Sim racing can be an expensive hobby, with drivers investing some serious money into their rigs and setups. Overlooking the pedals as a source of improvement, however, is all too common.
With minor adjustments to your pedals that literally take seconds, you can find yourself feeling more confident, consistent and aggressive on your feet.
In sim racing you have two sensory inputs that tell your body you are driving a car; hands through force feedback and your feet through the pedals. It is therefore critical to driving performance that both your wheel and pedals are set correctly.
In this article, we aim to cover some of the main differences and key terminology when it comes to pedals, as well as our recommended setup process for F1 2021, which you can skip to here.
Potentiometer vs Load Cell vs Hydraulic
The above three are the most common types of pedals found in sim racing.
Before adjusting any of your pedal settings, it is important to first understand what type of pedals you are using. If you are unsure, a quick google of the manufacturer and model of your pedal should give you the answer.
Potentiometers are usually found in entry-level setups, whilst the higher-spec wheels will usually support Load Cell style pedals. Hydraulic pedals are not very common, however, they are out there; this is the top end of pedal setup and supposedly provides the highest level of feel.
Potentiometers are generally easier and quicker to manufacture which makes them less expensive. A potentiometer is a device that measures distance and turns this distance into an electrical signal. The electrical signal is picked up by the game and the relative braking force is applied to the in-game vehicle.
The system itself works very well and provides a great starting point for beginner drivers, however, the amount of ‘feel’ and progression through the pedal is reduced and therefore is not recommended if you are thinking about becoming a serious driver. Some of the Thrustmaster range, as well as the Logitech G29, G25, G920 and G925, use potentiometers in their pedal bases.
Load Cell pedals perform differently from Potentiometer pedals. A Load Cell measures the direct force applied to the pedal and turns this into an electrical signal which is then picked up by the game. A load cell pedal still moves the same way when pressed, however, there is a more realistic resistance pressing back.
Load Cell pedals tend to be more accurate as they produce signals at a higher frequency than that of a potentiometer. This means that the inputs to the pedal are more sensitive, improving immersion and performance.
Another key benefit to load cell pedals is that the amount of customisation is higher; depth of travel, pressure, resistance, etc can all be modified and adjusted.
Hydraulic pedals work very similarly to Load Cell pedals however they use a hydraulic reservoir containing fluid to mimic that of a real-world pedal. Again, the main benefits of using Hydraulic is the level of customisation and realistic feel.
Is there an advantage to be made in upgrading your pedal set? For outright performance, the general consensus is no. However, by using a load cell pedal, your consistency may improve over the length of an endurance style race when compared to a potentiometer. It will also be easier for you to learn certain handling characteristics and your skills as a driver will be easier to develop.
Seating Position and Pedal Position
Before making any adjustments to your pedal settings, it is important to make sure that your seating position and pedal location is correct. There is a lot to be gained through correct body posture, as a more comfortable seating position means that you are less likely to fatigue over time. It is widely known when muscles begin to tire, they also decrease in performance and accuracy. There is a great article written here for a full, in-depth guide on seating position.
When pressing the brake, a large amount of force is given by your leg to the pedal. This force needs to be repeatable for your body to recognise exactly how hard to press. There are two important points to consider when setting your seating position and pedal position.
Firstly, the distance between your seat and pedals. Your body should be sat at a distance so that when the clutch pedal is fully pressed, there is still a slight bend at the knee. If you don’t have a clutch pedal, then the throttle pedal should suffice.
The length of the pedal press should come from the bend at the leg and not the rotation of your ankle. The ankle is not as strong as the knee and thigh muscles, and should therefore only be used for very fine, small adjustments to the pedal.
The second point is ‘mounting’. Both your seat and pedal box should be (if possible) firmly mounted either to your rig, or firmly mounted to the floor. Pedal boxes that use carpet style grippers are usually not enough and tend to lift up when braking hard. Make sure you have something supporting the pedals from behind to stop them from slipping.
The angle that you mount the pedals should also be a consideration, neither at the top or bottom of the pedal stroke should your ankle be stretched or strained. Adjust the pedal angle to compensate for this.
Furthermore, using a solid chair that does not swivel or roll is critical to getting a better pedal feel.
What are Deadzones? What is Ghosting and Feathering?
