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Mercedes DAS system ruled legal

6 July 2020

One of the main stories of Formula 1’s pre-season testing in Barcelona revolved around the legality of Mercedes’ innovative new steering system. The Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system, as it is known, enables the Mercedes drivers to alter the toe of the car while on track by sliding the steering wheel backwards and forwards. This adjusts the toe of the front tyres, which could have several benefits, from improving the car’s aero efficiency on the straights to more effectively managing tyre temperatures.

The introduction of the system has been contentious, and before the first race of the season, Red Bull lodged a protest, questioning the legality of the innovation. Red Bull argued that the device breached both article 3.8 of the Technical Regulations, which refers to aerodynamic influence, and article 10.2.3, which states that “no adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion.”

However, after a stewards’ hearing attended by representatives of both teams, as well as the Nikola Tombazis of the FIA Technical Department, it was determined that while it was unconventional, Mercedes’ Dual Axis Steering is actually part of the W11 steering system, and not part of the suspension. As such, the system could not be in breach of any regulations pertaining to suspension.

“As a general conclusion, it is very simple to conclude DAS would be illegal IF it were not part of the steering system,” read the stewards’ document. “So, the main challenge and debate has to be on whether it can be considered to be part of the steering system. The stewards decide that DAS is a part of the steering system.

“Therefore, the Stewards consider DAS to be a legitimate part of the steering system and hence to satisfy the relevant regulations regarding suspension or aerodynamic influence.”

While the decision may represent an immediate victory for Mercedes, the competitive advantage of running the system, which will be outlawed next year, may be short lived, as the verdict could pave the way for other teams introducing similar systems in the near future, something Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has already hinted could be in the works.

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