Mercedes technical director James Allison is confident in the legality of an innovative steering solution that the team was discovered using during the second morning of Formula 1 pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Onboard footage of Lewis Hamilton showed the defending champion pulling the steering wheel closer to him on straights, in turn causing the front wheels to point inwards slightly – or toe in – before both the steering wheel and wheels returned to normal position prior to braking. Allison says the system is called DAS – which stands for ‘Dual Axis Steering’ – and has been known to the FIA for some time.
“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” Allison said. “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.
“This isn’t news to the FIA, it’s something we’ve been talking to them 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.”
The system caught the eye throughout Thursday morning, but Allison said it is just one of a number of innovations on the car.
“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,” he said. “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 it’s only the tip of an iceberg of similar stuff that’s written across the car.”
Hamilton himself says the system is not distracting from a driver’s point of view, despite the steering wheel moving forwards and backwards in his hands.
“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,” Hamilton said. “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.”