Formula 1 reporter Ralf Bach writes in his column about the spectacular steering system from Mercedes
Imagine: You think you are ready to go to war and then you realize before the first maneuver: Your enemy, now, has a new wonder weapon that you had no idea about.
You‘re paralyzed, with the creeping feeling that you have already lost the battle before it starts.
That was how Ferrari, Red-Bull, and Co. must have felt when they saw Lewis Hamilton’s onboard recordings for the first time during the test in Barcelona on Thursday. The Brit suddenly pulled his steering wheel back like a jet pilot when starting and pushed it forward again in the braking phase. At the same time, the position of the front wheels changed at the front.
What was THAT?
A thing from another world. That‘s written on their faces. A little later, Mercedes explained what the others regarded as a UFO (Unknown Driving Object) from another world. The Thing of the spectacular steering system had a name: DAS or Dual-Axis steering.
This means that the pilots can use the steering wheel to adjust the track and/or camber while driving (which is still not entirely clear) and thus the contact surfaces of the tires.
It was not long before skepticism replaced astonishment. Red Bull still does not believe in the legality of the system. It reminds too much of how a prohibited active suspension works.
The system would give Mercedes an extreme advantage, especially when turning in tight corners – because the front tires are always in the optimal temperature window and thus prevent the annoying understeer that can hardly be prevented. Ferrari wants to protest at the season opener in Melbourne, which the Austrians would join, it is said.
The UFO is legal for both Mercedes and the FIA. The FIA will only ban a special Mercedes-type system from 2021 – by precisely defining the steering wheel paragraph. In 2020 there is still a loophole in the wording that Mercedes exploited ingeniously.
Nevertheless, Formula 1 still stands for innovative engineering, where daring concepts should be rewarded if they find a philosopher’s stone despite the same regulations.
Haas team boss Günter Steiner speaks from my heart when he says: “This special gift is part of Formula 1 DNA. That was what we all want to see. Of course, smaller teams like us cannot afford to develop such systems. Who knows how many people worked on it in Stuttgart. But that‘s not forbidden. ”