Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes W14’s cockpit is “too close to the front” of the car and it makes him “really struggle” with the “worst feelings” when driving.
While the team has solved the porpoising and bouncing that underlined its 2022 fall to third, the fixes have exposed an underlying ground-effects concept that fundamentally lacks performance.
As a result, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff announced after only qualifying in the Bahrain season-opener that the team would change its design philosophy.
Hamilton has now pinpointed further weaknesses with the W14, including the front-biased cockpit position that makes the car “harder to predict”.
After highlighting how ‘pointy’ the front axle of the W13 was, he said of the 2023 successor: “If you look at the past, I've always enjoyed an oversteering car.
“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 just 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 added that the aerodynamic traits of the car exacerbated his discomfort - the downforce placed either too far to the front to leave the rear axle unstable under braking or vice versa.
He continued: “On top of that, we have an aero characteristic, which is too forwards rather than being rear sat down as you begin to turn and coming off the brakes then moving rearward.
“Or the other way around: we have one that's very forwards, very much on the nose early on and then shifts later on.
“So, it's doing the opposite of what we want and that's what we trying to fix.”
The seven-time title winner implied the team had knowingly leaned towards these traits when conceiving the car, but he would have intervened had it known how it would feel to drive.
He said: “I listen to the team and that was a 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%.”
As a result of struggles with car handling that meant he did not “feel connected”, Hamilton (seventh) was outqualified in Saudi Arabia by team-mate George Russell (third).
Now, ahead of the Australian round, he attributed that dissatisfaction to more specific suspension set-up tweaks made during a race weekend that better-suited Russell.
He said: “There's one specific thing we can change in the suspension, which you have to do on a Friday night [after practice]… you can't change it for the rest of the weekend.
“You're basically rolling the dice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
“I've done it in the past, sometimes it hasn't worked and sometimes it has.
“It worked great for George, and he did a great job. The thing that I was lacking in the race was a lot of front end, which that set-up gives you."