For some, playing driving simulators can be a relaxing way to pass time. It's also one way to improve their driving skills in preparation for real-world track driving. Others have turned it into a career. Just take a look at Gran Turismo Sport, for example. It's now an official Olympic sport (e-sport, to be exact), and the best driver can bring home a gold medal for their country. Interestingly, sim drivers also play a big role in Formula 1.
Formula 1 recently released a video showing just how important the sim drivers are to teams. Specifically, they showcased the workings of the McLaren F1 team and its team of sim drivers and engineers. In a nutshell, the sim drivers test out the cars and the changes that engineers make to the Formula 1 car in the simulator.
Unlike the real F1 car, engineers handling the simulator can freely tweak the car's settings to their liking and find the optimal setup. The sim drivers can then try out the new settings in various tracks and weather conditions. On a race weekend, the team also uses simulators to try out things they didn't get to test during the practice sessions. The team working on the simulator then gives feedback on what setup works best for the track they are on.
Mind you, Formula 1 cars have millions of settings available. Having the proper downforce setup alone can mean the difference between scoring a podium or not scoring points. Given the lack of practice time to test the settings on track, it's up to the team of sim drivers and engineers to help find the best setups available.
With that in mind, the sim drivers aren't just anyone that can set a fast lap. They have to be consistent and can keep up with the times of the Formula 1 drivers. For reference, McLaren's sim test driver, Oliver Turvey, is a Formula E driver and also a Le Mans winner.
You may not hear their names compared to the Formula 1 drivers, but the team of sim drivers and engineers are just some of the unsung heroes behind a team's success during an F1 Grand Prix weekend. Check out the video above just to see what role they play.