Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Lots of rookie drivers make the mistake of just trying to throw the car into corners, but it's losing them time! Why? Find out below:
As always, you can find the video's full script below in case you would like to read about certain details.
Why does turning in too fast kill your grip? (full script)
If you follow Formula One you're going to notice that drivers turn in pretty quickly, turning into corners quite quickly but also aggressively changing direction. As a result of that, a lot of sim racers, maybe like yourself, apply the same technique in GT or road cars which is unfortunately completely wrong.
In this video we're going to explain why turning in too quickly can actually cost you loads of time because it forces you into understeering through a corner. Lastly, we're going to look at how different car types and factors such as downforce and stiffness of your suspension play a role in determining how quickly you should turn into a corner.
So as always let's start by comparing some examples - so we have a good example here - so watch out for the turning input as the driver approaches the corner, brakes in a straight line, turns in pretty gently and easily gets the car to the apex.
Let's compare that to a bad example - so as we said turning in too quickly causes you to understeer so let's see this in action. Same corner, same car, braking, turns in early, really aggressive and you can see the nose just wants to dive, there's no one near enough grip to get the car to turn in and the driver just understeers off track.
To understand why turning in too quickly causes problems let's look at how a car builds up grip in the first place. If you ever watched our friction circle tutorial you'll know that each tyre has a finite amount of grip available to it. If you want to put more forces through a tyre than it can support you will simply start sliding.
However, the amount of forces each tyre can handle at that point in time depends on what the car is actually doing. Braking for instance generally gives the front tyres more grip, accelerating gives the rear tyres more grip and turning in shifts more weight to the outside meaning that the outside tyres of the car have more grip available to them than the inside ones. The inside of the car gets lighter and lighter and you're mainly concerned with giving your outside tyres as much grip as possible.
That brings us to why turning in too quickly is bad for you. Cars have moving suspension parts which means that turning in or straightening the wheel is not simply binary, there is actually a lot of stuff happening in between. With hundreds of kilograms of weight or even more moving around every car needs a bit of time to shift that weight onto either side.
If you turn in gently you give your car that much needed time to transfer the weight as the springs and dampers can gently get compressed, that will get your tyre to peak performance. On the other hand, if you turn in really quickly you're basically asking the tyre to handle the same amount of g-force with significantly less grip available to it.
And as you can see in our animation, the arrow instantly shoots beyond the limits of the friction circle as the car simply does not have enough time to transfer over the weight. And once you exceed the grip limit even worse, you're already skidding over the tyre which further reduces its grip as it starts overheating.
And there you go now you understand the fundamentals as to why building up grip throughout the corner is so important and why turning in too quickly rather than gently is really bad for you as it causes you to understeer. And there's a really simple and very effective illustration using something as simple as an empty water bottle. Now, this might seem slightly ridiculous but a water bottle is actually a great way to illustrate what we're talking about.
So if we turn it gently, the car leans on the tyre till the grip breaks away, at some point we reach the limit but we get there. Whereas, if we turn quickly what happens is we instantly exceed the grip limits of the tyre and start understeering as a result.
Let's look at why this varies depending on the car type. We now understand why turning in too quickly is bad and hopefully, that simple example of a bottle tipping over helps to visualise the point. A key thing we'd like to explain to you as well is how cars differ in terms of finding the right level of speed on the steering wheel.
As a general rule of thumb the stiffer the car, the faster you can turn in. A stiffer car simply means that it takes less time to transition the weight from one side all the way to the other. This is exactly why F1 drivers can change direction so quickly. With their crazy high downforce levels and mechanical grip F1 cars simply need an ultra-stiff suspension so that they don't bottom out.
On the other hand road cars rely heavily on their soft suspension to build up their grip which is why you should be more gentle on the steering wheel with those. Does all that mean you should set up your cars as hard as possible? Absolutely not. A harder suspension generally gives you more responsiveness but it does so by sacrificing grip. So if you have a tight and twisty track with lots of chicanes, a harder setup might actually be the better one.
So to wrap up, if you keep struggling with understeering despite braking at the same point on track and maybe entering a corner with the exact same speed as other drivers around you, maybe question yourself and think about how quickly do you turn into the corner. It's not just a function of on, off, straight wheel, fully turned in, there's a gentle transition phase and remember you want to shift that weight of the car onto the car's side.
That being said, we looked at different cars and how they differ in terms of technique but also as a final point, there's actually a situation where turning in really quickly can be beneficial which is quite an advanced example of driving which we'll cover in a different video.