinder any detail of the track that helps you, explains possible handling issues (ie change of surface mid corner) to stop you getting hung up on changing the car. All information should be assessed and used if you can.
posted by Brockles at 8:24 AM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Slack-a-gogo: "How much do drivers study a map of a new track before venturing out and driving on it?"

At the top levels there are high-tech simulators that help the drivers learn the tracks they're unfamiliar with.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:36 AM on October 22, 2011


OK, race fans: What are all the dials and buttons on the steering, er, wheel? Obv the readouts are kph and gear.
posted by notsnot at 8:45 AM on October 22, 2011


http://www.formula1.com/inside_f1/understanding_the_sport/5287.html

Basically anything and everything. You see Lucas hitting several buttons a number of times through only one lap. The mental load on the driver of all the various controls they have to mess with while driving has caused many even recently retired drivers to state that they would be unable to step back into a car and be competitive.

In the relatively old days, two way telemetry was available - the team could monitor and change settings on the car, gearbox and engine through the race. This was banned so now they have the driver do it through the wheel controls while he is driving. It's a hell of a workload.
posted by Brockles at 8:55 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's going to be so cool when video games are indistinguishable from this kind of footage.
posted by StephenF at 8:58 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That gear-shifting's gotta be one of the most satisfying sounds in the world.
posted by eugenen at 9:16 AM on October 22, 2011


Very cool. Can some one point me to a diagram of what all the dials and buttons on the steering wheel are? About the only one I can figure out are the gears
posted by JPD at 9:41 AM on October 22, 2011


I would love to see eye tracking like this done with a Formula 1 driver. It would be even better if it could be done actually during a race!
posted by neilb449 at 9:51 AM on October 22, 2011


http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2011/04/22/steering-wheels/

There you go.
posted by Brockles at 9:52 AM on October 22, 2011


CART and ChampCar were putting helmet cams in driver's helmets during races for years. For example Paul Tracy around Montreal.
posted by gyc at 9:58 AM on October 22, 2011


There's some good information on the Official Formula 1 site about the steering wheels and lots of other stuff about the sport.
posted by neilb449 at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2011


It should be pointed out that driving an F1 car is about the same level of difference as flying an F15 is to flying a Cessna 172.

These guys have serious talent and reflexes and "feel" not found in your average person. Average people can certainly learn to drive much better than they do, but not at the level these guys drive. I suspect I wouldn't even be able to get an F1 car around the track. Didn't Top Gear or someone do this recently, where they had one of their drivers try three different cars, ending up with the F1 car, with the person essentially unable to drive it?
posted by maxwelton at 10:01 AM on October 22, 2011


Didn't Top Gear or someone do this recently, where they had one of their drivers try three different cars, ending up with the F1 car, with the person essentially unable to drive it?

IIRC there's an episode where Hammond tries to drive an F1 car and is essentially too scared/unable to drive fast enough to get enough downforce to corner, or to heat the tires or something.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:19 AM on October 22, 2011


Here's the excerpt... note that the first car he's driving is just the "practice" car... the real car comes in like halfway through the clip.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:27 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a 'working up to it' lesson with an F1-style Lotus with Clarkson, too. Good excerpt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VJ_bKYrfWg
posted by Brockles at 10:34 AM on October 22, 2011


IIRC there's an episode where Hammond tries to drive an F1 car and is essentially too scared/unable to drive fast enough to get enough downforce to corner, or to heat the tires or something.

Yeah, counter-intuitively if you drive too slowly you end up crashing because the tires cool down too much and there's not enough air going over the wings = no grip and no down force, so you spin off really easily.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:36 AM on October 22, 2011


And, with that context, here's Tom Cruise driving a Red Bull Formula 1 car for the first time.
posted by The World Famous at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know Tom Cruise is a big motorcycle guy and in that vid they say something about the clutch being similar... Presumably he'd done some driving of Stock cars for Days of Thunder as well. Pretty interesting.

