Mercedes Formula 1 team stirred up a great deal of controversy during pre-season testing once it was revealed the team were trialling a Dual-Axis Steering (DAS) system which allowed their drivers to manipulate the toe angle of the front wheels.
The innovative system has already been outlawed for the 2021 regulations despite the decision to carry this year’s cars over for next season.
But now Mercedes have revealed that DAS has in fact been developed secretly over a number of years. The team even admitted that they raced with the system on their cars a few seasons ago.
Speaking in a video on their YouTube channel, Mercedes’ chief designer John Owen said:
“The DAS system was born out of the ashes of something else we’d tried and actually raced on the car a couple of years ago that sort of worked, but didn’t really deliver all the promise that we had in it.
“That was sort of put to one side as something we tried and perhaps didn’t live up to our expectations. There are many other things like that that are out there, within the team, within people’s minds, projects that people remember.
“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. We thought that’s unusual and surprising.
“Then you get into it more and more and more, and you say well how would I stop it, and take the opposite approach and say well I’m now going to stop someone from having this, what would I do, what would my arguments be?
“Then you have a system where you thought about what someone else’s arguments would be, and you’ve made it so it doesn’t trip up on any of those.”
During pre-season testing, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas admitted that he had known of DAS for over a year.
“I’ve been aware of it for quite a long time. It’s not a quick project,” Bottas told Autosport.
“I think the first time I heard something about it was nearly one year ago or something.”
Owen’s comments have attracted several videos of onboard laps of Mercedes across the last two seasons, each showing that perhaps the drivers were implementing a DAS-like system.
The most promising one being a clip of Lewis Hamilton during qualifying at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix which shows the six-time world champion supposedly pulling the steering wheel back in a way that intimidates how DAS was used during testing.
Owen concluded the video by explaining that the system is evident of every team’s pursuit of ingenious technical innovation in a bid to beat their rivals.
“What the DAS system proved is that there’s definitely craving in Formula 1 still for that sort of innovation, where suddenly the driver is moving the steering wheel different to what everyone else is, and something is happening that we didn’t expect,” Owen said.
“I think that’s perhaps what’s lacking, that visual innovation that people can talk about and get excited about.
“There’s a lot of things on the 2020 Mercedes that are great innovations, none of which we really want to talk about because they are an important competitive advantage.
“But there is one of them that obviously is so visual, and talked about a lot.
“I think the sport would be better if there were more of those talking points. It would bring a lot more interest into the sport.”