Maintained by Frits 'Nijlie' Lucas and Eric Alexander
On this page you can find lots of information on how to set up your car.
Please note that we do NOT supply fixed setups or setup files. Why? Because
these are not very usefull! Because everyone has a different driving style and
uses different controls and help options, supplying fixed setups is
What we supply you with is PROFESSIONAL advice on how to set up your car for
races, in general! So now you too can create your own optimal setup and show
off with it. :)
Also, we give you some hints & tips on how to perform on the different
1. Ayrton Senna's way to set up your car
2. Alain Prost's way to set up your car
3. Frits' way to quickly set up for a (new) circuit
The following is from Ayrton Senna's book, 'Principles of Race Driving',
published by Hazleton Publishing.
"In motor racing, including Formula 1, you must always reach a compromise
between the various settings which affect the performance of the car. There is
no clearly defined procedure that will allow you to find the most effective
set-up in a scientific and dependable way.
Even experiance, fundamental and necessary as it is, can have it's limitations
as each situation is new and different. A small change in temperature, a
little more rubber on the track, or a few bumps which weren't there before can
be enough to create a new situation.
A good test driver must know the areas of the car that can be modified in
order to enhance performance, because one day he will have to call on those
skills. These changes are substantially of two kinds: mechanical and
aerodynamic. Until wings appeared at the end on the sixties the posible
adjustments were mechanical. Today aerodynamics are of predominant importance
and it is here that most development takes place.
In order to have a good aerodynamic set-up, you have to start from a sound
mechanical base. This is why you set up the car Mechanically on the slow bends
first, then aerodynamically on the fast ones, before coming back to consider
the mechanical settings in relation to the new aerodynamic set-up and adjust
the wings for the slow corners which, as we have seen, are rarely taken at
less than 120km/h, the speed at which you begin to feel the aerodynamic
The mechanical parts on which the engineers work are the suspension... and the
ride height. As far as the suspension is concerned, they alter the stiffness
of the springs, the settings of the shock absorbers, the size and material of
the bump-stops, the size of the anti-roll bars, and the angles of the wheels
and the suspension, such as the camber, toe-in and toe-out, and castor.
Alterations to the springs, shock absorbers, bump-stops and roll bars are
meant to regulate the way the car handles, and thus the load each wheel must
bear. Nowadays we do a lot of work on the bump stops, while pre-loading of the
springs was given up on about three years ago. Given the limited travel of a
Formula 1 suspension, we work above all on the bump stops, which regulate
movement of the suspension once it has reached the end of it's travel. With
soft bump stops, the suspension will harden progressively, while harder bump
stops will load the wheels less.
Changes to the ride height alter the load brought to bear on the front and
rear axles. Raising the front end of the car, for example, will reduce the
load on the front wheels and increase that on the rear when you need to cure
oversteer. But the increase in ground clearance means that more air will pass
underneath the car and ground effect will therefore be less efficient. This
example shows how important it is, when working on a Formula 1 car, to reach a
compromise, objectively weighing up all the pros and cons.
Aerodynamic alterations are limited to changing the angle of inclination of
the front and rear wings (when it is increased the wheels are loaded more
heavily), or modifying their shape and profile. The working principle is very
simple, but there are many variables that a driver cannot hope to master the
subject and has to rely on the aerodynamicist in the team. Aerodynamics offers
a two-edged sword: more wing provides increased grip in the corners but means
more drag on the straights and thus less speed. As ever, you have to judge
each situation on it's merits. At Monza, for example, a lot of downforce
allows us to take the two Lesmo corners and the Parabolica faster, but costs
us quite a lot of speed on the straight.
In the case of oversteer the car will have to generally have to be softened at
the rear to increase the load on the rear wheels. It is also possible to on
the settings for springs, dampers and front roll bar, hardening them, so as to
lessen the grip on the front tyres and balance the two ends. In the case of
understeer, the opposite will be done. Soften the front end and, if necessary,
stiffen the rear.
As far as aerodynamic adjustments are concerned, in the case of oversteer, you
have to increase downforce at the rear and decrease it at the front; the
opposite applies if the car is understeering."
