Blinky McSquinty wrote:
Basically, just about everything on a car can be altered or adjusted. There are some parameters that are tough to touch, such as track, where in almost every circumstance you want the wheels as wide apart as possible, and the regulations specify a maximum width. But wheelbase (different arms), camber, toe-in, ride height, you think of it, change can be done.
Understeer is basically that when cornering, the front end doesn't grip as well as the rear, and you can reach a state that the driver cranks in lots of wheel, the wheels turn, but the car doesn't turn as much as desired. Oversteer is when the opposite happens, more grip at the front than rear, and the back end can come out and around, sometimes too quickly. That's when you see a driver in a corner suddenly loop it.
But we hear a term all the time, and that's "balance", where the car isn't oversteering or understeering. Now it can get tricky, because handling can be broken down into two disciplines, mechanical handling, and aero handling. If you took all the wings and thingys off that pressed the car into the ground, all you have left is how the suspension controls the wheels, and give it maximum grip. You can set the car up to be balanced just mechanically. Now mix in the wings and stuff, and if you have more rear wing that front, the car can be understeering when going fast, but balanced when slow. And if it's oversteering when slow, you can have a nasty condition where it's oversteering when slow, and understeering when fast, or the reverse.
Basically, the lower you get a wing or part of the car to the ground, the more downforce it generates. That's why everyone wants that front wing almost dragging on the ground, remember the flexi-wing last year? Remember Turkey last year, where Massa's car was bouncing and bucking braking from the long straight? What was happening, apart from Massa getting his teeth fillings loosened, was that the front wing and the rest of the car was creating lots of downforce when the wing was close to the ground, then loosing a lot of it when bucking up, and so forth, quicker than the eye can see.
If it starts to sound complicated,it is. The suspension, tires, so much of the car control how the car handles, and changing just one thing can alter the car radically. For instance, when the cars drive around Monza with the trees making shade at some spots, that altered the traction and handling. Go into the shade, the car handles one way. Go into the sunlight, it handles another way.
Yea, and if that isn't complicated enough, the amount of grip also changes based on the speed the driver is cornering at. Since downforce is generated by aerodynamics, going slower in a corner can alter dramatically the amount of grip available. Add to that ever-changing grip levels as the tyre degrades, and it's really amazing how these drivers can the most from their cars lap after lap!