Q: “A friend of mine and I have been discussing driving styles lately. We both work in motorsport as technicians/engineers and don’t mind cutting laps on a sim. He has been telling me to try using the brake as a turning tool; i.e., if I’m accelerating out of a corner and I was too greedy on the throttle and have introduced understeer, I should continue accelerating and tap the brakes to not upset the car’s balance too much. This got me thinking about different driving styles. In many racecraft books and tutorials we talk about the ideal line and standard techniques, but when do different driving styles develop in a professional driver and how do you adapt as an engineer when going over the data with the driver?”

A: This whole topic of driving styles is super-interesting. When do different driving styles develop? I see two answers:

  1. When a driver needs a different style. If they get into a different type of car and the way they drove in the past doesn’t work, good drivers will adapt, and develop new styles. So, necessity is what drives the adaptation.
  2. The second answer is when a driver is deliberate with how they develop their driving techniques. A good coach should introduce various styles and techniques to a driver, and help them become more adaptable. Even without a coach, drivers should work at developing their techniques and styles. For example, I recommend drivers deliberately practice the timing and rate of release of the brakes, as well as the rate and timing of when/how they turn the steering wheel. The more adaptable a driver, the more consistently fast they will be, since they will have the right style for most situations.

As for the sim technique you mention, while I think applying some brakes while accelerating out of a corner on a sim might work, I’ve never seen that work in real life. Fortunately, the brakes on a sim don’t overheat, right? I’m not saying that some drivers don’t overlap their brakes and throttle early in a corner, and even mid-corner, but once you’re accelerating out of a corner, I don’t think there’s a place for the brakes then.

How does an engineer work with a driver and their varying styles? Carefully! J As you know, some drivers have egos, and may even be less than excited about changing how they drive! I could go on forever here suggesting how to coach a driver, but my main recommendation is to present options. Once you give your driver some options, explain the pros and cons of each, then give them the chance to try them on track. Establish a partnership in learning what’s best.