Of course he finishes up the vid by doing a loop and a barrel roll in a helicopter so maybe he's just a crazy intense-smiling speed freak with lizard blood in his veins.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:00 AM on October 22, 2011


Putin does it in the wet.
posted by LordSludge at 11:10 AM on October 22, 2011


Whatever else you think about Tom Cruise that video is very impressive. He does better than 99% of people would in that car.
posted by neilb449 at 11:12 AM on October 22, 2011


nathancaswell: "I know Tom Cruise is a big motorcycle guy and in that vid they say something about the clutch being similar... Presumably he'd done some driving of Stock cars for Days of Thunder as well. Pretty interesting.

Of course he finishes up the vid by doing a loop and a barrel roll in a helicopter so maybe he's just a crazy intense-smiling speed freak with lizard blood in his veins.
"

Nope. He's clear.
posted by Samizdata at 11:27 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Geesh. that Tom Cruise clip just erased the Oprah couch moment.
posted by mecran01 at 11:45 AM on October 22, 2011


It's going to be so cool when video games are indistinguishable from this kind of footage.

Actually auto racing is one of the easiest things to simulate. Almost everything is just flat, objects, either shiny or matte. In fact, From playing various Gran Tourismo games back in the day I recognized the course right away, even though I havn't played in years.

I think in GT4 they had F1 cars you could drive and in the video game (unlike real life) they are actually pretty easy to drive, and in fact they just stick to the ground like crazy, compared 'regular' cars, but you don't have to deal with all the gear shifting.
Didn't Top Gear or someone do this recently, where they had one of their drivers try three different cars, ending up with the F1 car, with the person essentially unable to drive it?
Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Hammond drive's three cars, eventually an F1 and while he has trouble at first it's not that it's too complicated it's that he's not driving fast enough to keep the tires warm and keep the car from stalling out. Eventually he does get the car going fast enough to get around the track, and do so pretty quickly.

Plus, I suspect a lot of the "drama" in top-gear is mostly staged just to make the show more interesting. It's not a documentary.
posted by delmoi at 11:51 AM on October 22, 2011


I think the take-away from the Hammond clip isn't so much scared, though that's some of it, it's even having the ability to react fast enough at the speeds necessary.

A friend and I were talking about baseball: even IF we could see a major-league fastball (probably not) and IF we could identify it so that we know where we'd like our bat to be, our reaction times/muscles aren't fast enough to bring our bat around where we could do anything other than foul the ball off to the side we're not standing on--if that. I think driving an F1 car at F1 speeds would be similar.
posted by maxwelton at 11:53 AM on October 22, 2011


The engine noise in the Tom Cruise video is not indicative of how fast he's going - it may even just be dubbed. There's no doubt that its very hard to drive an F1, but he's not going as fast as it sounds. You can make it sound like you're going really fast in your car if you don't shift past 2nd gear. This is a red-bull promo video, so they have every interest in making it look and sound more awesome than it probably was. Still awesome to drive an F1, though.

I admit some of this downplaying / disagreement with the apparent enthusiasm here is because I think TC is freakin crazy.
posted by pkingdesign at 11:54 AM on October 22, 2011


A friend and I were talking about baseball: even IF we could see a major-league fastball (probably not) and IF we could identify it so that we know where we'd like our bat to be, our reaction times/muscles aren't fast enough to bring our bat around where we could do anything other than foul the ball off to the side we're not standing on--if that. I think driving an F1 car at F1 speeds would be similar.

I have the same long-standing discussion with one of my friends. How many straight 90+ mph fastballs would it take before I (a shitty- to-mediocre-high-school-player), was able to put one in play? I think I would eventually catch one but it would probably take 50+. Then the pitcher starts to mix in a change How many now? 300? 400? I've got a 50% chance of guessing right, but my timing would be all sorts of fucked up. Now mix in a curve. I'm fucked.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:09 PM on October 22, 2011


This is as good as any other time to post F1 vs GT, to get a sense of the sheer speed of these machines.
posted by spiderskull at 12:33 PM on October 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think the take-away from the Hammond clip isn't so much scared, though that's some of it, it's even having the ability to react fast enough at the speeds necessary.