A Formula 1 driver has the task of choosing the right gear ratios to match the
length and characteristics of the circuit. The idea is to find the ratio which
will allow you to complete a full length of a bend without having to make a
further gearchange, which would be a risk if the car is heavily loaded, and
would in any case, be a waste of time. Thus the driver must select the ratio
which suits the bend perfectly, finding a compromise if the circuits
characteristics make it necessary. For example, having sorted out
three-quarters of the track, we come to a bend where, if we take it in a
certain gear, say third, we are forced to change up to fourth before it is
completed... It is a risky situation which, on the other hand, gives us more
stability and increased acceleration leading to the next gearchange.
However, to take the bend in fourth, something you must always try, means that
when we want to accelerate we will find the engine at low revs and thus less
torque. The disadvantages are a loss of time in acceleration, less stability
while taking the bend, and less engine braking while braking. The advantage is
the car enters and exits the bend at higher speed, even if it takes longer to
pick the revs up.
If you cannot make alterations because the rest of the circuit is all right,
you have to be guided, as always, by the clock, choosing the solution which
costs you the least time over a complete lap, bearing in mind that the longer
ratio helps the engine's reliability and always guarantees a higher exit
You start by settling which ratio will allow you to achieve full revs at the
end of the main straight. It is important this ratio accurately because a
reduction of 200 revs at maximum speed results in a significant loss of time.
Once it is settled, you work downwards, seeking the right ratio for every
bend. The only proviso to bear in mind is that the drop in revs as you change
up from one gear to the next should be progressively reduced as you work your
way up through the gearbox. This is because the longer ratios used at high
speed will not allow the revs to rise as quickly as the shorter ones.
This is why it is easier to find the right gear in the case of a bend that is
taken at moderate speed: if you have to shorten a ratio in order to exit a
bend faster, it is best if it is first or second gear. The choice of first
gear - which is used to take off at the start and is then used in the tight
bends such as hairpins - is also important. If there are no hairpins then the
choice of first gear depends solely on the start and, once chosen, taking into
account the characteristics of the engine and the driver's preferences, it can
be retained for all the races where the starting grid has the same features.
Ratios are often altered between qualifiying and the race, because the cars
performance will be reduced and will be heavier, with the tanks full of fuel;
ratios are also changed if the wind increases, and they can also be lengthened
if the driver is not starting from the first two rows and the track allows
slipstreaming: in this way we have more speed than out adversaries at the end
of the straights and will be able to overtake them more easily."
Ayrton Senna Foundation
Hazleton Publishng: Richmond Hill, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6RE
The following is from Alain Prost's book, 'Competition Driving', published by
VARIOUS ADJUSTMENTS-DYNAMIC SETTINGS
This covers two subjects which are at the same time distinct yet closely
interconnected: aerodynamic and mechanical adjustments. The first apply to
everything which affects the airflow over the car: the front wing, the single-
or double-plane rear wing, trim tabs and bodywork. Beyond such aerodynamic
aids, these adjustments also take into account the way the car sits on the
road, whether it is raised or lowered at the front, for example.
There are two ways of calculating the correct level of what is known as
It is best first to balance to car. You don't want it to grip at the front but
not at the rear, or vice-versa.
Secondly, it is necessary to adjust the whole car according to the nature of
the circuit, all the time bearing in mind the balance front to rear.
The more downforce you put on the car, the better it holds the road, but the
slower it will be in a straight line. Alternatively, reduce the downforce and
the car will be less efficient in corners, but quicker on the straight. Once
again, it is necessary to find a suitable compremise, as you can't hope to
have the best of both worlds.
Aerodynamics represent a vital part of modern racing. The concept first
appeared in the late Sixties, and it has had a profound effect on the sport
Mechanical adjustments take into account all the suspension components:
springs, dampers, bump-stops and anti-roll bars. This has always been a
classic part of race car tuning. In spite of it's importance, it has rather
been overtaken in recent years by aerodynamic influences, the more so since
speeds have become higher and higher. Put simply, such mechanical adjustments
are still critical to a certain point. Generally, problems occuring at around
60-75 mph can be dialled out through suspension tuning. Any faster, and the
solution will probably lie in an aerodynamic adjustment. To a degree, you can
also camouflage the effects of inadequate suspension settings by having the
car aerodynamically perfect.
