The resurgence of McLaren since round nine has been one of the most remarkable stories of 2023. From the point they bought their first major upgrade in Austria, they have scored more points than every other team besides Red Bull.
In fact over the past three Grand Prix McLaren have even outscored the world champions due to their driving pairing both scoring points heavily. Meanwhile Red Bull have suffered as perez continues to struggle, the Mexican picking up just one point last time out in Qatar.
Mercedes set to ditch car philosophy
Yet another surprising take of the season is how Mercedes have managed to remain in second place amongst the F1 teams. With just six odiums from 17 rounds the silver arrows have been reasonably consistent whilst their rivals Ferrari and Aston Martin have been up and drown from weekend to weekend.
Mercedes position in the world championship has improved from last year where they finished the season behind Ferrari in third, but picked up a race win and 16 podiums along the way. However, the silver arrows is about to take a leap into the unknown as they are the last of the F1 teams to abandon their car design concept following the huge rule changes for 2022.
A frustrated Lewis Hamilton earlier this season ranted at his team claiming they did not “listen” to him when designing the 2023 challenger. The team ditched their technical director and reappointed James Allison who will oversea the all new Mercedes W15 for 2024.
Hamilton later elaborated on the problems he had identified with the car in particular the positioning of the cockpit.
Hamilton complains about driving position
“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,” Lewis revealed during the summer.
“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.”
Hamilton admits the team had informed him of their plans ahead of building the car, but wasn’t fully aware of the consequences.
Analysis shows Mercedes cockpit similar to others
“I listened to the team and that was the direction that they said that we should go. Had I known the feeling that I would have in it, it wouldn’t have happened. It has to change for the future. 100 per cent,” said an adamant Hamilton.
Of course there are certain elements of the modern Formula One car which are locked in for the year once the team decides to follow a certain design route. The monocoque is crash tested and approved by the FIA, at no small expense, and so the position the driver sits in is nigh on impossible to change under the new budget constrained cost cap era.
Analysis has demonstrated the position of the Mercedes drivers is not significantly different from their Red Bull counterparts and further Ted Kravtiz of Sky F1 spoke with then Mercedes’ technical director Mike Elliot over the specific issue Lewis raised.
Team deny moving the driving position
“I had all these ideas about the Mercedes and I put them to Mike…. One of them was, I said have you moved the cockpit forward because there’s something online, I can’t remember what it was, so I said have you moved the cockpit forward.
“He [Mike Elliot] said, ‘no’.
“So I’m all a bit confused,” Kravitz surmised.
Lacking the experience of an aerodynamicist, Hamilton may well be interpreting a feeling he has when driving the car into a specific physical attribute which is not in reality the cause of the problem.
Wolff doesn’t want to hear Hamilton complaints
A number of the drivers have struggled to adapt to the new ground effect cars which returned to F1 in 2022. Because a huge amount of the downforce is created under the floor from low air pressure, when the car changes attitude the centre of pressure moves and it could be this Lewis is feeling.
Sergio Perez is the classic example of the driver having problems with the same technology his team mate is notching up the most dominant year ever in Formula One.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff will have been advised by his engineers of the real cause of Lewis’ bad feelings when driving the car. Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport Wolff states: “We have to get back to basics. I don’t want to hear Lewis say anymore ‘My cockpit is too far forward’. We know what we understand and will not pay attention to what we do not understand.
“The biggest problem is that the drivers have no confidence in the car. We have to give them a solid foundation to score good points. There is only one man at the moment who stands head and shoulders above the rest.”
The engineers will decide on cockpit
Its clearly problematic for the engineers when drivers attempt to diagnose precisely, the reasons for them feeling uncomfortable and lacking in confidence. Its up to the engineers to listen to driver feedback and then decide whether they believe its the cockpit positioning or something else that’s responsible for the feedback.
“Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren and us are all in the same situation. At least we are second in the constructors’ championship, because after all these years we have learned how to optimise our results. It’s just that no one comes close to Verstappen,” Wolff concludes.
Yet 2024 will be a make or break year for Mercedes as they ditch the design concept which has underpinned their cars from last year and this.
If they fail to hit the ground running the team maybe doomed until the next big regulation changes due for the 2026 season.
Verstappen dismisses Mercedes as ‘also rans
What happened to the might force that once ruled Formula One? Mercedes AMG F1 with their record eight consecutive team championships were once unstoppable but now they have been relegated to one of the ‘also rans’.
An ‘also ran’ is originally a 19th century term used in horse racing and referred specifically to a horse not finishing in the top three. Of course Mercedes have claimed podium finishes this season but maybe less than you think. READ ON….