And the physical strength and endurance. F1 drivers don't have huge necks for nothing.
posted by clorox at 12:50 PM on October 22, 2011


This is as good as any other time to post F1 vs GT yt , to get a sense of the sheer speed of these machines.
posted by spiderskull


I saw my first live F1 this year (Malaysia) and the speed differential between F1 and lower classes is as dramatic as the linked video. Watching Lambos and Ferraris, race prepared mind you, wallow around the corners like they are reskinned Pinto's was phenomenal. The sports cars are the absolute pinnacle of almost road going machines, (race tires etc would not allow them on public roads) but they appear to be at a standstill compared to F1.

The other thing I took note of is on TV, where my previous viewing experience is, things appear to happen faster than the human brain is capable of processing. Not to take away anything from the pilots, but in real life, you can see how they have enough time/space to pull of some of the moves they do in traffic. Due in a large part I'd guess to cameras foreshortening distances and clearances.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:02 PM on October 22, 2011


That Top Gear episode is priceless: Hammond says after spinning it out: "That is absolutely the most glorious machine ... in the world." and the crew responds "Wait til you get it into second."
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 1:16 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the take-away from the Hammond clip isn't so much scared, though that's some of it, it's even having the ability to react fast enough at the speeds necessary.
He specifically said he wasn't driving fast enough for the tires to stay warm enough to handle the corners. And importantly he was able to get it around the track eventually.
posted by delmoi at 1:52 PM on October 22, 2011


Whatever else you think about Tom Cruise that video is very impressive. He does better than 99% of people would in that car.

That's my exact thought. "Wow, he may be a Scientology freak, but you have to admit the guy has skills."
posted by mrbill at 2:47 PM on October 22, 2011


I saw this video a few days ago, and I just sort of took it to be reason #34,758 why Robert Daily was right when he said

"Grand Prix racing is Mt. Everest, every other kind of racing is the Adirondacks."
posted by Relay at 2:53 PM on October 22, 2011


I suspect I wouldn't even be able to get an F1 car around the track.

I read a bit by a journo in the 90s - when all sorts of electronic assists were still on the cars - admit that despite years of thrashing all sorts of road-going exotica - his first effort in an F1 car resulted in repeated stalls.

As far as driving them fast - a late 80s/early 90s study on the physiological challenges of F1 driving included the brain becoming unable to process the signal from the eyes at around 160km/h and drivers field of few narrowing further and further as it sought to compensate for the overwhelming amount of information, as well as the blood becoming thicker and thicker as a result of the 5G+ that F1 cars could muster in turns; the stress on the heart in a race is huge.
posted by rodgerd at 3:11 PM on October 22, 2011


Okay, my only experience comes from playing video games, but you're not so much 'reacting' or 'processing visual information' you have the whole track memorized and at a certain point it's mostly muscle memory. Reaction time is physically limited by the speed of electrical signals traveling down your nerves. Remember, it's not a signal like an electrical wire, but rather a chemical/ionic process. It takes time. About a quarter of a second to your hands. Race-car drivers aren't going to have much better reaction time then you (or at least a young person. It does slow down as you get older)
posted by delmoi at 4:07 PM on October 22, 2011


Speaking of high tech simulators, Virginia International Raceway has one that they call VIPER. (vid here)

As far as something closer to the living room, I've found the iRacing service to be the best experience out there. It's been developed by David Kaemmer and John W. Henry, two of the brains behind Papyrus and the great NASCAR Racing 2003. After Papyrus lost the NASCAR license to EA, the studio folded, and Kaemmer and Henry took the underlying engine and improved it to make the service they have today.

