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DAS good ja? – An In-Depth Look at Mercedes New Steering System

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, 2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1 - LAT Images

The whole second day in Barcelona has been based around Mercedes new toe adjustment system by controversially pulling the steering wheel towards the driver. 

Mercedes latest innovation, Dual Axis steering, Trombone Steering, “Defeated Again Scuderia” (my personal favourite, thank you Twitter), whatever name you have stuck in your head, from the furore of today’s Formula 1 testing is the new talking point across the F1 sphere.

The system essentially allows for better setups for the tyres across the whole track providing more stability under cornering and less drag on the straights.

The steering wheel in the Mercedes can be moved forward and backward. Bringing the steering wheel closer to the driver appearing to tighten the toe level of the car.

2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1, Day 1 - LAT Images
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, 2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1 – LAT Images

Toe refers to the process of reducing oversteer and making a car more responsive under cornering.

Positive Toe represents the two wheels facing in – something like this:  /–\

Negative Toe therefore is the opposite; \–/

By extension Neutral Toe will be: |–|

The angle of the tyres is perfect for corners because the inside tyres can lean into the corner and provide more grip.

Formula 1 Dictionary describes it excellently as “when going around a left hand corner the weight of the car leans to the right two tyres. The negative front toe makes the car turn sharper left, while the positive toe rear swings the rear further out to the right, making the car point left into the left hand corner.”

If you, dear reader, are not lost yet then I will continue.

2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1, Day 2 - LAT Images
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, 2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1 – LAT Images

The detriment of severe toe is that when the car is on the straights there is less contact patch between the tyres and the road meaning less speed can be achieved.

Traditionally a compromise has to be met to achieve suitable speed on the straights and suitable control and speed through the corners.

With the majority of corners going in one direction around a circuit, the setup would be suited in one direction more than the other.

The DAS system pulls the tyres from their positive or negative toe position into a neutral position allowing a greater contact patch and a sleeker aerodynamic position for the tires on the straights.

At a hotly anticipated lunchtime press conference with Mercedes Technical Director James Allison and Lewis Hamilton presented the name of the procedure as DAS and that there had been conversations already with the FIA regarding the legality of the system.

Allison said they thought they met the requirements of the steering systems.

In a video posted to the Mercedes Twitter feed, Allison confirmed the system as giving an “extra dimension of control on the steering system” to the driver.

Of the precise processes it achieves and the impact he was coy saying “we’d rather keep them to ourselves”.

“It definitely is an example of how this team is always pushing.”

The legality largely depends on the impact on the suspension. There are a few rules that have been doing the rounds today in relation to this.

10.2.2 Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of any suspension system is forbidden.

10.2.3 No adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion.

10.4.1 Any steering system which permits the re-alignment of more than two wheels is not permitted.

Article 10.4.1 will undoubtedly have raised a few eyebrows. The argument is that Mercedes are altering the orientation of their tyres and not the alignment.

The system is only affecting the front tyres, it is not invoking some four wheel steering system which is what the alignment refers to.

For something to be oriented it is “to be positioned in a direction relative to something or someplace else”.

So the wheels are being positioned in a direction relative to the steering wheel.

If you can get your head around that then it is fundamentally legal. An intriguingly cunning use of the rules.

2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1, Day 1 - LAT Images
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1, 2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 1 – LAT Images

The usage of the system on the track in the morning was primarily limited to the two main straights on the Barcelona circuit.

Valtteri Bottas did open the system up on the short run after turn 5 down the hill through turn 6 to turn 7 in the afternoon session.

As confidence builds it could lead to absolute extremes of toe setup allowing extreme corner grip for Mercedes as well as a low drag slippery car on the straights.

The question is whether other teams will attempt to develop their own systems to implement later on in the season in the same way that they did in 2010 with the F Duct and Double Diffusers in 2009.

The actual results could be negligible but the finer details are always pushed for in Formula 1.

The final day of Test 1 takes place tomorrow and the second test starts next Wednesday in preparation for the season opener in Melbourne on the 15th March.

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