Mercedes’ Dual-Axis Steering (DAS) system is the product of a previous device that was used “a couple of years ago”, the team have revealed.
The Silver Arrows’ DAS, which caused an immediate firestorm with its debut on the new W11 during preseason testing in Barcelona, had recently been subject to speculation it had appeared prior to this season, and now Mercedes chief designer John Owen has confirmed that to be at least partially the case.
“Innovation, there are almost no new ideas, there are only old ideas, but there are different collections of ideas that make a new concept of something different,” he said in a video posted on the team’s YouTube channel.
“And so the DAS system was born out of the ashes of something else, something that we tried, something we’d actually raced on the car a couple of years ago, that sort of worked but didn’t really deliver all the promise that we had in it.
“So that was sort of put to one side as something we tried and didn’t perhaps live up to our expectations.”
Indeed, Valtteri Bottas had admitted in February that he had “been aware of DAS for a long time”, while Owen indicated that like many ideas, its roots went even further back.
“There are many other things like that that are out there, within the team, within people’s minds, projects that people remember.
“The DAS system was, well: what about if you could do something like this? What do the rules say?
“And the rules effectively didn’t stop it. We thought that’s unusual and surprising.
“Then you get into it more and more and more, and you say well how would I stop it, and take the opposite approach and say well I’m now going to stop someone from having this — what would I do? What would my arguments be?
“Then you have a system where you thought about what someone else’s arguments would be, and you’ve made it so it doesn’t trip up on any of those.”
Unfortunately for all the work that went into developing DAS, its use will be shortlived, with the FIA having banned it for the 2021 season. Nevertheless, Owen believes the reaction from both rivals and fans shows there is an interest in technical trickery, one he fears that future regulations might stifle.
“What the DAS system proved is that there’s definitely craving in Formula 1 still for that sort of innovation, where suddenly the driver is moving the steering wheel different to what everyone else is, and something is happening that we didn’t expect,” he suggested.
“I think the sport would be better if there were more of those talking points. It would bring a lot more interest into the sport.”