Q: “I notice that many of the top drivers turn the steering wheel more right in the middle of the corner, just about the apex. But I never see anyone teach it. Example: Lewis Hamilton’s record lap at COTA on YouTube. I have found myself doing this on the sim and some in my car in real life. In the slow speed turns on entry, they add X amount of steering input, then as they approach the apex and are scrubbing speed, they add more input. This makes sense because as you slow, the tires will take more input. Comments? Good? Bad? Too complicated for amateurs? It seems pretty natural to me on the sim? I presume if it is used during a record lap, it must be faster?”
A: You said, “As you slow, the tires will take more input.” There is nothing in physics or a tire model that say that’s true. A tire doesn’t really know what speed it’s traveling at.
The opposite of that is true (in a car with aero downforce): The faster one goes, the more the tires will take since they have more grip from the aero load. This is a fact.
Does the tire generate more grip at that slower speed, or is it that the driver is just asking more from it? It’s the latter. The very best drivers will ask more from the tires in slower areas of a corner, and that’s why many will turn more at that point. If, early in a corner, a driver turns the steering wheel too much, it’ll scrub off speed dramatically. But, if that extra bit of steering input is given around the middle of the corner – where the car is likely to be at its minimum corner speed – there’s no big penalty for some tire scrub. As a matter of fact, some drivers will use the added steering to intentionally (although not necessarily consciously aware that they’re doing it) scrub a little speed, and tweak the angle of the car passing the apex so they can get back to full throttle aggressively (but smoothly).
As I said, a driver that you’re observing may be making fine adjustments to the line to get the car on the best angle for accelerating out of the corner. Keep in mind that clipping the ideal apex for a corner is just one part of the equation; the other is having the car at the right angle as it passes the apex. Often, that requires an adjustment around the mid-corner.
Finally, why is it not taught more? Is it too complicated for most drivers beyond the elite ones? There are two answers. First, I would say that few coaches/instructors/teachers even realize there is this level of detail involved with steering input. It takes a LOT of time comparing steering input traces from data systems, from varying levels of drivers to even begin to notice what’s going on. And second, yes, to some extent this is not the highest priority for many less-than-elite drivers. Usually, there are many other areas of driving technique that provide bigger results.
For more, check out the Steering Speed video on my YouTube channel.