Last updated: September 5th, 2022
Featured image: Reddit
If you’re planning to buy or build an F1 sim racing cockpit but you’re not quite sure where to start, this definitive guide will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed choice. Just as there are many motorsport disciplines in real life, so too are there many shapes and styles of sim racing cockpits and seats on the market to accommodate different forms of driving.
I’d like to preface this guide by stating that no matter what type of F1 cockpit you use, it’s essential to check if your racing hardware – i.e ., your wheelbase, pedal set, etc. – is compatible with the solution you choose. While you may prefer the aesthetics or materials of one cockpit/seat over another, it’ll be no use if you can’t even bolt your wheel to it, so always check the fine print to confirm compatibility, and if it’s not mentioned, contact the manufacturer before making any final decisions.
What choices do I have for an F1 simulator?
The main difference between F1 cockpits and seats compared to more conventional sim racing rigs is their sloped driving position, which replicates how real F1 drivers sit in their cars. Therefore, choosing the proper cockpit and seat for your F1 needs will significantly impact your overall experience in your racing simulator. Whether you buy a bundled package that includes a seat and cockpit as an all-in-one unit or purchase these items individually, it’s essential to pay attention to a few crucial factors when putting an F1 rig together.
To keep things simple, I’ll break this guide down into three parts:
- Playseat Pro Formula
- TREQ FORMULA Rig
- iSimRS F-SIM 2.0
- SRC-FX Formula Chassis
- Bernax Cockpit Simulator
- Open Sim Rigs
F1 Sim Racing Seats:
If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest way to get into F1 sim racing, all-in-one cockpits are probably the best choice. Most, if not all, of the recommendations I’ve made below, offer fantastic realism, rigidity, and a lot of hardware compatibility, but you’re somewhat limited to its design features, and there may not be much room for expansion depending on the model you buy.
However, if you’d like something more bespoke, and if you’ve got the time (and patience!) to build your own DIY cockpit, then the design and expansion possibilities are essentially endless. You can construct an aluminum profile frame, make the entire thing out of wood, or use a combination of materials to piece your rig together, and then you can choose the perfect F1 seat to slot into your design.
As for pricing, it’s not all that easy to say which solution offers the most value for money. Some all-in-ones at the lower end of the spectrum are very affordable, but they may lack the ability to handle the forces of some direct drive wheelbases or load cell pedals. On the flip side of that, high-quality all-in-ones can carry a hefty price tag, but you can guarantee the rock-solid mounting necessary for powerful hardware. With DIY solutions, it’s all down to which materials you select for your build. If you want to save money, sometimes DIY is the way to go so long as you’re careful about design choices and don’t worry too much about appearances. Conversely, if you decide to utilize the strongest materials and opt for lavish decorations, your DIY build could become the biggest money pit you can imagine!
All-in-one F1 sim racing cockpits
When you just want to mount your hardware and get on with driving, all-in-one F1 cockpits are the answer, but then comes the decision of which one to buy. Well, as I mentioned earlier, there is a fair amount of choice in this market segment nowadays, and all brands and even models have distinct attributes. As with all sim racing cockpits, things to look for include build quality, strength, and rigidity. Plus, keep in mind the available space you have, how powerful your equipment is, and how much you want to spend.
Here is my recommended selection of F1 cockpits, listed according to price in ascending order.
Playseat Pro Formula
There are three models of the Playseat PRO Formula to choose from; Red Bull Racing, Mercedes AMG Petronas, and the unbranded Playseat PRO Formula – Red. All three models offer exactly the same functionality and compatibility specifications and only differ in aesthetics and team branding.
The sleek and professional look of the two team-branded models certainly adds an element of sophistication to this rig, but if you’re not a supporter of Red Bull or Mercedes, then you can save some money by choosing the Playseat PRO Formula – Red.
The rig has been designed to replicate the exact ergonomics of an F1 car and offers a very robust wheel deck and pedal mount, so you can guarantee minimal flex while driving. It’s even the choice of some F1 drivers when they practice at home!
TREQ FORMULA Rig
At a very reasonable €525.00, it’s impossible to ignore this aluminum profile F1 rig from Treq-sim.com:
Built in 8020 profile and custom brackets, this rig offers compatibility with all Logitech, Thrustmaster, Fanatec and Accuforce wheels. It’s highly adjustable and overall a really versatile entry-level F1 cockpit!
iSimRS F-SIM 2.0
Moving up the price ladder a little further, we have the iSimRS F-SIM 2.0. With its retro-arcade appearance, it certainly looks the part, while its materials and design features ensure a rock-solid base for your equipment.
It features fully adjustable positioning for your wheel and peddles, and the rig is compatible with the most up-to-date sim hardware. The seating position is also adjustable thanks to the sliding rail making the iSimRS F-SIM 2.0 ideal for multiple drivers, and the additional adjustable headrest ensures maximum comfort while driving.
SRC-FX Formula Chassis
Going back to aluminium profile rigs, we have the heavy-duty SRC-FX Formula Chassis, which offers thicker-than-standard 90x45mm anodized aluminium profiles, making it incredibly strong. This means it can provide extra stiffness and support for your racing hardware and is capable of handling almost any direct drive wheelbase or top-of-the-line pedal set. Of course, all the mounting solutions are fully adjustable.
