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How Mercedes looks to have resolved one of Hamilton’s bugbears with its F1 car

Mercedes has not only dialled out a 'spiteful' rear end of W15, it also appears to have changed its new Formula 1 car in an area that Lewis Hamilton felt was a problem.

Mercedes W14 and Mercedes W15 side view comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

While Hamilton had endured the tricky rear of the W14 that left him lacking confidence at times, he was also not happy last year with the seating position.

Speaking during the early 2023 races, Hamilton said: “I don't know if people know, but we sit closer to the front wheels than all the other drivers. Our cockpit is too close to the front. 

“When you're driving, you feel like you're sitting on the front wheels, which is one of the worst feelings to feel when you're driving a car. 

"What that does is it really changes the attitude of the car and how you perceive its movement. It makes it harder to predict compared to when you're further back and you're sitting closer, more centre. It's just something I really struggle with.” 

As part of a raft of changes that Mercedes has made for its new W15 F1 car, early images point to the squad having responded to Hamilton complaints and shifted the driver back relative to the front wheels.

2023 Mercedes W14 and 2024 Mercedes W15 driver position comparison

2023 Mercedes W14 and 2024 Mercedes W15 driver position comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As images from the W15 shakedown last week suggest, it is understood that the cockpit has been pushed away from the front axle by as much as 100mm - with the chassis, fuel tank and gearbox all having to be redesigned in order to accommodate this change while maintaining the maximum wheelbase dimensions.

Mercedes’ wholesale shift from its zeropod design to a downwash style solution will have aided this cockpit change though, as the deep recesses required in the chassis to pull the radiators closer to the car’s centreline are no longer as necessary.

This also has a knock-on effect on the team being able to broaden the fuel tank across the span of the chassis, shortening it as a consequence.

The peculiar positioning of the upper SIS, which required its own fairing in 2022/23, has also resulted in a new home being found for them, further back than before and, like the rest of the field, Mercedes now has its SIS enclosed within the main sidepod bodywork.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, chassis detail
Mercedes W14 middle wing detail

Furthermore, the team has made a switch to push-rod rear suspension, which is now packaged differently alongside the redesigned gearbox package and which ties in with the other changes made ahead of it.

While Hamilton did not like the cockpit positioning in the W14, technical director James Allison believes the complaints were more a symptom of the car’s weaknesses rather than a cause.

“Lewis's way of expressing that is in talking about his seating position. George doesn't ever talk about his seating position, but he describes exactly the same ugliness to the car,” he said at the end of last year.

“If we could fix that [instability] properly, the only part of Lewis's seating position that he would still dislike is that he sees a bit less of the corner apex because he's a bit nearer the tyre than if he was a bit further back.  

“But the actual seating position itself is not giving rise to a perceptual issue that makes it hard for him to detect how to handle the car.  

Mercedes W14 and Mercedes W15 side view comparison

Mercedes W14 and Mercedes W15 side view comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

“Possibly, if he was sitting exactly where he wanted, he might be able to drive a truculent thing with slightly more precision. But the issue there is get rid of the truculent thing, not optimise his seating position to handle something that isn't good.  

“Our focus has been on making it less horrid. And I would say that the Austin upgrade [last year] was a mild step forward in that regard. And with a bit of luck, the [2024] car will bring a load more.” 

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