The Formula 1 pre-season testing is currently underway in Barcelona, with all the teams having fully revealed their lineup of 2020 cars. While the 2020 season has yet to officially begin, one team has already been the talk of the town – Mercedes-AMG. And no, it's not because they're the defending champions either. Instead, it's because of a rather ingenious device fitted onto their 2020 challenger – the W11.
Specifically, on-board video of Lewis Hamilton's lap shows that the W11 has a rather interesting new steering system. Mercedes themselves call it Dual Axis Steering, or DAS for short. However, they have not disclosed how the system fully works. Based on the video though, Lewis Hamilton can be seen pushing and pulling on the steering wheel column which changed the alignment of the front wheels.
Looking at the video closely, Hamilton can be seen pulling on the steering column on the straightaway. As a result, the front wheels can be seen straightening out from their usual toe-out and high negative camber setting. Before entering the corner though, Hamilton then pushes the steering wheel back in and the front wheels return to their conventional settings.
For those wondering, a reduced toe-out and less camber setting can help reduce tire wear and even rolling resistance. As such, it can help improve efficiency as well as top speed on the straights.
Ever since video of the active steering column came out, rival teams, engineers and fans have questioned the legality of the DAS. However, Mercedes-AMG systems tech chief James Allison says that the team is not worried about its legality and that they have briefed the FIA about the design. He further adds that there are no safety issues with the system.
According to the FIA official rulebook, specifically, Article 10.2.3 of F1's technical rule regulation, states that changes to the car's suspension while in motion are considered illegal. Hence, this is why active suspension is banned. However, Mercedes is exploiting a loophole with regards to steering systems. Article 10.4.1 of the technical regulations states “Any steering system which permits the re-alignment of more than two wheels is not permitted.”
Since the Mercedes system is only moving the front two-wheels, it is fully in compliance. There is also no regulation saying that the two front wheels must change the angle at the same time.
So, do you think the steering wheel is legal? Or will race stewards ban the innovative steering wheel once the season starts? Well, we will get our answer once the season officially starts later this year at the 2020 Australian Grand Prix.