Rivals nervous of revolutionary design

Mercedes were the talk of the paddock as F1 2020 got started last week — and not just because of their impressive performance.

The world champions added a new acronym to F1’s ever-increasing dictionary at winter testing as they introduced DAS — Dual-Axis Steering — an innovative system which sees their drivers move their steering wheel backwards or forwards depending whether they are on straights or corners.

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“What we’ve learnt from running with that now is, yes, we think we are happy to have it in the car and we wouldn’t run anything like this if we didn’t think there would be a performance gain,” said Valtteri Bottas, who set the fastest time over the first week of testing.

Something very strange going on with Lewis's steering wheel. pic.twitter.com/PUf8TG4oTn

“We’re still learning about it, in which kinds of sessions, areas, conditions the gains are actually going to be. And if it’s going to be in qualifying, in the race etc.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are going to be untouchable again.Source:Getty Images

“For us it was a pretty big project, and it would be pretty difficult to copy. I hope we can have an edge with that. We’re in a good place with that ahead of the other teams.”

Bottas added that he had first heard around DAS and Mercedes trialling the concept a year ago.

But for Mercedes’ rivals, the device was first seen in Barcelona. And here’s what they had to say about it.


Lewis Hamilton had been busy in the off-season.Source:AFP

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto:

“It is certainly visible. A game changer? I don’t think so.

“We trust fully the FIA. I’m pretty sure that they have already done the right decision, or they will do it. But I completely trust on what the FIA will judge. We will not challenge them on their decision.

“Will we develop it? I think we first need to understand how it works, and what would be the performance benefit. We will look into it, no doubt, and if it is worthwhile developing or not.

“I have no idea if it would be worthwhile or not, but it’s certainly longer than that. It’s an entire first concept design, design, producing, homologation. It has to be safe. So if it is, I think it can be like mid-season, not earlier.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen:

“I didn’t expect it, of course. It looks quite straightforward how it works. But I’m not too bothered about it. It’s also not my job.

“I drive the car, I try to drive it as fast as I can with what I have and it’s up to the team to see what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, what’s coming onto the car — and I just give me feedback with what’s on the car.”

Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo:

The entire grid was caught by surprise.Source:Getty Images

“I loved seeing that. Hats off to them because they have been dominant this whole turbo era yet they are still the ones pushing everyone else. It should be us, and everyone else, pushing them and they are not getting complacent and that’s why the have been so dominant.

“They are setting an example right now and as a competitor I certainly respect that and it’s good to see how far they are willing to go.

“I’ve never heard of a system like that talked about. I’m sure the conversation is happening in every team right now.”

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel:

“Obviously if it’s true that it’s doing something then the steering wheel becomes more than just a steering wheel, one which you push and pull. A bit more like a plane!

“Imagine you are used to running and you put on your running shoes, and then someone asked you to run in flip-flops. You can also do that, but it just feels very different.

“Obviously it’s not quite that extreme, but it’s just that you add something that’s completely new and feels probably strange and new at first, but obviously if it gives you an advantage, and an edge, then you can fulfil the task and with enough practice, then why not?”

Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri) driver Pierre Gasly:

“I don’t know who is the guy who had that idea, but I hope they get a money bonus or something because it’s a really smart idea! Obviously we will see whether if we can make it work on our car but it’s quite fascinating seeing these ideas come into reality.”

Renault sporting director Alan Permane:

“I think we were a little bit wide-eyed about what’s it doing, and how’s it doing it.

“James [Allison, Mercedes technical director] and his men have done something clever and undoubtedly they think there is plenty of lap time in it.

“Obviously Mercedes have clearly found something they think is a benefit, and I think that’s one of the rather wonderful things about Formula 1.”

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