The rig also comes with a handcrafted formula racing seat which offers the perfect sloped driving position for F1 racing and features thick cushioning to ensure comfort. While it may not be the prettiest looking rig on the list, you can guarantee it is one of the toughest.
Bernax Cockpit Simulator
At the top end of the all-in-one market, the Bernax Cockpit Simulator offers all the compatibility, functionality, and sturdiness you could ever want or need, all the while looking like some kind of aerodynamic time machine.
What stands out most about the Bernax Cockpit Simulator is the level of customisation offered by the manufacturer, who can tailor each rig to your exact specifications. Some options include motion capabilities, integrated speaker systems, a leather-lined interior, and a range of colour choices.
DIY F1 Cockpits
If you’re reading this segment, then it’s safe to say you’re ready to get your hands dirty and build something unique. This method obviously takes a lot more planning, but the rewards may be worth it if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Open Sim Rigs
A quick search on Google will show you various ways people have built sim rigs from all sorts of materials. However, it can sometimes be hard to imagine how it was put together from what we see in pictures. For this reason, I think one of the best ways to start a DIY rig is with a set of blueprints such as those found on the Open Sim Rigs (OSR) website. You’ll find a collection of rig designs and build instructions, as well as a complete list of the parts needed to construct a DIY frame.
Having a solid foundation will ensure maximum strength and rigidity for your rig, and from there, you can customise it however you like. Some of the best examples of F1 rigs I found on OSR include plans for a SUPER SPORT F1 RIG – 40 SERIES and a SUPER SPORT FORMULA – 8020 – 40 OR 15 SERIES. I highly recommend browsing through the collection to find the best solution for your needs and checking out the blog section, which is full of valuable tips for building a DIY cockpit.
If you’re confident enough in your handyman abilities, maybe a set of IKEA-Esque instructions is considered cheating. In that case, your best route will be to put your design skills to the test and draw up your own plans. There are plenty of examples of people who have done exactly that, and some of the results are simply stunning.
For some inspiration, have a look at this Mercedes F1 sim cockpit built entirely from wood. Of course, if you’ve got the time, patience, and budget, there’s nothing to stop you from replicating an entire F1 car chassis to add another layer of immersion to your sim racing.
While planning your DIY cockpit, keep in mind to provide strong mounting points for your wheel and pedals or any other hardware you may have and remember that you will need to integrate a seat into the design. Monitors are another consideration unless you plan to go down the VR route.
F1 Seats for Sim Racing
If you’ve opted for a DIY F1 cockpit, then at some point, you’ll need to select a racing seat. When ordering a racing seat, one thing to keep in mind is its size. Usually, the most important measurement to get right is the width of the seat from one bolster to another, as this will determine how much support your legs will have while driving. Also, remember that F1 seats differ from other racing seats in the sloped driving position they provide, so here I’ve listed some of the best options for you to drop into your DIY build.
Sparco Formula Gaming Seat
The Sparco GP Formula Gaming Seat from the industry-leading manufacturer makes an ideal solution for your F1 rig. It features a firm outer shell to ensure a solid connection with your cockpit, while the adjustable cushioning provides enough comfort to let you play for hours.
Tillett Racing Seats
Tillett Racing is a professional maker of high-quality karting seats, but you can also use many of their designs for your F1 sim racing cockpit. Have a look through their collection of ‘W-model’ seats, which of fantastic support and driving positions for F1 racing.
Another very reputable producer of sim racing seats is LUSOMOTORS, and for your F1 needs, check out their MK8-1S model. This is a highly-durable yet extremely comfortable racing seat, available in various sizes to suit different body shapes.
SimLab SF1 Formula Seat
This seat ticks all boxes and offers everything you’d expect from a SIM LAB product; high-quality materials throughout, ergonomic design, and maximum rigidity and durability.
I’ve chosen my F1 cockpit and seat, what next?
All of the cockpits we’ve looked at today are compatible with the major wheel manufacturers. If in any doubt, always enquire with the retailer. For me, I’m a huge Simucube 2 Pro fan – the higher torque available via any direct drive wheel will be a far more fulfilling experience. Formula cars tend to have heavier steering and require more strength to drive than a GT car with power steering and so starting with direct drive would provide a far more realistic F1 experience.
The pedals come next. Again, I’m personally of the opinion that you should be braking at Formula car forces (anything from 30kg to 150kg if you have the strength!). So A set of Heusinkveld Sprint pedals are still the go-to choice for approximately 600EUR, despite having been around for ages they’re just such good pedals. If you want to take the brake pressure level higher and get a hydraulic sensation for additional realism, then it has to be the Heusinkveld Ultimate+.
I’ve also recently tested the Pagani SimSports pedals from Asetek. The feel of the brake is perhaps the closest you’ll get to an F1 car:
If the budget is a little too high for the Pagani variant then the Invicta pedal is a more comfortably priced item with the same braking system.
For a full list of your pedal choices, check out our guide.
Enjoy shopping around and making your ultimate F1 simulator shopping list!