Head of Human Performance, McLaren Applied Technologies
McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer esports competition will see its eventual winner become an official McLaren simulator driver. It’s a unique opportunity for any racer, or non-racer, to begin to experience what it feels like to be a Formula 1 driver.
After working with former F1 World Champion, Jenson Button for almost a decade, I know the importance of the simulator to the team. It helps the engineers set the car up to suit a particular track, informs race strategy, and prepares the driver for the mental and physical challenge of driving the real car.
As the Head of Human Performance at McLaren Applied Technologies, the advanced technology, innovation and design company, I wanted to give you an insight into how you would feel if you drove our simulator, and what the engineers will be expecting from you.
So, here’s a few things to think about.
1. Physical training
The simulator will not replicate the full physical demands of driving a Formula 1 car, but it will be close. As fun as racing games are, they can’t replicate the 120-130kg brake pressures required to slow a Formula 1 car down, or the G-forces you’ll experience through high-speed corners or under heavy braking, so you’ll need to be in reasonable shape.
You’ll be glad to know that the simulator has power steering, which means you won’t need a massive amount of upper body strength.
Sparco Gaming develops immersive race seats and Logitech G produces steering wheels and pedals to provide some of the perceptual cues experienced in racing to enhance the gaming experience, but the simulator provides the next level of fidelity, providing drivers with greater physical and cognitive immersion over a lap.
You’ll be sitting in a Formula 1 chassis which is tight and compact, surrounded by a 180-degree screen, which can feel claustrophobic if you aren’t used it. It will take time to get used to being in such a restricted environment, as you will be used to racing games in the comfort of your own home.
3. Motion sickness
It’s very likely that you’ll experience disorientation, eyestrain, fatigue, a headache and even vomiting the first few times you drive the simulator. This is because your brain experiences a sensory mismatch, as you’re physically moving very little, but moving fast around the track.
Don’t let this put you off. Elite Formula 1 drivers experience motion sickness, and there’s very little you can do to avoid it…
4. Driving skill
If you’re a seriously talented gamer, I would expect you to have excellent hand-eye coordination. Changing gears, breaking, and accelerating all within seconds of each other is standard practice for an F1 driver.
You’ll need excellent racing know-how and skill. Racing is about tactics which includes picking the best racing lines, being intelligent with your Pirelli tyres and fuel, and detecting a fault before it occurs and ends your session.
When you play a game, you’re playing on your own. But Formula 1 is a team game, so good communication is vital.
Simulator drivers and engineers work closely together, as the driver can provide information that data from telemetry systems can’t detect, such as how the car feels when its cornering. The engineer’s job is to find out how the car is performing to extract the maximum performance out of the car.
6. Technical set up
The manual set up of a Formula 1 car is complex, and even though most of that is down to the engineers, you’ll still need a basic understanding of the motions of the car including the understeer, oversteer, camber, roll, pitch and yaw.
I know some gamers can play on their PlayStation or Xbox all day, but simulation sessions are mentally and physically enduring because of the detail it requires to perfect a car set-up. On occasion, they can last all day.
I hope that helps anybody considering entering the World’s Fastest Gamer contest, and good luck