Mercedes tried out a new steering innovation at pre-season testing in Barcelona on Thursday, insisting the device fell within Formula One’s stringent technical rules.
On-board camera footage showed world champion Lewis Hamilton moving the steering wheel towards him as he enters a straight, changing the angle of the front wheels, before pushing the steering wheel away from him at the next corner.
F1 cars traditionally are set up with the front wheels slightly angled to help cornering.
Mercedes’ technical director James Allison said the so-called dual axis steering system was above board.
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“We’ve spoken to them (F1’s governing body the FIA). The rules are clear about what’s permitted on steering systems. We’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements,” he commented after the morning session on the second day of testing.
According to the Mercedes tech guru, the innovation “introduces an extra dimension for steering which we hope will be useful”, but he avoided elaborating on its potential benefits.
Hamilton, aiming at equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles this year, was enthusiastic.
“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.
“I’ve only tried it this morning and we’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project,” the 35-year-old Briton said.
IS IT A GAME-CHANGER?
The emergence of the trombone-like device comes a day after Mercedes’ first public run of the W11 made clear how innovative the six-time world champions have already been in the design of their floor and rear suspension.
Allison described DAS as a “fun” solution – but significantly added that “it’s only the tip of the iceberg of similar stuff on the car”.
But he did admit: “We hope it’s an innovation that will bring us some advantage through the season.”
Yet are other novel aspects of the W11 likely to be more significant in terms of performance?
“There’s certainly more buzz over Dual Axis Steering, but we still don’t know whether it’s a qualifying-only thing, or whether it’s an every-lap of every race thing, or whether it’s every-track of every-round thing,” pondered Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz.
“Whereas positioning wishbones to get you a shed-load of rear downforce is an every-corner thing, an every-lap thing and an every-race thing. So I don’t know whether that positioning of the rear suspension and the downforce it gives might be net the bigger and more significant innovation in giving Mercedes lap time.”
Either way, what is abundantly clear already is that Mercedes are not allowing their unparalleled success to diminish their hunger for more F1 glory in 2020.
DAY TWO TESTING RESULTS
On the second of three days testing at the Circuit de Catalunya Kimi Raikkonen posted the quickest time of 1min 17.091sec in his Alfa Romeo.
Sergio Perez (1:17.347) came next in the time sheet ahead of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo (1:17.749).
Hamilton was only ninth fastest on the day but he still held the quickest time so far after his 1:16.976 on Wednesday.
Testing times are impossible to place in any meaningful context with car set ups and fuel loads and tyres all playing an important part in the car’s speed.
Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari) 1:17.091 (134 laps)
Sergio Perez (MEX/Racing Point-Mercedes) 1:17.347 (145 laps)
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Renault) 1:17.749 (41)
Alexander Albon (THA/Red Bull-Honda) 1:17.912 (134)
Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpha Tauri-Honda) 1:18.121 (147)
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 1:18.154 (73)
George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1:18.266 (116)
Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:18.335 (49)
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:18.307 (106)
Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Renault) 1:18.474 (137)
Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas-Ferrari) 1:18.496 (158)
Esteban Ocon (FRA/Renault) 1:18.557 (52)
Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:19.307 (77)