And delmoi, I have to disagree that motorsport simulators are one of the easiest things to simulate. Sure, making a track look like the real thing is pretty easy from a graphics standpoint, but making the cars behave like their real life counterparts seems to be one of the most challenging things in simulation. Kaemmer's been working on his next gen tire model, and this is how he tells it:
“Previous tire models for race simulations have been based on measuring real tires and fitting performance curves to data generated on test machines,” says Kaemmer. “But without understanding why tires generate the forces they do, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen outside of the performance envelope where tires are tested. It also is very time consuming to determine the many numbers needed to describe a tire using a fitted model like that. We’re more accurately reproducing the ways in which tires behave, which, in turn, enables us to make a car’s performance extremely authentic. So we went back to first principles to figure out how to model a tire from basic measurements we can do without putting them on a tire test machine. How does the patch of rubber in contact with the road generate grip? How does that patch of rubber move across the road? How does it distort when you climb a curb or when the tire starts to slide? The theoretical model we’ve come up with does the right things. When a car slides to a stop it takes the right amount of time; burn-outs look and feel right . . . all kinds of behaviors we used to struggle to reproduce by fitting numbers now happen almost automatically. There are comparatively few numbers involved in describing a tire now, all of which are much more easily measured. That means we’re more accurately reproducing the ways in which tires behave, which, in turn, enables us to make a car’s performance extremely authentic.”
And that's not even getting into the effects of modeling car setup changes and aero effects. Forza and Gran Turismo are great sims, and look great, but they're very arcade-y compared to iRacing. I've heard that the new Forza does a lot to get rid of the grindy aspect that it's shared with Gran Turismo in the past where if you weren't good enough you could just upgrade your car. Racing in a field of 15 or more drivers in the same car for 20 or 45 minutes is one of the best racing experiences I've found in front of the computer. I 100% Forza 2, and haven't touched GT5 since I started iRacing 6 months ago.

And WRT reaction times amongst top tier drivers, I don't believe that it's a case of them reacting faster than others, because at the speeds these guys drive by the time you've reacted you're already in the weeds, as they say. Mostly their experience has given them the ability to anticipate ahead of time how the car is going to react before they get there. Someone said in the Senna thread a few days ago that his greatness on the track was partly due to his ability to predict how the traction was going to change around the racetrack.

I must say I love all of the racing posts that have hit the blue in the past few weeks. I'm guessing the crash at Vegas last week is the reason for it.
posted by daHIFI at 5:06 PM on October 22, 2011


you're not so much 'reacting' or 'processing visual information' you have the whole track memorized and at a certain point it's mostly muscle memory

Hmmm. There's a bit more to it than that, although some of the basis is correct. For a driver to be fast, they must practise and process the repetitive stuff into muscle memory - brake application style (it's not just on/off), gear shifting (where relevant), rhythm of the track, awareness of other cars, everything that can be automated basically.

So you're not really constructing each corner as you get to it (brake here, turn here this much, throttle at this point, wind steering off this much, shift gears at this point, check mirrors, adjust diff setting, hit F-duct/DRM etc) but you get that into a rhythm/habit and then constantly monitor it. Little corrections and inputs and overseeing of the basic lap at all times.

Race-car drivers aren't going to have much better reaction time then you (or at least a young person. It does slow down as you get older)

This is absolutely not true. Having spent a lot of time around racing - racing drivers (the good ones) are not normal people like you and I. They don't have the same physiological make up so they absolutely DO have faster reactions than you and I. It's not that they learn them necessarily (although some element of sharpening can be trained in) it's just that the ones that get good (and F1 is the best of the best of the best of the best) it's just that the people who are capable of being that good have stupidly crazy fast reactions and data processing capabilities. Accentuating this is a natural affinity where they appear to react even faster than that, as they predict what is about to happen (see daHIFI's point). The kinds of other training they do (balance, coordination and eye-muscle training etc) mean they are also more aware of their surroundings anyway. The kind of physical training these guys do (even at the relatively low levels) is just nuts.

I have to disagree that motorsport simulators are one of the easiest things to simulate.

