Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Vettel suspects copying Mercedes’ DAS would take “quite a lot of work”

2020 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel suspects it wouldn’t be easy for Ferrari to copy Mercedes’ Dual Axis Steering system, but doubts the device will be a “ticket to win” this year.

[f1tv2020testa]Lewis Hamilton was spotted pushing and pulling his steering wheel forwards and backwards, which appeared to adjust the toe angle of his car’s front wheels.

The device was spotted via onboard footage from the live testing coverage, which has only been introduced recently. “We’re lucky that we have the onboards here otherwise maybe we wouldn’t spot it,” Vettel admitted.

“I’ve seen it and we talked about it at lunch,” he said. “It looks obviously interesting.

“I guess the fact that they’re running with it means that it’s legal. I don’t know, it’s called ‘steering wheel’, not ‘push or pull wheel’. But I don’t know if it works, I guess there’s quite a lot of work to bring it to the track and it’s probably not as easy as it looks for the driver to work with it.

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Mercedes steering rack, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Mercedes’ steering system was spotted during testing
“But we will see – for sure it was a novelty for us to see.”

Vettel doesn’t believe that the device on its own will make a major difference to Mercedes’ competitiveness. “I think it’s much more dependent what you have around it,” he said. “So the car you are you’re sitting in, the car you have around that.

“I don’t think that this will give you – I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating – but I don’t think that this is the ticket to win. I think there’s a lot more elements to building up competitive car.

“But for sure it’s an innovation and we’ll see whether it’s something that everyone has to pick up on or not.”

He also suspects that DAS is “not easy to operate” for the driver. “I think it’s quite weird when you have the feeling all of a sudden you might have the wheel in your hands.”

However that wouldn’t discourage him from trying the system if he had it. “I could just imagine it feels weird, but for sure if it’s faster than there’s no concern, you go for the faster option.

“We had the F-ducts many years ago and we drove around with one hand most of the track. That wasn’t safe, but it was fast. So you do what you’re pushed to do. But then that’s why we have the FIA obviously to look after us and make sure things make sense and we have got our hands on the wheel.”


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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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37 comments on “Vettel suspects copying Mercedes’ DAS would take “quite a lot of work””

  1. He also suspects that DAS is “not easy to operate” for the driver.

    That’s where the most skilled drivers tend to earn their pay, right Seb?

    1. @david-br
      I doubt the DAS is any harder to operate than the F-Duct

      1. @kingshark Well Vettel seems to think so. I don’t know. I mean braking isn’t difficult to do, press foot on brake pedal, but applying just the right amount, that is difficult. Though maybe the advantage will be too slight to merit so much driver attention. Then again, perhaps it will be a clear advantage. Just the doubt is a Mercedes win.

        1. Exactly. Webber had the exhaust blown diffuser & fancy engine mapping on his Red Bull too but could never make it work anywhere near as well as Vettel did. He hated it, as a matter of fact, & all that entailed was basically feathering the throttle where you normally would be off throttle.

          1. Webber also didnt like the change to Pirelli tyres, it changed his style to much that it undermind one if his key strengths which was fast cornering. Arguably more impactful than throttle application changes

    2. Perhaps he means it’s tricky to operate correctly. I could imagine driving through a chicane and the driver accidentally pushes or pulls the wheel when they don’t mean to.

      1. I would have thought there is a simple latch to stop that from happening.

    3. He also suspects that DAS is “not easy to operate” for the driver.

      Oh… don’t be so negative, Seb. The Ferrari version could help you find new ways to spin under pressure.

    4. Reminds me of the hoo haa over the blown brawn, is it legal isn’t it legal??? By the time it was deemed legal button was over the horizon (the softest WC of all time) nice guy though.

  2. Vettel doesn’t believe that the device on its own will make a major difference to Mercedes’ competitiveness. “I think it’s much more dependent what you have around it,” he said. “So the car you are you’re sitting in, the car you have around that.

    With DAS, Mercedes can maximize the amount of toe through corners and then reduce it to zero on the straights.

    That will result in less drag, more straight line speed, less fuel consumption, less tyre wear and better cornering.

    I think it will have a huge impact on competitiveness, I could see this device bringing Mercedes back to 2014-2016 levels of dominance.

    1. @kingshark I agree, it sounds a big potential impact on paper. But as I responded above, I think it could be quite subtle to use, and maybe increasingly so as Mercedes develop it further, presuming they get to keep it (and depending on how much latitude the system has or can be given).

      1. @david-br
        There are actually multiple benefits to aligning your tyres on the straight. Not only is there less drag, there is also less tyre scrubbing and friction. More straight line speed and less tyre wear.

        Again, call me a pessimist, but I suspect that this season is already over.

        1. It is in every aspect very similar to the old brake bias adjustment lever, that you could see Schumacher pulling and pushing lap after lap.

          * It is a distraction
          * It requires skill
          * It takes some time to master
          * It may or may not bring enough gains to justify it

          But in the end, it is standard in all cars today, although much simpler to operate now. You can say the same about fuel mixture, which is still done by hand on the side of a go cart.

          But let’s see what the majority of teams think about it and what their protests are. It may be banned for next year, but by then Mercedes would have made good use of it.

          1. All F1 drivers do that these days. Renault had automated this task and had their cars disqualified

        2. @kingshark It already is – we’re just talking about how easily Hamilton will cruise to the title, not if he will.

          As I said yesterday, I think it’s a mistake for Mercedes to show their hand in a season they’ll easily dominate as others now have a year to get this designed into their 2021 cars.

