Mercedes’ chief designer John Owen has revealed that the Dual-Axis-Steering (DAS) system was inspired by something the team developed and ran “a couple of years ago”, but it failed to deliver what they had hoped.
DAS shocked the paddock when it was unveiled during pre-season testing after Lewis Hamilton was spotted pushing and pulling his steering wheel during an onboard shot. It transpired that he was adjusting the toe of the front wheels for increased straight-line speed, improved grip and better tyre wear.
Rivals weren’t convinced such a system is legal despite the FIA giving it approval, and in fact Red Bull had been set to protest Mercedes at the first race of the season in Australia before it was cancelled at the last minute.
Speaking about DAS in more detail, Owen revealed that is was inspired by another system Mercedes ran on their car a couple of years ago and admitted surprise that the rules didn’t ban such a system.
“The DAS system was born out of the ashes of something else we’d tried and 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,” he said in a Mercedes video.
“That was sort of put to one side as something we tried and perhaps didn’t live up to our expectations. 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 really 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.”
Owen went on to add that the Mercedes W11 has many other innovations that he can’t discuss, but believed they would cause as much of a stir if they were as visually obvious as the DAS system.
“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,” added Owen.
“I think that’s perhaps what’s lacking, that visual innovation that people can talk about and get excited about.
“There’s a lot of things on the 2020 Mercedes that are great innovations, none of which we really want to talk about because they are an important competitive advantage.
“But there is one of them that obviously is so visual, and talked about a lot.
“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.”