Mercedes’ John Owen explains the origin and legality of DAS

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

During his appearance on Mercedes’ Deep Dive series, Chief Designer John Owen revealed DAS was an evolution of an older concept.

Mercedes’ innovative Dual Axis Steering system turned a lot of heads during 2020 pre-season testing. The system allows drivers to change the toe angle of the front wheels by pushing or pulling on the steering wheel and speculation about its possible benefits and legality started immediately after it was revealed. Owen now explains how the system came to be.

“Innovation, there’s almost no new ideas, there’s only old ideas, but there’s different collections of ideas that make a new concept of something different,” Owen explained.

“And so the DAS system was born out of the ashes of something else, something that we tried, something we’d actually raced on the car a couple years ago, that sort of worked but didn’t really deliver all the promise that we had in it.

“So that was sort of put to one side as something we tried and didn’t perhaps live up to our expectations.”

As already mentioned, the system’s legality has been one of the major talking points in the paddock and the media. Owen reveals Mercedes went to great lengths to ensure the system complied with F1’s rules and regulations.

“The DAS system was really, well, what about if you could do something like this? What do the rules say? And the rules effectively didn’t stop it. That’s unusual, and surprising.

“Then you get into it more and more and more, and say, ‘Well, how would I stop it?’ – you take the opposite approach, and you say, ‘I’m now going to stop someone from having this, what would I do, what are my arguments?’.

“Then you build a system where you thought about what someone else’s arguments would be, and you’ve made it so that it doesn’t effectively trip up on those.”

However it soon became clear that the system has basically already been banned from 2021 onward, under the new F1 regulations (published a few months before DAS was revealed to the public). The regulations change was later postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus crisis, but the ban of DAS was confirmed to remain in place.

“We’ve seen with the DAS system already that there’s a lot of immediate reaction that it must not be within the rules.

“But the more people look at it, the more they sort of say, ‘Well, darn, maybe it is in the rules, and why haven’t we seen it before?’. Now there’s a desperate panic to try and find the reason why it shouldn’t be within the rules.

“That’s Formula 1 in general,” concluded Owen.

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