Did Hamilton reinvent the F1 steering wheel?

Here's what you need to know about flat-bottom steering wheels in motorsports and Formula 1


Lewis Hamilton recently claimed that he redesigned the steering wheel of Formula 1 cars. However, on closer inspection, this assertion may not be true.

Formula 1 steering wheels have come a long way since 1950 when the sport was first established.

While their fundamental purpose is to still turn the car, modern-day F1 steering wheels do much more, with drivers now being able to make a host of changes, ranging from shifting their brake biases to deploying the Energy Recovery System (ERS), while on track.

In a recent interview, Hamilton claimed he redesigned the way modern F1 steering wheels are shaped, going on to state that he should have patented his design.

“What a lot of people don’t actually know is that I re-designed the steering wheel when I was at McLaren,” Hamilton told CNA Luxury.

“And when I came to Mercedes, I did the same thing, and the other teams have all copied the wheel.

Evolution of the F1 steering wheel by McLaren

“All the old wheels used to be circular. Now, you’ll see there’s a top and the handle comes down and it doesn’t join at the bottom.

“I should have copyrighted it. This is something I’m really proud of; I really love working on the ergonomics of the car.

“I also designed the seat for my cockpit; I filed it down and it’s been pretty much the same seat for [almost] 10 years with the team.

“We also redesigned the pedals with the engineers. Those are the things I love to do, as it allows me to tap into a bit of creativity.”

Is this true?

The design Hamilton is referring to is known as a flat-bottom steering wheel, which can be traced back to the 90s.

In fact, it was Hamilton’s former team who pioneered the design with the team employing the steering wheel on their McLaren F1 GTR Le Mans challenger.

The flatbottom design was so popular that it was used across a host of various other motorsport disciplines including go-karts.

While joined at the bottom, Ferrari’s 1996 challenger the F310, also sported a steering wheel with a similar design cue to the one Hamilton is referring to, with the car taking Michael Schumacher to third in the Drivers’ Championship for that year.

The examples above go to show that while Hamilton may have had his unique take on how a steering wheel should look, he certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel.


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