Sebastian Vettel admitted to being intrigued by the the innovative Mercedes steering system known as DAS that broke cover during testing at Barcelona on Thursday, but the German doubts it will provide a significant performance advantage.
Mercedes ran the DAS (for “Dual Axis Steering”) system for the first time on day two of pre-season testing in Barcelona, which allowed Lewis Hamilton to change the toe-in of the front wheels on the straightaways from the cockpit. Such a change could reduce drag, but could also help keep tire temperatures up in order to have better grip at the next corner, and Vettel said the system quickly caught his and Ferrari’s eye.
“I have seen it, and we talked about it at lunch, and it looks interesting,” Vettel said. “I guess the fact that they are running with it means that it is legal. I don’t know – it is called a steering wheel, not a push or pull wheel. I don’t know if it works; I guess there is quite a lot of work to bring it to the track and it is probably not as easy as it looks for the driver to (use). But we will see. For sure it was a novelty…”
The four-time world champion is confident that any performance advantage is likely to be minimal, and will only be significant as part of the wider car package.
“It depends more on what you have around it, the car you are sitting in; I don’t think it will give you much,” he said. “Maybe I am underestimating it, but I don’t think it is the ticket to win; there are a lot more elements to building a competitive car.
“But for sure it is an innovation, and we will see whether it is something everyone has to pick up on or not.”
Hamilton insisted after his morning stint that the DAS was not distraction in the cockpit, and Vettel said drivers are happy to adapt their driving to new concepts – as long as they make the car quicker.
“I don’t know (how the DAS feels), but imagine you are used to running with running shoes and then you are asked to run with your flip flops,” he said. “You can do that, but it feels very different. Obviously it is not that extreme, but when you add something completely new, it feels strange and weird at first. But if it gives you an advantage or edge, then you can fulfill the task — you have the capacity to do it with enough practice.
“I don’t know if they will run it [in races]; it is too early to tell. From a driver’s point of view, it looks easy to push and pull the steering wheel. It is probably not (that) straightforward, but we (could) get used to it.”