Upgrading from a CSL to a CSW to a DD wheelbase could be a logical upgrade path within the Fanatec eco-system. But is an upgrade to a DD wheelbase worth it? Fanatec was kind enough to send us the Podium Racing Wheel F1 so that we can give our opinion as to what we think is a good Fanatec wheelbase choice. As big fans of the F1 wheels, we are also very happy that we can get started with this set!
This Podium Racing Wheel F1 is for sale for € 1799.95, that is quite a steep price you’d think! However, the Podium Racing Wheel F1 is a unique set. It is the only cross-platform Direct Drive system that works on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (with compatible steering wheel). Fanatec has tackled this very smartly because there is no Direct Drive competition (yet) in the cross-platform area. In addition, a separate Podium DD1 with a ClubSport Formula v2 steering wheel and an Advanced Paddle Module, which is not suitable for a cross-platform, also costs a similar price. We believe the price is fully justified.
What exactly is Direct Drive? Unlike a belt driven wheelbase (CSL and CSW), a Direct Drive (DD) is a direct drive mechanism that uses the motor’s torque without any reduction in power. The output shaft is driven by a brush torque motor or a brushless torque motor.
Fanatec itself says; Podium wheelbases use an outrunner (brushless) type motor designed from the ground up, specifically for sim racing. Rather than running any industrial motor, our custom motors are tailor-made for sim racing without compromise. Excellent acceleration, ultra-low gearing and exceptional torque performance result in a driving experience like no other.
So far the numbers, facts and technical terms! We are going to unpack everything, assemble it on our Sim-Lab P1-X and then put it to the test. Because that’s what we want!
Packaging and Contents
As always, you will receive the Fanatec products in a brown Fanatec outer box which is slightly larger than the product box, so that it is nicely protected. The Fanatec product boxes always stand out for us in terms of design, as they do now. The box is provided with two lock sliders. As soon as you lift it on both sides you can lift the box by the handle and see the Podium Racing Wheel F1. Opening a Fanatec box is actually an experience on it’s own, your eyes will sparkle at the contents and we can’t wait to start racing with it.
The Podium Wheelbase
The Podium Racing Wheel F1 is a variant of the Podium DD1 but with a carbon finish. The entire housing consists of a cast aluminum unit which is finished with standard carbon fiber pattern with blue woven fibers through it, which gives it a very sleek but also high-end appearance. Nowadays the Podium line is also called the premium line from Fanatec and this high-end look fits perfectly with this. Of course it is about the quality and we can already say, it certainly leaves nothing to be desired. With the capacity of 20 Nm of power, you’ll have to buckle down to tame this beast. But that’s not all! It is equipped with a 2.7-inch OLED screen on which you can read all settings and telemetry clearly. Adjustments of the settings is still done via the steering wheel and is visible on both the steering wheel (in short) and on the OLED screen (expanded). The screen (in combination with Fanalab) also displays clipping, ffb telemetry and wheelbase telemetry. On the back we find connections for the CAN, Data, Emergency Stop, Handbrake, Pedals, Shifter 1, Shifter 2 and for the Torque Key. You will also find a small round button on the back which turns the wheelbase on and off and a connection for the power supply.
A disadvantage of the DD wheelbases, according to many, should be the Quick Release. Because you tighten the QR ring, the rubber ring expands slightly and you clamp the rubber in the QR of the steering wheel, as it were. Much has been written on the internet about play that arises between the QR of the steering wheel and QR of the DD wheelbases. After a few weeks of intensive use and a lot of changing of steering wheels, we do not (yet) suffer from this. Online we also read that many people often tighten the QR ring with a 3D printed key or that they place a z-ring modification instead of the rubber ring. According to the manual, turning the QR ring hand-tight is more than sufficient and the rubber ring will have to continue to do its job properly.
The Steering Wheel
The steering wheel is a variant of the Formula v2 / Limited Edition steering wheel from Fanatec. The steering wheel, just like on the wheelbase, has a standard carbon fiber pattern faceplate with the same blue fibers as the wheelbase woven through it. Furthermore, it is finished with blue aluminum parts, yellow details around the buttons and blue alcantara handles. It is also equipped with the Advanced Paddle Module which completes it. You will receive a set of Playstation and racing button caps as standard. We are a fan of the optional Fanatec Button Caps and Sticker Set and have therefore provided the steering wheel with our own buttons. In terms of functionality, the steering wheel is otherwise the same as the aforementioned Formula v2 and Limited Edition steering wheels. In terms of looks we think it is more than successful!
