Today’s Tip – Weight Distribution and Shortening the Corner

Todays tip is an interview with the Formula One driver coach Rob Wilson.  It’s a podcast interview from the excellent Motorsport Magazine.  During the interview he talks about two of the fundamental aspects of competitive driving: management of weight distribution across the four tyres and maximising the time travelling in a straight line by shortening the corner.

Your interaction with the road and hence your ability to accelerate, brake and corner is with the tyres and the amount of grip they generate is entirely down to the weight being pressed down on them.    Moving the weight of the car around each of the tyres in the right way maximises the grip where and when you want it.  We talked recently about braking and by building the brake pressure quickly but progressively so the front tyres, that are doing the most work, increase their grip and hence the amount of brake pressure you can ultimately use.  Never ‘surprise’ the car by doing anything suddenly always progressively and smoothly move the weight to where you want it, be it cornering, braking or accelerating, to build the grip.  Remember that if you are driving a ‘downforce’ car your effective weight on each tyre increases dramatically with speed and allows you to perform your inputs faster but the same rules of physics apply, its just a more extreme window you can work in.

When thinking about shortening the corner its useful to have a bit of context: Historically, you would aim to get the car turned into a corner then pick up the gas as early as possible, feeding in the power as you gently unwound the steering, drifting the car out to the outer edge of the track on a shallowing arc, maximising your mid corner speed and giving a long graceful arc through the bend.  This worked due to the relative lack of lateral grip of the skinny cross-ply tyres of old.  Modern tyres require a more aggressive, and certainly less balletic, approach.  In short, your minimum corner speed, or apex speed, is a lot less critical now and is comparatively slower compared to the relative entry and exit speeds when compared to the traditional approach above.  With the higher lateral gip level available from modern tyres you need to maximise your corner entry speed, get the car stopped and turned at the apex then exit in a straighter, more diagonal, line to allow you to get on the gas harder and get full throttle as quickly as possible.