After weeks of changing steering racks, power steering systems, steering wheel heights and a host of other settings, the Lotus F1 Team design office engineers have found the solution to Kimi’s steering issues.
From the very first test at Jerez, Kimi and his engineers have been working on improving the Finnish driver’s feeling with the E20 steering system. After hours of hard work in the garage and hundreds of kilometres on the track, the solution it seems was staring the team in the face all along.
While it may come as a surprise, the 2007 World Champion is in fact the first left handed driver to pilot an Enstone car. This has subsequently had a profound effect not only on Kimi’s use of the steering wheel, but also on his perception of grip levels through the corners, as Technical Director James Allison explains:
“This is something we should have picked up on at an earlier stage, but having never dealt with a left-hander before it didn’t cross our minds. Drivers naturally have a tendency to ‘feel’ grip levels of a car predominantly with their stronger hand, as this is the side which will do the majority of work in guiding the car through the corners. Not only does this explain Kimi’s concerns with the E20’s steering, but it also makes it all the more impressive that he has managed to get the hang of the controls using what is, in theory, the wrong hand.”
As a result, from China onwards Kimi will benefit from a brand new steering wheel on which every single button has been reversed, as James confirms:
“We naturally tend to put the more important switches on the right. They have now been moved to the left and we’re confident that this will solve Kimi’s issues.”
Kimi, meanwhile, is pleased to have the issue resolved, and is already feeling confident for the next race in China having tested his new steering wheel layout back at Enstone:
“It may seem like an obvious thing to miss, but with all the time spent focusing on setup I just forgot to mention it to the engineers. It makes a big difference to the way the car feels and also how I use all the dials and buttons. I think with the new wheel we can push even harder in China; I’m confident we’ll get a strong result”
As can be seen from the pictures below, Romain and Kimi will use very different steering wheels from this point onwards. The Finnish driver will test his new device for the first time in Free Practice 1 during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.