Yesterday Red Bull officially protested against Mercedes’ DAS system. The Dual Axis Steering System is a system that Mercedes had introduced in winter testing. The system is activated by pulling the steering wheel back. People saw it when Lewis Hamilton pulled his wheel back at the start of the main straight in Barcelona. And then, he pushed it forward to its normal position at the end of the straight. This certainly is a very innovative system, but Red Bull thought it was illegal. But before we get into that, let’s see exactly how DAS works.
1. How Does DAS Work?
As mentioned before, pulling the steering wheel back activates the Dual Axis Steering System. The toe of the front wheels, the tips of the front wheels, turn in and straighten up. Usually, the front wheels are in a toe-out setting, where the toes are pointed out and against each other. When there is toe-in, there is more turn-in and the front end is more snappy. When it is toe-out, the car is more stable, but the front end is less responsive.
DAS doesn’t turn the toes in, it straightens the toes up, so the Mercedes drivers aren’t using it in the corners. Besides, Hamilton deactivated the system at the end of the straight. While we don’t know exactly what DAS does, but it could be allowing heat to get to the outer edges of the tyres. This will be important, as it is difficult to do that, and it will be easier to heat the tyres on an out lap in practice or qualifying. DAS could serve Mercedes a big advantage at races like Azerbaijan and China because it is very easy to lose tyre temperature due to the long straights. However, Formula 1 has already cancelled those races, and that isn’t what DAS does.
Mercedes is using the device for the opposite reason to the reason above. DAS is reducing the toe-out, which would stop the outer edges of the front tyres from heating up. That would spread out the heat across the width of the tyre. This will reduce the tyre wear and increase grip and durability for the tyres, and the Black Arrows may also be able to achieve higher top speed. At the same time, there can be maximum stability in the corners when you deactivate the system. This is quite an innovative system, and Mercedes have done a great job at pushing to keep their car at the top.
2. Red Bull’s Official Protest
Now that we know how the DAS system works, let’s look into what Red Bull had against it. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said that his team wanted the FIA to clarify a very important thing about DAS. Is the system legal? The FIA have has already banned DAS from 2021 onwards, but should they allow Mercedes to use it now? After FP1 and FP2 on Friday, the FIA released some documents. These documents said that representatives from Mercedes and Red Bull were to report to the stewards at 1900 local time. Red Bull then put forward a formal protest against the DAS system. The protest was regarding an alleged breach of the FIA Technical Regulations. Specifically, article 3.8, which refers to aerodynamic influence, and article 10.2.3 have been breached. Article 10.2.3 states “no adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion”.
Mercedes Technical Chief James Allison insisted that Mercedes are not breaching any regulations. When Mercedes introduced the DAS device back in February at winter testing, they were saying that it is legal.
“The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements.”
The race stewards said that they would declare whether the device is legal at midday local time, before FP3 on Saturday. And Christian Horner sort of hinted on something that could be very significant. If the device was legal, then Red Bull would come up with a system of their own. Thankfully, for Mercedes, the FIA declared the system legal.
3. The FIA’s Verdict
Before the Black Arrows could get out on track and boss the last practice session, the race stewards delivered their final verdict on the DAS system. Mercedes can use their innovative device as much as they would like this year because it is fully legal for 2020. They did not have to remove the system from the cars and can keep it in the cars for the whole of 2020. The system has been banned from 2021 onwards, but for now, there are no issues.
Members of both teams, either in person or digitally, attended the stewards hearing.. Nikolas Tombazis of the FIA Technical Department attended the hearing as well. It was then declared that DAS is part of the W11’s steering system, “albeit not a conventional one”. The stewards decided that DAS could not be breaching any suspension‐related regulations because it is part of the steering system.
“As a general conclusion, it is very simple to conclude DAS would be illegal IF it were not part of the steering system,” read the stewards’ document. “So the main challenge and debate has to be on whether it can be considered to be part of the steering system. The stewards decide that DAS is a part of the steering system.
“Therefore the Stewards consider DAS to be a legitimate part of the steering system and hence to satisfy the relevant regulations regarding suspension or aerodynamic influence.”
For those of you out there who want to know every detail about the stewards’ decision, here is the link to the document.
Despite Red Bull’s claims ending up at nothing, Team Principal Christian Horner still has something up his sleeve. He hinted that Red Bull may bring a similar system to their car as the DAS system. The Austrian team have developed the system already, but they are yet to bring it to their car. I hope that this does happen soon, because the competition in this unclear season will be even more intense.
This is the end of this post. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this post, and I learned so many things along the way. I hope you enjoyed this post and have gained some more knowledge about the innovative DAS system. Stay safe, and stay on the lookout for new posts!