But while a mistake with aerodynamic set-up will carry virtually no penalty at
low speed, you cannot hope to correct such a proplem at high speed by
adjusting the suspension.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT UNDERSTEER?
If a car understeers too much, that is it lacks frontal grip, there are
several possible remedial adjustments.
MECHANICAL: Excessive understeer could be a result of having the front
springs, dampers and/orr anti-roll bar set too hard, or alternatively the rear
springs, dampers and/or anti-roll bar set too soft.
AERODYNAMIC: Understeer in a fast corner might be the result of in sufficient
frontal downforce, or possible too much rear downforce. The same effect can be
produced by running the car too high at the front/too low at the rear, as that
also affects the airflow around the bodywork.
If a car has a tendency to oversteer, that is for the rear tyres to break away
prematurely, you have to draw a distinction between fast and slow corners.
Then follow the same rules as you would to counter an understeer problem (i.e.
adjustments to suspension, aerodynamics or tyres), albeit the other way round
(so you might add downforce to the rear wing to counter fast-corner
It can happen that no amount of fine tuning will rid the car of it's basic
oversteering or understeer attitude. In that case, it's a good idea
deliberatly to reduce the efficiency of one part of the car in favour or the
other, to see if it makes it any easier to drive. So, in the case of
execessive understeer, you might reduce the level of rear-end grip. In the
end, the stop-watch is more likely than the driver to decide the best
While setting up a car during test sessions, a driver must also check his
brake balance regularly, make wholesale adjustments if it rains and adapt gear
ratios to suit the different layout of each circuit.
Weight transfer under braking puts more strain on the front of the car, so it
is always best to have more brake bias at the front than at the rear.
...As soon as the front wheels start to feel the effects of the brakes, the
ideal is to have the rear wheels just starting to slow down. At all costs, you
should avoid having the rear wheels braking before the fronts. It's acceptable
to have them braking at the same time. Then, you should just increase the
frontal bias by a couple of notches.
...If the rear wheels lock up... the car becomes unstable. It tries to wriggle
around and might go sideways.
Finally, perfect brake balance at modest speed won't necessarily be as
effective at higher speeds, as aerodynamic downforce and weight distribution
will be affected. In this case, it is naturally better to ensure that the car
is set up to favour high-speed deceleration.
In motor sport, a gearbox can be taken apart in a matter of minutes. It is
therefore simple to adjust the gearing to suit the nature of the circuit you
TOP GEAR: This is the ratio which will be used on the fastest parts of the
circuit. It should therefore allow the engine to operate at the top of the
power curve. Thus the ratio you might use at a circuit where top speed is 125
mph is markedly different to that you would use when traveling at 175 mph. If
maximum power is at 9000 rpm, you don't want to be at either 8500 rpm or 9500
rpm when travelling flat out. In the first instance, the driver has his foot
hard down but there are no more revs available. Top gear (fifth or sixth,
depending on the type of gearbox) is thus too long and needs to be shortened
by 500 rpm so that the engine can operate at it's 9000 rpm peak.
In the second, top gear is too short, and the driver will eventually over-rev
the engine without the car being able to go any faster. And unless he has a
rev-limiter fitted it might just blow up...
The minimum difference between two gear cogs should be around 200-300 rpm,
which isn't much. The driver thus has to take several other things into
account when selecting his top gear: the strength and direction of the wind
can change from one day to the next: the likelihood of slipstreaming, which is
more common in the race, when cars are together, than it is in qualifying:
whether or not you are running on full tanks, which constitutes a weight
disadvantage: the aerodynamic set-up of the car which affects straightline
speed: the favorable (or not) slope on the main straights (in which case you
concentrate on the uphill parts, lifting off if need be on the downhill
stretch). So you can see why mechanics often change the gear ratios in between
qualifying and racing.
FIRST GEAR: First gear is sometimes used for a peticularly tight corner - such
as a hairpin - but generally circuit speeds are so high that it is never used
once the race is under way.
Thus you choose first gear purely for the start of the race. If the
start/finish straight is flat, you will use the same ratio from one circuit to
the next. But if the start is on a slight incline it is better to use a
shorter ratio, and similarly to use a longer one if the grid faces downhill.
