By comparing the cars in side view, it is possible to visualize the project differences regarding the position of the Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin cockpits. With the new technical regulations, Mercedes has developed a car whose driving position is in an advanced position compared to other teams. This concept was first seen on the W13 and then carried over to the W14 as well.
Lewis Hamilton admitted he was not satisfied with this position, outlining how he struggles to understand the behavior of his car:
“We are sitting too close to the front wheels compared to other cars. When you drive, you feel like you’re sitting on the tires and, for a driver, it’s one of the worst sensations when you’re driving. What changes is how you feel the behavior of the car and how you perceive its movements. Our position makes the car’s movements more difficult to interpret.” – he explained.
Lewis Hamilton mainly refers to the feeling the driver has when he takes a corner. Since his driving position is so advanced, he perceives a very precise front entry but an unstable rear when running.
The location of the passenger compartment is linked both to the position of the side impact structures and to the package of radiating masses. Furthermore, the distribution of weights is constrained by the regulations. Since Mercedes uses the narrow-sidepod philosophy, it is clear that the cores are positioned towards the rear of the car. This implies that the driver’s position is forward precisely to reach the weight distribution window within which the teams must target.
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Aston Martin and Red Bull, on the other hand, position the radiators on the sides of the passenger compartment, thus having greater freedom in the placement of the driver. The Ferrari SF-23 single-seater is instead a cross between Aston Martin and Mercedes. Like Lawrence Stroll’s team, the position of the radiators is on the sides of the cockpit, while the driver is almost at Mercedes height. However, the drivers of the Maranello team did not complain about the problems encountered by Lewis Hamilton.
This shows that it’s not just the driver’s position that determines a car’s driveability. In fact, both the position of the aerodynamic center of pressure with respect to the car’s center of gravity and the work done by the suspension are of fundamental importance. This determines the stability of the car both when braking and when cornering.
The aerodynamic center of pressure is the point where the resultant of the aerodynamic forces can ideally be applied. This is not a fixed point on the car but varies along the track. For a car to be stable, it must be behind the center of gravity.