Despite the regulations not changing from 2019, Formula 1 teams still find ways to innovate and try new technology to improve their lap times. Such is the case for Mercedes who created some buzz in practice on day 2 with their dual-axis steering (DAS).
The assumption, from watching on-board camera angles, is that the steering, when pulled toward the driver or pushed away from the driver, changes the toe-angle of the front wheels. The issue raised lots of debate among fans as to the legality of a system that adjusts the suspension but is it adjusting the suspension?
Gray areas for sure but Mercedes says they have been in talks for quite a while with the FIA and that the regulatory body feels it is within the regulations.
Mercedes technical boss. James Allison, was asked if he anticipated any legality issues and he said:
“No, not really,” he said. “This isn’t news to the FIA it’s something we’ve been talking to them about for some time.
“The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems.
“We are confident it matches all of those requirements.”
The regulations state that you cannot adjust any suspension system while the car is moving. The debate is whether adjusting the toe of the wheel is a suspension component or part of the steering components.
From my seat, this is really parsing the details and at first blush, I would think that a wheel’s position on a hub and how much toe it has is a function of how it is attached and part of the suspension.
On the other hand, the regulations around steering does say that a steering system that does a re-alignment of more than two wheels is not permitted. Meaning that you couldn’t turn the front and rear wheels but to the letter of the law, the DAS is re-aligning the wheels.
I’ve read two articles regarding this development. One advocates that this is a real weapon and others suggest it is a novelty. Time will tell but it is worth noting that the FIA have had no issues with an innovation before but teams lodged complaints at the first race in Australia forcing the decision beyond the FIA and into the hands of the race stewards. The dual diffuser in 2009 comes to mind.
It will also be interesting to see if other teams quickly adopt this technology and one has to imagine it would be expensive in a year that is already going to be expensive in in-season development and dual car design paths for the 2021 chassis.
Hat Tip: The Race