A ‘Deadzone’ is a term used to describe an unregistered percentage of pedal application. A deadzone can either be at the beginning of the pedal press or the end of the pedal press.
Ghosting and/or Feathering is when the pedal input flickers at either 0% input or 100% input. This can have an on/off effect on performance, especially when trying to press the pedals to their maximum. It will essentially cause the game to release the pedal when at 100% to 99% and then flicker between the two.
Deadzones can therefore be useful when setting up your pedals if you ever find yourself in this scenario. Ghosting and Feathering can be more noticeable on well-used pedals where the sensors can start to show signs of wear.
Deadzones can also be used to eliminate any ‘pedal riding’. This is where your foot rests on the pedal and creates a small amount of constant input, even if you don’t realise you’re doing it. A deadzone can be used to negate this input.
As mentioned, Deadzones are also helpful for top-end pedal input. For example, if you are using a load cell pedal with high resistance and struggle to reach either maximum brake or throttle press, you can apply a top-end deadzone to help reach the full range.
You can adjust your deadzone settings in two ways (which will be covered below), either through your pedals specific firmware or through F1 2021.
The Difference Between Firmware and Software
Firmware is the manufacturer’s dedicated permanent software that is adjustable via the manufacturer’s advised application (see below). Software (in this case) is relating to the Sim or Game settings that you use the pedals for. For example, F12021 has its own dedicated pedals settings within the game.
Software and Firmware settings are not linked. Changing one will not affect the other.
Below are the web pages of common pedal manufacturers and their advice for Firmware settings. It is important to note that each brand of pedals are slightly different and may have different setting procedures. It should also be mentioned that the Logitech range (G29, G920, etc) will not carry its Firmware settings over to Console versions of F1 2021. The changes in Firmware for Logitech will only be applicable for PC gaming.
Thrustmaster – Thrustmaster – Technical support website
Heusinkveld – Download SmartControl • Heusinkveld
As mentioned above, it is necessary to go through the manufacturer’s guidance when calibrating your pedals. Firmware changes will result in a blanket settings base, meaning that whatever settings you apply, will be carried throughout all Sim racing games.
F1 2021 Pedal Settings
Within the ‘Calibration’ settings in F1 2021 you have a number of available controls for both the throttle and brake pedal. Here is what each one does:
- Throttle Deadzone – this will create an amount of pedal stroke with 0 input. You can adjust the deadzone up if you find your foot resting on throttle. Ideally, this should be left as 0.
- Throttle Linearity – this changes the input frequency at the lower and upper ranges of pedal travel. Meaning, initial pedal press 0% to 20% will create more pedal pressure and 80% to 100% will create less pedal pressure.
- Throttle Saturation – this is the intensity of pedal pressure. Turning this up will create full pedal pressure with less pedal travel.
- Brake Deadzone – same as above
- Brake Linearity – same as above
- Brake Saturation – same as above
Using the “Test Button” feature, you can directly check what effect these settings will have on the pedal travel.
Driver61’s Recommended Pedal Setup Guide for F1 2021
- Calibrate and set your pedals using your manufacturer’s firmware application.
Using the links posted above, go through your manufacturers recommended setup and calibration for your specific pedal set. Make sure to make these changes before opening the game
- Turn on F1 2021 and adjust your in-game settings
Open the “Calibration” menu and select button test, here is the next procedure:
- Press the brake as hard as you would normally. If you do not reach maximum pedal then adjust the SATURATION.
- Next, rest your foot on/near the brake as you would normally. If there is an input registered, adjust the DEADZONE to negate this.
- Now progressively press the brake pedal through its range. For potentiometer pedals, you can decrease LINEARITY to give a better pedal feel at lower ranges. For Load Cell and Hydraulic, leaving this at 50 is ok.
- Repeat this process for the throttle.
Unfortunately, practice does make perfect. Choose a track you are comfortable with and set some laps, at pace. Adjust your Linearity first and then try another button test to check deadzones and saturation are still correct.
- Learn and Finesse
Like with all aspects of Motorsport, tuning is an ongoing skill required for all high-level drivers. Learn exactly how these setup changes alter the handling of the car and how they affect your driving technique. Top-level E-Sports players will be making changes to their pedal settings for all variables, such as wet driving and track changes. Understanding when to make the right adjustments will put you at a serious advantage over your competitors.