One of the most important aspects of Formula One racing takes up only a very small percentage of the overall car, yet has the power to manipulate almost everything about it. I'm talking about the steering wheel, of course, and each one of these is custom made for its driver, in much the same way as a suit is tailored to a gentleman's body.
Many of these can be molded to the exact shape of the driver's hands, and if they don't want to do that, it can be wrapped in fine Italian leather. However, the grip is one of the least important aspects when you consider the 35 other functions that are used to control a modern day F1 car. Such switches and buttons include the clutch, oil transfer from auxiliary tank, spark advance, and rear wing adjustment.
Each custom F1 steering wheel begins with a consultation with the driver that results in a 3D mock-up of the design for them to try out. From here, each driver can request to have the layout altered to meet their particular preferences. Once a design has been approved, the production process begins.
Each steering wheel is molded out of carbon fiber. Once the mold is complete, all the holes for the LCD readout, buttons and switches are drilled into the shell. At this point, the mold of the wheel grip is finalized, and coated in carbon fiber. Then the grip itself is wrapped in the driver's choice of 'comfort' material before all the electric gadgets are individually installed and wired to the circuit board.
Most F1 teams are pretty hush-hush about their steering wheel technology, even though as part of F1 rules, this SECU (Standard Electronic Control Unit) technology is pretty much the same for everyone. None-the-less, the Sauber F1 Team has been kind enough to reveal an infographic of the steering wheel used for drivers, Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil.
In this second video, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton explain the technology behind their own F1 steering wheel.