Toto Wolff concedes Mercedes are limited in what they can do to resolve Lewis Hamilton’s seating position complaints, the team boss revealing it can only be moved between “five and 15 centimetres”.
At the start of a season in which once again Mercedes have failed to live up to pre-season expectations, the W14 woefully off the pace of the Red Bull RB19, both Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell have listed a raft of problems when it comes to their Mercedes F1 car.
From a lack of downforce to cornering speed and also straightline, Hamilton added his seating position to the list.
“I don’t know if people know,” he told media in Australia, including PlanetF1.com. “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.
“If you were driving your car at home, and you put the wheels right underneath your legs, you would not be happy when you’re approaching the roundabout!
“So, what that does is it just really changes the attitude of the car and how you perceive its movement. And it makes it harder to predict, compared to when you’re further back and you’re sitting closer, more centre.”
His team boss Wolff revealed at the time that it is “something that Lewis expresses very clearly” and highlighted the importance of listening to a seven-time World Champion – sharp contrast to how Hamilton felt when he told the BBC after the season-opening Bahrain GP that Mercedes hadn’t listen to him when designing the W14.
But unfortunately for Hamilton, changing the seating position is not a quick fix as Wolff explained, at least not if he wants a big drop backwards.
“You can vary the cockpit position between, say, five and 15 centimetres,” the Austrian said as per Motorsport.com.
“We’re a little further up and that’s what irritates Lewis, and has irritated him for the past year. We don’t know how much of an impact it has, but you have to take the feedback from the drivers seriously.”
He added: “We don’t think it’s a big problem from a technical point of view. We’re looking at the big concept of the driver’s position in the cockpit.
“Obviously that’s one of the most important things, and not just in terms of weight distribution or, shall we say, the rational reasons like weight distribution, aerodynamics and so on, but also where the driver has the best feeling in the car.”
Whether 15cm backwards is enough for Hamilton remains to be seen.
But even if he doesn’t get the exact seating position he wants, Wolff believes Mercedes’ next batch of upgrades – scheduled for Imola before the race was cancelled due to flooding in the region – will at least give him and Russell “more driveability and pace”.
Speaking about the planned upgrades that “consist of new suspension parts, bodywork and some other things”, he added: “I don’t believe in miracles, but I think that the stability of the car and the predictability for the drivers is just sub-par.
“If we believe we can sort that out and help it by the front suspension redesign, then that’s definitely a good avenue. And this could be more of an answer too on lap time than what the aerodynamic package brings, by simply unlocking much more driveability and pace.”
“But,” he accepted, “I have never in my 15 years in F1 seen a silver bullet being introduced, where suddenly you unlock half a second of performance. So, I very much doubt that this is going to happen here.”