          1. One of the commentators was saying that this DAS would be illegal for 2021 because the rules around the areas DAS has been tightened for 2021. Sounded like would only be able to use this in 2020.

    2. @kingshark What ingenious with this system is easy to make it work to give the car variable setting of toe, suitable to the track. In slow part, you go all in for maximum maneuverability, in fast part, you go partway. A some kind of analog aid is also easy to add to tell driver how much they should push the wheel, heck some lines painted on inside the cockpit should do the trick.

    3. With DAS, Mercedes can maximize the amount of toe through corners and then reduce it to zero on the straights.

      Any steering set up (even your car) can maximise toe through corners (it does not even make sense to talk about ‘toe’ in corners) and set it up as neutral on the straights. In the corners you always want your inner wheel to steer more than the outer one.
      I think the only thing it does is to change the toe on the straights from a basic setting (slightly in/out = friction = temperature) to neutral (less friction = less temperature) and allow them to manage front tyre temps.

      But that is just my ignorant guess, @kingshark.

      1. Yeah. What you said was discovered like 100 years ago.

  3. As Spock commented to Kirk in Wrath of Khan, “His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking …”.
    The value of the Trombone Steering Adjustment may be in areas that Vettel has not considered.
    One may be just to preserve or heat up tires. Time will tell if it has a positive effect.
    Expect that the design departments of a few teams are burning the midnight oil to copy and refine the concept.
    There should be a contest for how many show up in Melbourne and when the teams get back to Europe.

  4. Fun for the history books but let’s hope it gets banned the way of the fan car.

    Last thing F1 needs is more pointless gimmicks that all the other teams have to spend countless millions on catching up with!

    Plus it can’t be deemed very safe, what if a driver accidentally pulls it back in a corner?

    1. I never understood this argument… if it’s a gimmick, save the millions! You could save even more by not racing at all!

      Stuff like this toe system is exactly why I watch formula1. This is formula1, not go karts. Let them innovate!

      1. Spot on, Xcm!

        F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport gimmicks! And that’s why we like it!

    2. “What if!”

      “Won’t anyone think of the children?!?”

      There are several buttons that could cause a collision on an f1 steering wheel… SO WHAT!

      Racing is dangerous, leave it to the big boys. There is plenty of pearl clutching to be had elsewhere… move along.

    3. When s you brake, you’re pushed forward. I’m pretty sure there’s a bigger chance of pointing the steering wheel the wrong way than accidentally pulling it, especially if there is a good amount of friction (as it look like from the videos)

      1. That was my first thought but that’s from road cars. F1 drivers are belted so they don’t move around.

        1. That’s correct; you don’t brace yourself on the steering wheel in a formula car. The seat is made to support the torso and the belts and the submarine harness definitely don’t allow much movement; you can’t even buckle it up yourself, you have to have a crew person manipulate the crotch area….

        2. @glynh sure, but you and your arms still are going to feel that same push.

  5. DAS…. is that some kinda yoke?

    1. Yoke … Close … the best description was from Peter Windsor and Craig Scarborough …. the “Trombone Steering Wheel”.
      Just sort of slides right in there.

      1. And they nicked it from Ted Kravitz.

  6. Last year Mercedes came up with a system of altering their steering on slow corners. Since then, all of the other teams have copied the idea. The FIA have allowed that, they will look very stupid if they ban a similar innovation that works when the cars are travelling in a straight line.

    I expect Mercedes are going to incorporate an automatic version in their road cars. That’ll also be one up on Ferrari.

  7. Well, to me that definitely reads as ‘Ferrari will see if they can get it banned – Vettel laying groundworks for arguments costs and safety, and legality all at once’ – well done by him really.

    I agree it probably isn’t a double diffuser in how important it is to winning the season (though that makes it so it isn’t essential for the FIA to ban it maybe?), but the safety aspect I don’t really buy – it clearly can be locked, I’ll take it that Merc. obviously looked at crash safety too. As for the legality of the steering wheel now moving in two axes, well, that I’ll leave up to the FIA because he has a point in principle, but this does seem to be common sense versus F1 rules argument; I can see why no one specified the thing only is allowed to turn along the steering wheel axis in normal operation of the car, but, it now doesn’t limit it.

  8. Is this a long play by Mercedes in advance of the new bigger wheels due next year? Get a year under the belt to perfect it, clear advantage going into next year’s regulations change where innovation particularly in aero will be limited. They know it’s going to be complicated to master, that’s the only reason why they’d unveil it on day 2 of pre season testing, they must think that there’s no way competitors are going to catch up at least this season as they’ll always be 2/3 iterations ahead of the game.

    I don’t know enough about mechanical setups but I’d imagine if they could master the use of this through corners it would give them a much more stable car when they stick the big wheels on and lose the flex they get in the tyres.

  9. I have read somewhere that FIA has already banned the system for 2021!

    1. Spoil sports!

  10. I fail to see the genius part of this idea. I’ve seen kids in the 9th grade coming up with clever ideas. It’s more or less smart in my opinion. Camber and toe-in/out are nothing new and the pros and cons of these setups are like the ABC for the engineers from F1. I find it hard to believe nobody had a similar idea before because it seems like the next step to do when you know how these setups work and their pros and cons, and I’m thinking that it might be about having more men, money and time to explore all these ideas than other teams, and see what can be implemented successfully in the end to have some gains. So, I’m thinking if Mercedes maybe is investing a lot more money and having a bigger team working for the F1 Team than they let everybody know in order to keep their dominance.

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