When watching Formula 1, it’s often difficult to see what the driver is doing inside the cockpit of the car. From the onboard camera angles, we can easily see the steering wheel, but it can be difficult to see what the driver’s feet are doing. This leaves many wondering if F1 drivers use both feet.
F1 drivers use both feet when driving the car. The right foot uses the accelerator and the left foot uses the brake. This is more efficient as it reduces the amount of time that the driver spends switching pedals. It also allows the drivers to put more force onto the brakes.
It is standard for F1 drivers to drive with both feet. However, many are still left with questions on why this method is used and whether it actually makes a difference. Below, we go into more detail on how and why F1 drivers use both feet when racing.
How Many Pedals Do F1 Cars Have?
Formula 1 cars only have two pedals inside the cockpit in front of the driver’s feet, much like a standard automatic road car. There is an accelerator on the right and a brake on the left. These pedals, however, are very different to the ones that you would find in your average road car.
The pedal on the right-hand side is the accelerator and pressing it down will send more fuel to the engine, accelerating the car. Formula 1 cars do not have traction control, and the driver must be extremely careful and precise with their right foot to prevent spinning the rear wheels.
The Brake Pedal
On the left-hand side of the car is the brake pedal. The brake pedals on Formula 1 cars are extremely stiff because of the powerful brakes that they operate. Drivers often need to push down on the pedals with hundreds of pounds of force to get the brakes on their car to work properly.
There is major difference between the average road car and F1 cars. When driving a regular car, you want to brake slowly and carefully to slow the car down in a steady manner, bringing it to a stop as you gradually press the brake pedal harder. In Formula 1 cars, the drivers press the brakes harder and slowly lifts their foot off the brake the closer they get to a corner.
But if an F1 driver puts too much force on the brake pedal, they may lock up their wheels, which can cost them time and damage their tires. So, while they need to press extremely hard, they do still have fine control over their brakes.
Do Formula 1 Cars Have A Clutch Pedal?
Formula 1 cars do not have a clutch pedal, and instead they have a clutch paddle. It is usually a paddle on the back of the steering wheel underneath the gear shift paddle, present on each side of the wheel. Although there are two separate paddles, they operate a single clutch on the car.
Why Do F1 Cars Have 2 Clutch Paddles?
F1 cars have 2 clutch paddles because it allows drivers to have better clutch control. With one paddle fully engaged, they hold the other clutch paddle down by a specified amount depending on their bite point. When they release the first paddle, the clutch instantly engages to their desired amount.
Basically, by having one paddle fully engaged, the car doesn’t move as there is no drive being sent to the wheels. But before the race, the driver will find where the bite point is (just like in your regular manual car) and then they will be able to know how much they need to pull the clutch in to be at that bite point at the start of the race.
The clutch on the car will engage to the highest level either paddle is set to. In other words, if one paddle is pulled in all the way, but the other is pulled about half way (i.e. 50% engagement), the clutch on the car will be fully engaged. If one paddle is pulled in 10% and the other is pulled in 30%, no matter which paddle is which, the clutch will be ‘30% engaged.’
The process at the race start looks like this:
- Pull one clutch paddle in all the way (100% engagement) to keep the car stationary, while pulling the other paddle in by the amount corresponding to the car’s bite point
- Select first gear and rev to the ideal RPM
- Watch for the 5 red lights to go out
- Release the clutch paddle that was fully engaged
- Slowly release the other clutch paddle while managing the throttle pedal to avoid wheelspin and pull away from the grid
By having one paddle pulled all the way in and the other at a predetermined level, the driver can instantly get their clutch to the desired bite point as soon as the lights go out. If they just used one paddle, they would need to release the clutch as soon as the lights went out, but only by a specific amount, which would be far more difficult to get right and would present more risk.
When Do Formula 1 Drivers Use Their Clutch Paddles?
Formula 1 drivers use their clutch paddles to bring their car into motion. This could be when leaving the pit lane, starting a race, or even when they spin. The clutch paddles are not used to change gears on the car, as F1 cars use semi-automatic gearboxes, but the clutch mechanism is.
This system becomes tricky to master, especially as drivers must use the clutch paddle on the back of the steering wheel rather than a pedal inside the cockpit. The clutch paddle must be pulled in when the car comes to a stop if they want to prevent the anti-stall from kicking in.
When stopping the car or going in for a pit stop, the drivers will use the clutch paddle on the back of the steering wheel. They will then need to find their bite point carefully again to get the car moving from the stationary position.
Do F1 Drivers Brake With Their Left Foot?
F1 drivers do brake with their left foot. In most cases, they will brake hard initially and then slowly release the brake pressure as they get closer to the corner. Therefore, they can use their left foot to brake, while still managing the throttle with their right foot.
Formula 1 drivers only use their right foot to accelerate, and they only use their left foot to brake. For the average driver that uses a road car this might seem like a strange concept to get used to, but it presents several advantages for F1 drivers.
Why Do F1 Drivers Use Left-Foot Braking?
F1 drivers use left-foot braking because it allows them to put more force into the brake pedal more quickly, while keeping their right foot free for the throttle at all times. The brakes on a Formula 1 car require an immense amount of force to maximize their stopping power.
It’s not just about the force required to push the brake pedal, as using their left foot to brake is also faster. The driver can have their foot ready on the pedal, which means they will be able to brake exactly when they need to. They also don’t need to keep their left foot free for use of a clutch pedal, as F1 cars don’t have them.
If a driver uses their right foot on the other hand, they would first need to shift their foot across to the brake pedal before they can start braking. This means they would need to start braking a fraction of a second earlier than if they were to use their left foot for braking.
Do F1 Drivers Always Drive With 2 Feet?
Formula 1 drivers always drive with two feet. In fact, they have been using this technique ever since they started racing and will likely be using it throughout their entire racing career.
Formula 1 drivers usually start out in karting. Go-karts only have two pedals: an accelerator and a brake pedal, with no clutch or gears. Go-karts are single speed and do not require the driver to change gears. The fuel tank is in between the driver’s legs, so they must use their left foot when braking.
From there it becomes a habit, and this technique often stays with them throughout their entire career. Junior single seater cars also only have two pedals, and drivers will use the same technique in Formula 1 and Formula 3 cars, and in other motorsports like NASCAR – even though NASCAR cars come with a clutch pedal and (now sequential) manual gears.
Paddle shift gearboxes are still new to junior single seater cars though, and as recently as 2015, cars with three pedals were still common. However, these cars had sequential gearboxes that also did not require the drivers to use the clutch pedal when changing gears.
Is Driving With Both Feet Faster?
Driving with both feet is usually faster. For drivers to be as fast as possible, they must avoid “coasting.” This is when neither the throttle nor the brake is being used, and the driver is ‘wasting’ time. For the driver to be fastest, they need to be using the throttle or brake at all times.
Using their left foot to brake allows the driver to go from accelerating to braking in basically no time, which means that they will be faster throughout their lap. The driver will also be able to brake more effectively. Note that this driving style is only really possible and effective when you don’t need to use a clutch pedal.
Left foot braking is not easy, and teams will often analyze their telemetry very carefully to see if they are switching between accelerating and braking too slowly. Using their left foot to brake also leaves their right foot on the accelerator pedal and allows them to accelerate immediately when they need to.
Formula 1 drivers drive with two feet to optimize efficiency and control. This method allows the driver to use both pedals immediately when needed, leading to faster lap times. Using their left foot for the brake allows for more force on the pedal and therefore stronger braking.