Mercedes Reveals Innovative Dual Axis Steering During Pre Season Testing
The first Formula One pre-season test is merely a systems check, an important first step for all teams to go from computer-based simulations to real-world testing. Pre-season testing is an opportunity for F1 teams to see if data-driven, AI computer modeling and simulation correlates to on-track performance. At this stage it doesn’t really matter who tops the headline-grabbing timesheets. Testing is held at the Barcelona race track. The current best pre-season test time is still 2 seconds away from lasts year’s pole position at the same track.
Clearly, the first pre-season test session is about running procedural programs. However, the last day of testing could reveal who is where in the pecking order in terms of pure speed. But modern-day F1 is a year-long development program. Mercedes revealed that they found two seconds of lap time over the course of the 2019 campaign. So from now until the end of the season, those teams who have the resources will develop a faster car than they had at the first race of the season.
However, it appears Mercedes has already got a head start. Eagle-eyed observers noted Lewis Hamilton pushing and pulling at his steering wheel during his on-track test session. Further analysis of on-board video footage also revealed the front tire moving inwards on the straights and outwards on the corners. Mercedes later clarified that they were testing a new steering system codenamed DAS – Dual Axis Steering.
DAS – Dual Axis Steering – controls the toe-in and toe-out. So what is toe-in and toe-out? Let’s start with toe-in. In a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, increased front toe in provides greater straight-line stability at the cost of some sluggishness of turning response. Allowing the front tyres to effectively toe-out provides better stability during cornering. The toe-in and toe-out are adjusted manually, once set they can not be changed.
This is where the Mercedes DAS technology is truly innovative not only in terms of the clarity of thought but also the engineering required for such a complex system to operate. But will it give Mercedes an advantage? Yes, DAS will offer Mercedes significantly improved tyre wear. So if a particular race circuit has high tyre degradation and requires two stops, Mercedes can, in theory, opt for one giving at least 15 seconds advantage during a race.
But it depends if Mercedes can unlock the full potential of the system. It may take a few races for Mercedes and it’s drivers to fully adapt and understand DAS. And then there is the issue of legality. But there is no question of legality because the DAS system is fully FIA approved. But that hasn’t stopped rivals from questioning the legality. Even though DAS is legal.