We have mounted the accompanying Sim-Lab Fanatec DD bracket on our Sim-Lab P1-X, which makes the DD very firmly attached. The DD can also be mounted on a flat wheel deck, such as on the Sim-Lab GT1 Evo, for example. You can mount the wheelbase with 3 or 5 M6 bolts at the bottom or with 2 M8 bolts on each side. Make sure you do the assembly carefully, damage is easily done and that is of course an eternal waste! We just have to connect the necessary cables and we can almost race.
After connecting to your PC, it is wise to first provide the wheelbase, motor and steering wheel with the latest (beta) drivers. Console users also have to do this update process via the PC as this is not possible on consoles. These (beta) drivers are available on the Fanatec website and are suitable for all wheelbases and steering wheels supplied by Fanatec. Drivers have always been a concern at Fanatec, but since last year (driver v3.52 and onwards) they have the right people in the right place and they are busy catching up. At the time of writing, Release Candidate driver v3.80 has just been released which brings them very close to a stable and good final driver set. The update job speaks for itself and it takes no more than 10 minutes. Now we can finally race!
For testing we have once again used our regular trio; rFactor 2, RaceRoom and F1 2020. For each game we used the settings recommended by Fanatec, with these settings the ffb is often below 50% which is more than sufficient. The wheelbase is very impressive in all these games. In the beginning we found the DD to feel a bit weak, but after plugging in the torque key we got to know the true nature of the DD. Note: read the manual before using the torque key. We were already quite impressed with the CSW, the DD adds quite a bit to that. The wheelbase has a good balance between optimal power and details. You can also steer around very refined and you can feel, lap by lap, exactly how the car behaves on the track.
If you use Fanalab, the game sends telemetry data to the software towards your wheelbase. In addition to the basic functions, you can then display various data on the OLED screen of the wheelbase. In the ITM menu (Integrated Telemetry Mode) 5 Podium wheelbase profiles are available which you can switch between through the steering wheel. You do this by holding down the ‘tuning menu’ button and then using the right funky switch to scroll through the profiles. Will Ford from Boosted Media made a very nice and clear video about this.
If you want to sim race without any restrictions and with a lot of detailed feedback, a DD is an absolute must! We have been able to test the entire spectrum of Fanatec wheelbases over the past year and have been able to make a nice comparison. Is a CSL or CSW bad? No, absolutely not! Both the CSL and the CSW are just great wheelbases. Certainly if the budget is a determining factor, you can succeed very well at Fanatec. It was also not the intention with this review to make a comparison between the different wheelbases, although you cannot escape that completely of course.
The Fanatec DD wheelbase is very suitable for the sim racer who wants more than just steering and feel basic force feedback. The build quality is very solid and the appearance high-end. In addition to a good dose of power, the wheelbase also delivers enormous precision. The cars feel lively and every detail on the track is perfectly felt in the force feedback. Does a DD also make you faster? No, a DD does not make you faster (immediately). But a DD makes you a lot more consistent. Because you feel every detail so very well, you should be able to get the most out of every lap. The OLED screen is nice and not disturbing at all while driving. In combination with the Fanalab software, the OLED screen provides you with the necessary telemetry data, which is a very pleasant addition. There are different telemetry profiles available and these are easy to read while driving. We prefer the tire temperature on the display, very handy!
We could discover very few downsides, but we do not find the on / off switch in a very convenient place. It is a clumsy little button on the back of the wheelbase. Especially if you have the screens behind the wheelbase it is more difficult to get to it and it would have been easier if it had just been at the front. A solution for this is the optional Podium Kill Switch, which in addition to the ’emergency stop functionality’ also has an on / off button so that you can turn the wheelbase on / off more easily. However, this solution has a price tag of € 99.95 and we can imagine if this does not enthuses you.
As for the steering wheel, Podium blue suits you. After all, the eyes also want to be pleased. No kidding, the steering wheel is no different from the Formula v2 and the Limited Edition versions and has a nice look with the blue and yellow details. The steering wheel is equipped with a sufficient amount of buttons, encoders and switches and, as a bonus, also has the Advanced Paddle Module mounted. You don’t need more on a steering wheel!
All in all, the Podium Racing Wheel F1 makes us very happy. So cheerful in fact that this set has now been given a prominent place on our own rig. If you are a PC sim racer and want to switch to a DD and you already have one or more Fanatec steering wheels, you can also opt for a separate DD1 or DD2. As previously described, a set of this level in the cross-platform area is a monarch.