CHOOSING OTHER GEARS: The best gear in which to take a given corner is one you
can hold all the way through. It is important that the driver not have to
change gear before the exit, or even just after. Ideally, the driver should
hold one gear all the way through a corner and attain peak power in the first
few yards of the subsequent straight: thus you change up when the car is
THE SPACING OF THE INTERMEDIATE GEARS: Generally, the gearing should be as
close as possible, and there shouldn't be any 'gaps' between ratios, so that
the engine remains in the operation between its maximum torque and peak power.
If the peticular nature of a circuit necessitates lengthening - or shortening
- a ratio to the detriment of the ideal balance, it's least damaging in the
lower gears, as the car is travelling more slowly when you shift from second
to third than when you go from fifth to sixth. Any compromise should be
directed therefore at the lower gears, but given the choice between 'too
short' and 'too long' you should always go for the second: that will be less
wearing on the engine, and will allow you to corner more quickly as you won't
be slowed either by an over-revving engine or the need to change gear in
ANALYSING A CARS RESPONSES-THE MAIN POINTS
Before looking at how a driver should analyse the responses and handling of
his car, it is worth recalling some of the principles which usually govern
test sessions. Concerning the car first of all, it will behave very
differently depending on whether it's on a public road or a circuit. In the
first case, you're looking for manageability and sharp reactions, i.e. a
responsive front end with a tendency to oversteer. In the second, you're after
high-speed stability and good traction coming out of bends, in other words an
effective rear end promoting natural understeer.
In this pursuit of perfect handling, it is essential to take a look at the
behavior and style of the driver himself. You can divide drivers into just two
groups. The first contains those who like a cars to oversteer: you'll find
here all those who turn in and accelerate late, hurl their car onto the racing
line to make it slide, then control it via the throttle and opposite lock.
The second group prefer an understeering car: generally, they turn in and get
on the power early, ease gently onto the racing line and do their best to stop
the car sliding. So perhaps you can see how two cars' belonging to the same
team, might be set up very differently at the same circuit in accordance with
the different styles of two drivers. And it's thus unsuprising that one driver
should be slower than the other after an impromptu car swap.
ANALYSIS OF A CORNER
In addition to the simple distinction between fast and slow corners, it is
worthwhile looking in detail at a car's reactions through each of the three
parts comprising any bend. For this, we'll discribe the behaviour of a typical
(i.e. rear-wheel-drive) circuit racer. Many of the points are also common to
front- and four-wheel-drive cars in other events.
ENTRY: At the entry to a slow corner, the car is decelerating, and all the
wieght is transferred to the front. The problem is to get the car swiftly onto
the racing line. The driver should pay attention to several responses: 'Will
it go where the steering wheel tells it to? Isn't it feeling a little
Entering a fast corner, the car will be accelerating. It shouldn't be
committed too sharply to the racing line, nor should there be too much
understeer. 'How will it turn in? Is there more or less grip at the front than
there was during the last few laps, before I pitted to adjust the suspension?'
MID CORNER: In the middle of a slow corner, the throttle can influence the
behavior of the rear wheels in a number of ways. The driver can wait a little
longer before accelerating; he can also apply either light or heavy pressure
to the pedal. Whatever, he will be able to assess the instability of the rear
end. 'Is it sliding a little, a lot or far too much?'
In the middle of a quick corner, the weight is transfered to the outside of
the car, and with the power already on hard you have to be able to detect the
state of the cars balance. 'Are all four wheels sliding? Or is it just the
fronts? Is there enough lateral grip? Is the rear end breaking away too much?'
EXIT: At the exit of a slow corner, under hard acceleration, the main problem
could be poor traction, if the weight transfer to the rear wheels is in some
way deficient. 'Is the inside rear wheel spinning? Is the rear end breaking
away at all?'
At the exit of a quick corner, the driver should notice gentle understeer,
which he can induce via a gentle movement of the throttle pedal. 'Is the car
understeering too much? Will it snap into oversteer if I lift off?'