I concur wholeheartedly. If you haven't driving a real racing car at speed, you are not qualified to judge if it is realistic or not. It isn't. They are getting better all the time and have been relevant for a number of years. Even the more basic ones (by which I mean Forza 3 and 4, Gran Tourismo 4 and 5) are very useful as training aids but they all have their limitations. They are not accurate simulations (although, as mentioned graphically they are excellent) but do have their uses. The kind of simulators the top guys use (the F1 teams are on the cutting edge of this and I have had drivers who have had access to them) are streets ahead of these kinds of games and even the top of the range ($35,000) single simulators that are available. The trickle down of outdated tyre models through these top level uses (much as other technology has trickled down in other parts of racing) has allowed a very rapid recent increase in simulator accuracy. But it is a long way to go to be considered 'realistic'. Not least is the complete lack of any kind of competent physical demand simulation, but no-one is going to be able to be super smart on a simulator and jump straight into a car and be as fast.
posted by Brockles at 5:36 PM on October 22, 2011


It looks to me like Richard Hammond was no worse than Tom Cruise, merely that each set of footage was edited to tell a different story. Nothing critical or unflattering is said or shown of Cruise - it's the usual Hollywood schlock where everyone is constantly enthusing emptily about how wonderful it is to work with everyone else. It looks like Cruise is pure awesome because that's the purpose of the production, and that's the story being told. With Hammond, they go the opposite direction, focusing on difficulty he has and and playing up every every mistake he makes, and very rarely bothering to show the footage when things going right, because they're setting out to tell a different story.
No doubt they're both really good drivers, and neither production intends to be completely honest, but the Top Gear story strikes me as a lot less bullshit.

Has anyone ever heard Top Gear being described as "a lot less bullshit" before? Ouch. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:03 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hammond also a few years ago had a near-fatal crash in a dragster (was it jet powered too?) So I don't doubt he may be reluctant to push his luck in an F1
posted by zippy at 8:38 PM on October 22, 2011


When you see it from this view there's obviously not a lot of time to evaluate your next few moves.

True, and each move must be executed with incredible precision. Check out this side-by-side comparison of Sebastian Vettel (left side of screen) and Jenson Buttle (right side) at the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix. The two are evenly matched until that last chicane, where a slightly better line let Vettel steal pole away from Button by 0.009 seconds (9 thousandths of a second), or less than a meter.
posted by prinado at 8:53 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is absolutely not true. Having spent a lot of time around racing - racing drivers (the good ones) are not normal people like you and I. They don't have the same physiological make up so they absolutely DO have faster reactions than you and I. It's not that they learn them necessarily (although some element of sharpening can be trained in) it's just that the ones that get good (and F1 is the best of the best of the best of the best) it's just that the people who are capable of being that good have stupidly crazy fast reactions and data processing capabilities.
Yeah. No. Human reaction time is a question of science. You can't get less then, say ~230ms from your eyes to your hands. It's just not physically possible. If you think it's possible, you're just wrong.

There is a difference between reaction time and how well you can time something. When you're racing around a track you know by memory you're not really 'reacting' to anything unexpected things, so it actually doesn't even have that much to do with reaction time anyway.

Also you have no way of gauging someone's reaction time simply by standing around them, that makes no sense at all.
I have to disagree that motorsport simulators are one of the easiest things to simulate.
I was simply talking about the visuals -- I replied to someone who said someday video games would look like that. They already do (at least the track and car, the inside the cockpit stuff will usually look more CG)
posted by delmoi at 10:12 PM on October 22, 2011


All great clips. I haven't watched F1 for years, and this is a nice return.
posted by anadem at 10:14 PM on October 22, 2011


About a quarter of a second to your hands. Race-car drivers aren't going to have much better reaction time then you

Yeah, I think this is demonstrably false. Race car drivers and e.g. air force pilots have reaction times on the order of 60-70ms... and I really do mean reaction times. Do you have any evidence that there's a hard bound?
posted by spiderskull at 1:28 AM on October 23, 2011


Also you have no way of gauging someone's reaction time simply by standing around them, that makes no sense at all.

Yeah, because observational methods clearly can't possibly work as any means of gathering information. I don't mean just standing next to them waiting for the sun to go down - that would be stupid. I mean watching them playing computer games and sports, watching them drive (hundreds of hours live and on video in-car) and most importantly from looking at data from the cars of on track incidents (parts of the car breaking, sudden loss of traction from punctures/surface changes etc) that shows faster reactions than this. Not from reacting to general racing related stuff (hitting kerbs, bumps or that kind of thing) but unusual occurrences; unpredictable input requirements.

