Onboard footage of Lewis Hamilton’s car showed an interesting new steering mode that raised much controversy over its legality.
The footage showed Hamilton’s steering wheel move toward him on the straights and move back into its original position when entering the corners. In addition the footage seemed to also show that the front wheels changed position at the same time that the steering wheel movement was happening.
You can see the movement in the video below.
Mercedes explains the innovation
Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison explained that it is a new system that the team is testing called dual axis steering or DAS.
“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” said Allison.
“We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year.
“But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”
Naturally questions were raised about the new system’s legality, but when asked, Allison said Mercedes is not worried about it.
“No not really, this isn’t news to the FIA, it’s something we’ve been talking to them [about] for some time.
“The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements.
“I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”
However Allison says the DAS is just one of many innovations Mercedes is introducing this season.
“It’s fun of course, it really is fun, but perhaps one of the things that’s not greatly appreciated is that each of the cars we bring to the track are festooned with innovation,” explained Allison.
“It’s just not as obvious with a discrete, standalone system like this when you can see it with your own eyes.
“One of the things that gives me massive pride from working with Mercedes is to give me part of a team that doesn’t just turn the sausage handle each year, but is working out how we can work fast enough to bring these innovations to the track and make them stick.
“This is fun but its only the tip of an iceberg of similar stuff that’s written across the car.”
Here is a video of Allison talking about the DAS.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) February 20, 2020
Lewis Hamilton had the opportunity to try out the new system and says there are so far no safety concerns.
“I’ve only had one morning on [it, so] I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it,” said Hamilton.
“We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety wise no problem today and the FIA are okay with the project.
“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit,” concluded the Briton.
Rivals chime in with their opinions
Understandably, such an innovation turned the heads of Mercedes’ rivals, who also chimed in on the subject. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was asked if he thought the system would be easy to copy if it turned out to be a big advantage.
“I found out just before before lunch, and then we just looked at some onboards,” said the German.
“Obviously, we’re lucky that we have the onboards here, otherwise, maybe we wouldn’t spot it.
“Obviously, we’re busy with our car and our stuff. So I don’t know if it’s easy to do or not, I guess no, because these things are never easy, but also guess it’s not easy to operate it.”
“I think it’s quite weird, when you have the feeling all of a sudden, you might have the wheel in your hand,” continued Vettel.
“I could just imagine it feels weird. But for sure if it’s faster and there’s no concern you go for the faster option.
“We had the f-duct many years ago, like 10-11 years ago, and we drove around with one hand most of the tracks. So that wasn’t safe, but it was fast.
“So you do what you’re pushed to do, but then that’s why we have the FIA obviously, to look after us and make sure things make sense, and we have got our hands on the wheel.
“Imagine you are used to doing something… Imagine you’re used to running and you put on your running shoes, and then somebody asks you to run with your flip-flops. You can also do that, but it just feels very different.
“So, obviously, it’s not quite that extreme, but it’s just that you add something that’s completely new and feels probably strange and weird at first, but obviously if it gives you an advantage, gives you an edge, you can fulfil the task, and you have the capacity to do it and with enough practice, then why not?”
When asked if he believed the DAS could give Mercedes an advantage, Vettel was not convinced.
“I think it’s much more dependent what you have around it. I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating, but I don’t think that this is the ticket to win.
“I think there’s a lot more elements to building up a competitive car, but for sure it’s an innovation, and we will see whether it’s something that everyone has to pick up on or not,” concluded the four-time champion.
Red Bull’s advisor Helmut Marko however has not doubt that the system is illegal.
“If you actively adjust the ‘camber’ while driving, the contact surface of the tyres with the asphalt changes,” explained Marko.
“The height of the car to the road surface is therefore changed, even if it is only a very small amount.
“It is forbidden, however, because the concept has similarities with the working method of a forbidden active suspension.”
The media give their analysis
Naturally, the Formula 1 media has gone into a frenzy with their analysis of the system, so if you are interested to learn more, you can check out the following pieces:
- Formula1.com: Have Mercedes just changed the game with new steering wheel system?
- Motorsport.com: What does Mercedes’ steering wheel mode do?
- Motorsport.com: Why the FIA believes Mercedes’ DAS system is legal
- Motorsport.com: Mercedes’ DAS system and fears over what follows
UPDATE 21/02/2020: The DAS system will be illegal from 2021 onward