Mercedes has admitted that the W14 they made in 2023 didn’t perform as well as they expected it to. This means they need to make changes to their development program and find a way to become better than their rivals. Unfortunately, experts have discovered some bigger issues with the car that can’t be fixed until they design a new one.
Lewis Hamilton is unhappy with the current regulations for where drivers must sit in the cockpit of their cars. He said that they have to sit closer to the front wheels than other drivers, which makes him feel like he’s “sitting on top of the front wheels.” He finds this really uncomfortable and doesn’t like it at all.
Sitting in a different spot in the car really affects the way that it moves. It’s hard to figure out, especially when I’m sitting closer to the center. The team suggested this change and I went with them, but if had known it would have felt like this, I wouldn’t have done it. We will definitely make another change soon so this doesn’t happen again.
The team made changes to reduce the issues that the drivers encountered last season. These issues included porpoising and bouncing. However, they could not move the place where the driver sits because it would require major changes in the design of the car.
Where to put the cockpit of a race car is an important decision since it affects other parts like its weight, suspension, and how air passes around the vehicle. Mercedes has been focusing on something called ‘zeropod’ for this which includes having special structures for the top of their cars (the W13 and W14). These structures help protect if there is an impact from above.
The parts of the car that are located at the upper part can be moved a bit back if they fit in 50mm window, but this will depend on where the ‘cockpit’ (driver’s seat) is placed. If Mercedes moves the cockpit back in 2023, then these parts will have to be pushed further back.
For their new car, the Mercedes W14, the team needed to make some changes to the sidepod design. This included narrowing it, making it higher up and putting it further back than for their previous W13. These changes can be clearly seen in the comparison image above.
The place where the front axle is located also influences what kind of feeling Lewis Hamilton gets when he drives his W14 race car. This position is something that racing authorities have set up specific rules for, which means that the distance of the axle must be kept within a 100mm long space behind the front part of the car.
For comparison, the car used by Red Bull has been placed a bit further back from the front axle than other cars. This gives it more space underneath the driver allowing some of the gadgets and extra parts that would usually be found near their sidepods to all fit in under the car’s chassis.
The changes made to Red Bull’s car design offers more options and allows them to make their cars bigger than some of their opponents. For example, starting with the 2023 season, the front axle in a Red Bull car will be further out then it was on last season’s RB18 model.
We do not know if this was done to fix the problem with Pirelli’s tires causing understeer in 2022, or simply just an improvement when compared to last year’s car.
The way the car behaves will be affected by how the turbulence coming off its front wheel assembly interacts with the front wing, floor and sidepods. A photo of Mercedes W14 vs Red Bull RB19 cockpit position is included to show this relationship in action.