You need to cite something supporting your .25 second limit because my searching before I replied with my direct observation (and understanding of this kind of thing over the years - which I conceded may be warped) didn't find anything at all to support your claim. Quite the opposite in fact.
posted by Brockles at 7:17 AM on October 23, 2011


It was interesting to hear Coulthard say (during commentary for the Korean GP) that Schumacher's reaction time tests (specifically in reacting to the starting lights) were the slowest among the drivers when Coulthard was active at the same time Michael was. Tests are fine and dandy but results on the circuit are really all that matters. Schumacher got results, despite his lacklustre (compared to other drivers) reaction times in tests.

I remember watching a race at Silverstone with all onboard coverage. Michael easily made more adjustments per lap than any other driver. Pretty much for every corner. So multitasking is equally as important as reaction times.
posted by juiceCake at 1:58 PM on October 23, 2011


There is absolutely a physical limit to reaction times that has to do with the physical limitations of the body's various transmission mechanisms. I'm pretty confident that F1 drivers can't get the nerves in their bodies to communicate data faster through their limbs. With simple tasks such as reacting to starting lights, that is all that matters. When a driver is in the race though, they have to make some kind of decision based on that data and then take some kind of action. I don't think that F1 drivers have super human reaction times in the most basic sense but when we're talking about reactions that involve decision making, they are certainly on the bleeding edge of human ability.

In short, I think you guys are talking about different types of reaction times.

I've read a number of articles where some journalist goes and drive an F1 car and there are two things that I see in every article. First, they always stall it at least once. Two, they are physically unable to drive the car at its limits. It doesn't matter if they're brave enough or skilled enough they are never strong enough to drive the car as fast as it will go.

I was really surprised at just how violent driving the car is in this video. Even the footage on the in-car camera looks pretty smooth. The gear shifts especially always seem to so seamless but here I got the impression that each shift gives the driver a solid jolt.
posted by VTX at 3:04 PM on October 23, 2011


I've read a number of articles where some journalist goes and drive an F1 car and there are two things that I see in every article. First, they always stall it at least once.

Honestly, that is the least of their problems. Almost everyone that drives a racing car (with a proper racing engine or clutch) will stall at least a couple of times. Even racing drivers in a notably different car. They're buggers to drive away from rest for many levels below F1.

The most amusing one you get from people that drive race cars (either open wheel or anything with a high power to weight ratio and a clutch) will be that they try to drive them slowly (after initial pulling away). Like at just above jogging pace in the pits or paddock area. They will put a teeny spurt of power on and the car leaps forwards a few feet and then they over-correct. As a result the poor driver (and this often happens and is roundly jeered for among mechanics driving the cars back and forth to the pits) ends up with their foot bouncing on and off the throttle pedal and gets in this terribly amusing "Brah-brah-brah" feedback loop of kangarooing. The inexperienced always try very hard to control it, whereas the more experienced either floor the throttle or dip the clutch. It's the only way out of it. Always funny to watch from the outside though.

Two, they are physically unable to drive the car at its limits.

This. The rate of information processing alone (never mind the physical exertion) you need to drive a really quick race car is phenomenal and it is an easy skill to have lapse if you've even been out of it for a while. I drove a kart on a tight twisty (new to me) track for the first time in about 10 years the other day. Not even a full-on gearbox kart (it was a 125cc DD2) and the first 10 minutes had me desperately trying to hold onto the thing as I waited for my brain to speed up and start processing the information fast enough for me to even begin to get sensible laps in. I was missing apexes and getting pretty overwhelmed (much to my chagrin) just from sheer input. Too many bloody years driving a laptop, that's for sure. Getting into something properly fast like an F1 car must be a good few stages above that.

In short, I think you guys are talking about different types of reaction times.

That is very possible.
posted by Brockles at 5:32 PM on October 23, 2011


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