THE INFLUENCE OF THE DRIVER
To analyse correctly a car's reactions, you have to bear in mind the manner in
which it is being driven. Remember that a skilled driver will be able to
provoke the same car into either oversteer or understeer in the same corner,
simply by changing his driving technique. So, aside from your own driving
style, which you should preserve at all costs, you must consider a whole
series of small mistakes which might affect a car's behaviour.
And that can lead to incorrect adjustments in the pits, the product of
decisions made on false premiss.
So, during the first few laps of a circuit, at the start of a test session, it
isn't unusual to brake too soon for a corner, to find yourself going slowly as
you turn in and thus to accelerate prematurely: the car will understeer on the
exit as a result...
Conversely, a spirited driver has a natural predilection for late braking
which endows him with a certain harshness at the wheel and obliges him to
accelerate relatively late in the corner: there is thus a strong likelihood of
oversteer in mid-corner...
These driving styles are clumsy and if the driver doesn't pull his socks up he
will pit and demand unsuitable adjustments, having mixed up cause and
In conclusion, a good driver will analyse his car's reactions accurately if he
is aware of his own precision, or lack of it: did he turn the wheel too early
or too late, gently or forcibly? Did he release the brake pedal before or
after the turn-in point? Was he progressive or brutal on the throttle? Did he
regain control early or late?
HOW A YOUNG DRIVER SHOULD MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
To start with, the first thing a beginner should do, as far as setting up his
car is concerned, is to complete as many laps as possible without worring
about other drivers. He must try to learn all about the car, systematically
changing key components to see how they affect it: try a different anti-roll
bar, softer then harder springs, adjust the aerodynamic downforce, that sort
of thing. Even in the junior formulae, driving skill alone is not enough, so
you must know how to get the most from your chassis. At that level, you can
probably gain a second per lap through skilful driving, but loose three times
as much by setting the car up incorrectly.
Before even thinking about modifying a car's set-up, I find it essential to
establish exactly how much aerodynamic downforce it needs. You can't touch the
suspension without having this information to hand. You will need more or less
downforce depending on whether the circuit is fast or slow. This is something
that becomes easier to determine with experience, on the part of both the
engineer who designed the car and, in peticular, the driver. You should know
after two or three laps whether or not you're running enough, and to avoid
possible mistakes it's better to opt for too much than not enough.
In my opinion, aerodynamic downforce is the hub of setting up the car. Once
you've got that right, you can work on the rest.
If you go the other way, you'll be all at sea. If a driver hasn't found a good
aerodynamic set-up for the car, he'll be banging his head against a brick wall
no matter what he changes (springs, roll bars, dampers). So you must be
absolutely sure that your aerodynamics are sound before all else: firstly as
far as downforce is concerned, and then brake balance, to make sure that
you've neither too much understeer nor too much oversteer. Only then can you
start to consider adjustments to anything else.
Hazleton Publishing, 3 Richmond Hill, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6RE
Here is my (Frits') way to perform well on (new) circuits quickly
As you may have seen, I drove a 1:19 at Estoril. But what you didn't know is
that it took me only 2 hours to get a 1:20 time, without ever having practised
on Estoril before!
So how did I do it? Easily, and the same goes for all other tracks!
I start off with max back wing and 75% front wing, get used to the track, and
every few laps I reduce the back wing setting (and matching the front wing of
course) until I don't feel comfortable driving around the track anymore. You
should always keep some front wing however, to prevent understeer.
Now, lower the car's front and back ride height so you're touching the ground
a few times in a lap. You'll see this on the little car in the right hand
lower corner of your cockpit. Also, you'll hear a rumbling noise.
You'll notice now that you can go faster through the curves, which in turn
means you can lower the back wing (and possibly the front wing) a little,
which means you'll be getting higher speeds and better lap times again.
From here on, things get more difficult. You should check out the rest of this
page for information on how to proceed.
Anyway, you'll be driving GOOD laps in NO time without much setup trouble!
I hope this helps all those people among you (I think most!) who don't want to
bother with setups because it's difficult or takes up too much time.
I'm not a setup expert by far yet, but as you can see it is possible to make
good lap t imes anyway. Enjoy!
If you feel like writing me, for whatever reason :), don't hesitate and e-mail
me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please write to me in English or Dutch, that will help me to understand you
Copyright щ 1997 Frits Lucas