By Michael Lam
28 August 1999
Ok, I'm going to attempt to cover all the inner secrets of hotlapping in this article. Here goes:
A set-up that is absolutely spot-on, can't be improved is a must for hotlaps. You'd be surprised at what a difference a perfect set-up makes compared with what you thought were "good" set-ups. Also, the set-up for hotlaps is vastly different to the one you would use for a race. Try and race with a hotlap set-up, and you would finish last, no matter how good you were. This will be explained a little later.
You want a generous amount of front wing, between 12-14 for fast tracks, and 17-20 for slow tracks. More front wing doesn't really slow the car down much if at all. You want virtually no rear wing, 1 or 2 maximum.
The brake balance should be biased towards the front to help counter the oversteer caused the the small rear wing. Gear ratios should have a high first gear to prevent wheelspin. This is important if you disable throttle help - this is explained later.
The advanced menu. This is where the real differences in the hotlap set-up and the race set-up takes place. Many people ignore the advanced menu - this is a BIG mistake. The front packers, front fast bump dampers, front fast rebound dampers, front slow bump dampers, and front springs should all be set to their maximum value. Also the rear packers, rear fast bump dampers, rear fast rebound dampers, rear slow bump dampers, and rear springs should all be set to their minimum value. These settings are to counter the effects of having a very small rear wing.
The anti-roll bars should be stiffened at the front, and softened at the rear, to help counter the oversteer caused by the small rear wing.
The ride-height. The most important variable to set-up in the advanced menu. The ride height should always be set up so that the ride height is as low as possible and so that immediately after your hotlap the plank wear indictor turns red. The lower the car is, the more downforce it creates without the penalty of drag, the lower the centre of gravity, and therefore faster cornering speeds.
Fuel. For a hotlap you should set the fuel to 2 laps only. Drive the first lap slowly, making sure you don't make the plankwear indictor light up at all. You should cross the start/finish line between 1.2 to 1.5 laps fuel and then accelerate. If the plank wear lights up red before the end of the hotlap, you can throw that hotlap away, it will be no good. This is why a hotlap set-up cannot be used for a race - the plankwear would slow you down an enormous degree after the first lap.
Your driving style also is very important. Throttle help (F7) should be turned off for faster acceleration. However be warned, if you've never tried driving without throttle help you need a lot of practice.
The way you take a corner is also very important. It all depends on what follows the corner. A real driver's mind is always thinking ahead to the next corner. Yours should too. If a straight follows a corner, approach the corner slowly and get as fast an exit as possible. Have you ever tried the last corner of Spain, Catalunya? Get a fast exit speed and you can normally slipstream up to two or even three drivers. If a slow corner follows the corner you're taking, brake late, and take a slower exit. This will mean a faster corner, you don't need the extra speed at the exit.
For chicanes, be careful not to brake too late. You can lose up to 0.5s by braking to late. In this diagram the correct way of driving a chicane is the grey line - the false way is the red line. The red line is what happens when you over-brake: you lose time because you have to travel a few metres further.
When you take corners, you should also consider how much kerb you should use. Using to much curb actually loses you time, because you end up travelling further. However, on tracks like Hockenheim, where the kerbs are shallow, you should use them to your advantage. Tracks like Spa also needs good use of the kerbs. Kerbs can also be useful to prevent wheelspin when your rear wheels touch them.
My last and final point is the most important. You need to practice as much as you can. Practice until you can't stand the pain in your fingers. Persevere, and you will be rewarded with a time that you could never have thought about getting before you read this article..........