How to setup a car-Part 1
Y.F. Hung

The secret to the fastest lap in any circuit is how the car is setup. With a setup that suits the driver's style, fast lap times comes easy. However, many people get put off by the complexity of the setup screen used by GP2 whether it is in level 1 or 2. 

For example, one of my friends never goes beyond changing the wings, gear ratio and brake setting and he always wonders why Iím constantly breaking lap records while he is few seconds over it. When I ask why he doesn't set the car properly, he says it's too complex and he doesn't understand any of it. 

Here, I am trying to help all the people to have a better understanding in how the car would react to different elements of the setup screen. There will be no equations, just plain English explanations on what happens when one changes something. 

There is a logical way to set a car up and it is very similar to the way real F1 teams work. The best way to start setting up for a particular circuit is from a "base" setup. This can be the default setup provided by the game for all the circuits or one that the player set. The important thing here is that this setup is what all changes are compared with. 

Wings: Due to the design of the current F1 car, the front and the rear wings work independently. Therefore, only the rear wing setting determines the top speed of the car while the front wing determines the balance. So the first thing to do is to have an idea of the top speed for the circuit. Let's use Monza as a example. The top speed here will be about 203-205 mph and therefore the rear wing has to be as low as possible, i.e. setting of 1. The gear ratio will also be adjusted so that the car won't run out of steam before reaching top speed. Once the rear wing has been set, the next item to adjust is the front wing. The situation here is more complicated than the rear wing because the mechanical setup affects how the car will handle as well as the front wing. So the way to approach this is to alter the front wing only and do a few laps to have a feel of the effect it caused. 

Break ratio: This is possible the easiest thing to setup. Just brake at the end of the long straight and see whether there is any wheel locking. If the wheels lock up early into the braking zone, put more braking force on the back wheels. If the lock up happens late, the ratio is probably ideal since a slight lift on the brakes will eliminate the lock up with maximum braking force applied to the wheels. 

Gear Ratios: This is another easy one. Once the top gear ratio has been set along with the rear wing, the other one is the 1st gear. The technique I used to determine the 1st gear ratio is when the car reaches the slowest corner of the circuit, the rev count will have 2 green lights on. This means that the engine is kept in the power band and the car can accelerate out of the corner faster. After those 2 gears, the rest of the gears should be evenly space out with the top gears having a slightly closer ratio than the lower ones. This is because it is much harder to accelerate at high speed than low speed and therefore a closer ratio is needed. 

Spring rate: Now we get into a more difficult area. The stiffness of all 4 springs are determined by how bumpy the circuit is. For a bumpy circuit like Monaco or Interlagos, a softer spring rate on all wheels than the default setting is needed. Softer springs also make the car easier to ground itself at high speed, so an increase in ride height may be needed as well. Soft springs increase overall grip as well, especially in low to medium speed corners. The trade off, as I mention earlier, is grounding but also less responsiveness to change of direction. The difference between the front and the back springs rate determines how the car handles in the corners. The default rate, i.e. front 1300lbs, rear 900lbs, tends to understeer. So if you want the car to be more responsive, either increase the rear spring rate or decrease the front. These changes affect the overall handling, i.e. both fast and slow corners. 

That's it for the first part of the guide. The key to faster lap time is testing, many miles of testing. It is very important that every time you change something, you go out and test the effect. But don't change too many things at the same time as this will only confuse which changes actually affect the car handling. So change one, or at the most two things at a time. 

The next part of the guide will be about how to adjust the dampers (both bump and rebounds), anti-roll bars and packers and how they affect the car. 

How to setup a car-Part 2

Last time we concentrated on the fundamental aspects of car setup which on its own should reduce lap time considerably. However, in order to tailor make the car handling to one's own liking, more subtle changes to the car are needed. These subtle changes often look simple individually, but it always has profound effects on the overall handling of the car. This is because all the "parameters", as F1 engineers would call them, are inter-related to each other. In other words, changing one parameter will affect how another parameter works. 

Ride Heights: On a modern F1 car, the ride height is crucial to the handling of the car due to the amount of downforce the floor of the car can generate. In GP2, as in real F1, ride height adjustment is done in steps of 0.5mm on both front and rear. The lower the ride height, the more downforce the car's floor will generate. So lowering the overall ride height will increase grip while the opposite will decrease grip. The ride height difference between the front and the rear determines the handling of the car aerodynamically, like the wings but without the drag that normally associates with wings adjustment. Before the introduction of the 'wooden plank' in F1, teams ran their car as low as possible to generate maximum downforce. This is what causes the spectacular sparks from the tail of the cars when the car bottom out and the skip plate, either titanium or magnesium, hit the ground. However, with the plank there is a limit of how low a car can be run without breaching the regulation. The trick is to run the car as low as possible without excessive amount of bottoming out. If the front of the car just bottoms out under hard braking, i.e. at the end of a long straight, then the front is at the right height. For the rear, if there is just a little amount of bottoming out at maximum speed then it's ok. But remember, the ride height can be lower in qualifying session as there is only 12 laps allowed and therefore only a limited amount of plank will be rubbed off. On the other hand, the ride height might need to be raised for the race due to the long distance involved. 

Packers: Although it is suggested in GP2 manual that packers can be used to alter the handling of the car, I myself do not think it's noticeable. However, packers are very useful in controlling the bottoming out mentioned earlier. At circuits like Monza, a very low ride height is desired for maximum downforce as there will be little wings to maximize top speed. But the top speed combined with very low ride height makes the car bottom out at the front every time it brakes. By using packers, the bottoming out can be decreased or even eliminated all together. This also applies to the rear but with less effect because the rear tends to rise instead of dive under braking. 

Anti-Roll Bars: Anti-roll bars only work for medium to slow corners and they control the balance of the car through the corners. If the car understeers in corners, either soften the front anti-roll bar or stiffen the rear one. The opposite will be true for oversteering. Overall stiffness will affect cornering grip and reduce tyre wear. So if the car lacks cornering speed, soften both front and rear anti-roll bars to increase grip

Dampers: There are two types of damper settings in GP2. There is the bump setting and the rebound setting. As the name suggests, bump dampers are used to cope with bumpy roads like in Interlagos. However, an overall softening of bump dampers will also increases grip slightly. The penalty for this is that the car tends to be less responsive. The different bump dampers setting between the front and the back affects the car handling just like the springs do. But as there are slow and fast dampers settings, one can adjust further to suit the driving style. For example, a car can be set up so that it slightly understeers in fast corners but slightly oversteers in slow corners, or vice versa. The rebound dampers settings control how the car behaves when there is a change in steering. The rebound setting works similarly as the bump dampers so if you want the car to be really responsive when you turn the steering wheel, set the front rebound to soft and the rear rebound to hard. This also has an effect on the car under breaking. If the front is too soft or the rear is too hard, the car will be REALLY responsive under braking and you may find the car goes into a spin too often for your liking. 

Well I hope this guide helps you to set up the car better. Remember to use the telemetry function to check your progress!