Mercedes’ mystery wheel rocks F1
MERCEDES caught the attention of the F1 paddock on the second day of winter testing, producing an innovative steering-wheel concept on the new W11.
Named the Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system by Mercedes, it has been likened by Sky F1's Ted Kravitz to a trombone in the way it is operated by the driver.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were seen testing it at different points around the Circuit de Catalunya.
On-board footage showed the Mercedes drivers moving the steering wheel towards them on a straight, and then pushing it back into normal position as they approached a corner.
The device, which seemingly provides an additional steering mode, proved the hot topic at Barcelona, and Mercedes' technical director James Allison confirmed its existence during his appearance in the lunchtime press conference.
"We have a system in the car, it's a novel idea and we've got a name for it. It's called DAS," Allison said.
"It just introduces an extra dimension in the steering for the driver which we hope will be useful during the season.
"But precisely how we use it, why we use it … that's something we'll keep to ourselves."
Mercedes are understandably keeping details of the system's purpose, its potential usage and, crucially, its lap-time performance close to their chests, leaving rivals to try and work that out for themselves.
When asked about the device by Sky Sports News, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: "Whether that's just a test item and they're testing different tracking, or whether it's a raceable solution, I don't really know.
"But there are always ingenious solutions like that that are tested. That's what Formula 1 is all about."
IS IT LEGAL?
Although teams are free to run cars in the specifications they choose during testing, Mercedes say the FIA has been aware of the system "for some time" and that there are no doubts about its legality.
"This isn't news to the FIA, it's something we've been talking to them about for some time," Allison said.
"The rules are pretty clear about what's permitted on steering systems and we feel confident that it matches all of those requirements."
WHAT DID THE DRIVERS SAY?
Hamilton was the first to try it during the morning session and told reporters: "We're just trying to get on top of it and try to understand it. But safety wise, it was no problem today.
"For me it's really encouraging to see that my team continues to innovate, and stay ahead of the game. I think that's down to the creative minds we have in the team."
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 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.
KIMI ON TOP ON DAY TWO
Kimi Raikkonen put Alfa Romeo on top of F1's second day of testing as 2020s expected frontrunners took a back seat on the time sheet.
Racing Point's Sergio Perez had led the time sheet for most of the day but he was usurped late on by Raikkonen, who completed some short bursts on Pirelli's fastest C5 tyre.
The veteran Finn's lap of 1:17.091 is the second quickest of the week so far behind Hamilton. Raikkonen stopped on track late on to bring up 2020s first red flag.
Hamilton and Bottas again shared running at Mercedes, with the world champion clocking a mammoth 106 laps in the morning alone before his teammate took over the W11 in the afternoon.
Bottas' session ended after 77 laps when an electrical glitch cost the world champions the closing stages of the day.
Daniel Ricciardo was third for Renault despite a few delays, ahead of Red Bull's Alex Albon, Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who returned to action after feeling unwell on Day One.
Charles Leclerc had continued in the SF1000 during the morning before Vettel took over after lunch, with the four-time champion posting their quickest time so far of 1:18.154.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission