Dual-axis steering (DAS) device was thought too difficult to implement by the FIA before Mercedes managed to do so, says technical director James Allison.
A mechanism that caused a firestorm in the paddock when it debuted in preseason testing, DAS allows Mercedes’ drivers to adjust the toe angle of the front tyres by pushing and pulling the steering wheel.
Unsurprisngly, the innovative device was difficult to legally implement, with Allison using a new Q&A video on Mercedes’ YouTube channel to shed light on the discussions had with Formula 1’s governing body in the years prior to its introduction.
“The simple answer was it was really quite difficult indeed,” he admitted. “In fact, we first wanted to introduce this in 2019.
“We took our ideas to the FIA, showed them, explained why we thought it was legal and they begrudgingly agreed that dual-axis steering was actually legal, but they didn’t much like the way we’d done it because the second axis we were getting from a lever on the wheel rather than that whole-wheel movement.
“So they said ‘no, you’re going to have to move the whole wheel in and out’. And I think when they said that they were hoping that would be too difficult and that we would go away and cause them no more problems.”
Nevertheless, Allison and his crew – led by chief designer John Owen – persisted.
“Our chief designer John Owen took one look at that challenge and he’s got a really, really good gut feel for whether something is doable or not,” Allison added.
“That’s a really helpful characteristic because it allows us to be quite brave spending money when most people would feel the outcome is quite uncertain.
“So John took that challenge on, reckoned he could do it, put it out to our very talented group of mechanical designers and between them they cooked up two or three ways in which it might be done.
“We picked the most likely of those three and about a year after that, out popped the DAS system that you saw at the beginning of the season.”
And while the expected advantage DAS will provide has already seen it banned from the 2021 season onwards, Allison revealed one of the next challenges that awaits his team: 2022’s 18-inch tyres.
“All things being equal the bigger rims, low-profile rubber is always going to be a worse tyre than the sort of tyres that we have on our racing car today,” he said.
“From a lap time point of view the way we currently do it is definitely the right way. And the new tyres are going to be heavier, lower grip and worse for ride – all other things being equal.
“So they’re going to slow the cars down by somewhere between a second and two seconds, something like that.”