The complex Formula 1 steering wheel

Despite what you might assume after traveling on India and Dubai’s highways and byways, operating a vehicle isn’t terribly complicated. At most, there are three pedals, a steering wheel and a gear shift lever. Everything else is just periphery. While the onslaught of infotainment doodads and climate control wizardry have turned the cockpit of your favorite conveyance from an exercise in simplicity into a buffet of dials and buttons, we assure you it’s nothing like what Felipe Massa has to contend with.


Every year, Ferrari fields a team in the Formula One championship, and dumps around$400 million into developing and racing the car. So you’d think that the steering wheel–perhaps the car’s most crucial point of contact, where a human turns all that R&D into championship trophies–would be a masterpiece of interface design. And you would be wrong. Ferrari decided to make things easier on Mr. Massa by simplifying his steering wheel. The old tiller was a maze of controls, thanks largely to the KERS system the team employed for 2009. Now all it takes to get cozy with the interface that controls the F10 racer is a mere nine minutes of your time and a memory like a steel trap.

In a sport where one second can be the difference between finishing first and 10th, you can’t afford to be pushing buttons by accident. And this steering wheel basically invites that. Somewhere here is where our engineers really need to talk to interface designers and industrial design engineers.

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