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Thrustmaster's "Ferrari simulator" is a muscular, luxurious F1 wheel for serious racing game players

Thrustmaster's T818 x SF1000 Ferrari simulator
Thrustmaster's T818 x SF1000 Ferrari simulator

No doubt fans of Ferrari’s F1 team will be thoroughly fed up of the pesky Red Bull dominance as those hints of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr leading the Scuderia to a resurgence have stalled. Still, as with many sporting supporters’ struggles, there is always the opportunity to disappear into an alternate video game reality where you lead your team to triumph. And for racing, there is nothing quite like a decent steering wheel for full-on video game escapism.

Ferrari tend to be a different breed of racing team when it comes to idolatry, despite falling down the pack, so this rather luxurious flame-red bundling of Thrustmaster’s chunky T818 base with the 1:1 facsimile of Ferrari’s 2021 SF1000 steering wheel has a certain sense of prestige. You might not imagine, for instance, that the casual observer would be as swayed by a pricey video game wheel splattered with an energy drink logo as they are by the Prancing Horse. But you never know, it takes all sorts.

But one thing is for sure, this is a serious piece of kit aimed at the more… discerning video game racer. The T818 is a PC only torque-happy base that you are able to attach any of Thrustmaster’s compatible wheels to. The SF1000 meanwhile, is a fairly remarkable recreation of the wheel rim Sebastian Vettel used while in the red, laden with over 25 functional buttons, a raft of flickering LEDS and an LCD telemetry display. Both have been released separately at a comparatively affordable but not insignificant £600 and £350 respectively, but now are brought together in at a still not insignificant £999.99 complete with Ferrari livery and desktop clamp.

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But my, it is a handsome thing. The hexagonal base’s red finish is suitably luxurious, with a flickering LED light at the front around the rim. The wheel has a carbon fiber faceplate and comfortable rubber grips. It’s pretty enough that I am quite happy to have it out on display in the office when not in use. Which is fortunate, given it takes up a good chunk of real estate.

Thrustmaster's T818 x SF1000 Ferrari simulator
Thrustmaster's T818 x SF1000 Ferrari simulator

But enough about its looks. More important is performance. The base offers 10NM of torque, which puts it around mid-range in the steering wheel pantheon. There are bases out there offering a thunderous 25NM, such as Fanatec’s Podium series, but that is going to set you back around £1200 before you even go shopping for a wheel rim. But unless you are looking to make a career as a top tier esports driver, this kind of range is more than sufficient. The wheel fights back with a good deal of force at high speeds, with every bump on the road snapping into your hands. I’ve had to wrestle the wheel back in tricky spots and any more would feel like considerable overkill.

Even so, you can adjust the amount of feedback with preset modes, going from the slightly spongier Comfort, to the mid-range Performance and more full-on Extreme. My guess would be that this base will appeal to the more serious casual player, rather than properly competitive players, but they are well catered for.

Either way there is enough here to give you the satisfying feeling of the road across a selection of games. The base plays nice with all kinds of racers, from the broad arcadey sweeps of Forza Horizon 5’s open-world –off-road and track– and GRID Legends forgiving but varied races all the way to PC stalwart iRacing’s heavy simulation.

You can swap out other Thrustmaster wheels onto the base with its simple quick release stalk. The Ferrari wheel, of course, is aimed more squarely at EA’s F1 22 and the upcoming F1 23. The modcons come to life here, with LEDS flickering across on acceleration and lighting up when DRS is activated. The screen communicating tyre wear and other race info. You can connect separate pedal sets to the base for broader racing, but the open-wheel racing acceleration and braking paddles on the wheel itself are heavy-duty metal and deeply satisfying to depress. Similarly the gear shift paddles click in with a satisfying and defined ‘clack’. While more detail-focused racers will surely find a use to configure the raft of buttons recreated on the wheel’s fascia.

Thrustmaster's T818 x SF1000 Ferrari simulator
Thrustmaster's T818 x SF1000 Ferrari simulator

You will absolutely need to have decent amount of space and setup, though. The torque on the wheel demands that it is attached to either a sturdy desk or racing cockpit. One drawback to keep in mind for the latter is that the positioning of the screwholes on the T818 bas isn’t immediately compatible with many, if any, of the racing cockpits out there. It will take a bit of DIY to drill the extra slots onto the cockpit itself, though the package does at least come with a guide sheet to get them in the right place.

I managed to attach the base to a sturdy, wall-attached wood desk that runs across the length of the office. In many ways, I have an ideal desk setup for a wheel such as this. The desk clamp clipping on happily and keeping the base in place as I wrenched my car through Maggotts and Becketts at Silverstone. Anything much less robust, however, could well suffer under the weight of the base and force of the feedback.

It’s a worthy note of caution on such a piece of kit, but the chances are if you are considering investing in a pricey but impressively constructed wheel for your PC racing, you will be well prepared to adjust your playing area to accommodate. A not insignificant commitment, for sure, but there is no doubt that the level of immersion that the heft and feel of the wheel in your hands offers is enough to transport you to your racing fantasy world. Even one where you can be the person to put Ferrari back on top.