Engineering by Ciaron Pilbeam,
Chief Race Engineer
The cars are more complicated now, which is very obvious in the respective cockpit environments. In the1970s the driver had a rev counter, which monitors engine speed, a light to warn of low oil pressure, and possibly a warning system for the turbo. Forty years on, the drivers have much more information that can be relayed via the radio or seen immediately.
The engines and gearboxes of current cars are protected by various electronic systems that prevent damage, such as engine rev limits and gear shift control. If there’s an issue it can be seen and actioned immediately. In the 1979 car the driver had to manage that himself, and had to avoid over-revving the engine or damaging the gearbox – particularly hard as gear changes were manual, meaning drivers had to take their hand off the wheel and use the clutch.
Although there is much more data available now, the driver is still a key part of the set-up process and you can see the care we take when we speak to them. The additional data allows us to make better decisions to get the most out of the car and driver together.