People occasionally ask me why I’m not a fan of contemporary formula racing. I usually start by boring them to tears with tales of the 2005 USGP fiasco and my long drive home from that event, swearing off Formula 1 again and again with each passing mile. But when I look at this photo of a contemporary Formula 1 steering wheel it does a much better job than I could of communicating my real reason.
I admire Formula 1 engineers and aerodynamicists. They have pushed the automobile to the absolute limits of technology. I just think they may have pushed beyond the limits of what an automobile is. This steering wheel doesn’t control a car. A spacecraft; a fighter jet; a robot, maybe. But not a car.
I spend most of my workday at a computer. I click buttons all day. I like buttons. And I know that I sound much older than I am when I say that I do not look forward to these technologies making their way to road cars. I just don’t want to push any more buttons.
I want to feel the hint of tension in my calf when I push the clutch in. I want to feel the gratifying clunk of the shifter when I pull into second. I want to hear the clack of the gears connecting as I pop the clutch. I want to feel it, to smell it, to taste it. I want driving to remain a tactile, physical experience.
Of course I realize that Formula 1 drivers have no ends to the physical sensations that they receive from their machines when they’re racing, but will daily commuters have any sensation when this tech comes to the road?
There. There’s my rant. I try to keep them to a minumum.