Special feature

Ricciardo's snug McLaren showcases fine art of the F1 seat fit

In the first 2021 episode of its McLaren Unboxed series, the team has lifted the lid on one of the finer arts of building an F1 car, designing the seat around its new driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo moved across from Renault to McLaren this winter to replace Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz. With Lando Norris staying put, Ricciardo will slot into Sainz's crew headed by race engineer Tom Stallard.

In this season's first episode of the behind-the-scenes McLaren Unboxed series, the Woking team has given fans some interesting insight into one of the first procedures a new driver has to go through: fitting the seat.

Designing an F1 car is a fine art in which every millimetre matters, so it's only natural that the driver's position in the car receives the same level of attention as any other part.

Drivers can't exceed a certain height while sitting in the car both for safety and aerodynamic reasons. Being seated as low as possible will also help the centre of gravity of the car.

They are also subjected to a lot of forces while being reclined inside the car, so it's crucial for them to find a fixed and comfortable position which allows them to focus on getting the maximum out of the car.

Therefore a driver has to undergo several seat fits to find a comfortable position in the car that both the driver and the engineers are satisfied with.

First the driver will take place in the car while sitting on a bag filled with small beans and resin. Once the driver has found a natural position in the car, the beans and resin will form a mould around the driver's body. That mould is then scanned to produce a rigid, lightweight carbon fibre and honeycomb seat.

As we see in the above video however, that first mould doesn't always produce a perfect fit. Ricciardo is apparently struggling to fit his slightly wider hips inside the bucket seat, reporting how he's sitting "on top of the seat" rather than in it.

Ricciardo's hips don't lie, so engineers then have to make several cutaways to the edge of the seat to fit the Australian in.

They then apply plasticine to the same area to try and produce a snug and more accurate mould that will keep Ricciardo firmly in place.

That means McLaren will have to produce another seat for Ricciardo to fit ahead of his first laps in the MCL35M, based on a second scan of the tweaked seat.

Fitting in Ricciardo, who at a reported 1m78 is only slightly taller than Sainz, isn't just about his hips.

As shown by McLaren, attention then shifts to the pedal positions and making sure Ricciardo's lower legs comfortably fit in the front of the chassis.

The first winter test day in Bahrain will present the true test of McLaren's seat fit.

Being stationary in the car is one thing but driving the new machine in anger will expose further areas of discomfort than can be addressed ahead of the start of the season.

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