The entire paddock was buzzing with excitement today and for good reason. After eagle-eyed fans caught Lewis Hamilton “exercising” with his steering wheel, all anybody cared about was Mercedes. Fans and pit walls were glued to their screens to catch a glimpse of a W11 onboard and its secret innovation.
THAT Mercedes steering wheel trick.
As Mercedes were conducting their regular tests like all other teams, something caught fans’ attention. As Lewis Hamilton was hurtling down the straight at the Circuit de Barcelona, he appeared to be “readjusting” his steering wheel. An onboard camera showed the Brit pulling the steering column outwards just before the straight and inwards just after.
At first glimpse, this seemed harmless, but on closer look fans realized Mercedes had done some serious work back at Brackley. When Hamilton pulled the steering column inwards, there was a minor realignment of the front wheels. The front wheels appeared to straighten as a result of the action. Furthermore, as Hamilton pushed the column back in, the wheels realigned to their original position.
F1 cars, unlike regular road cars, have front wheels that are slightly aligned inwards. It is an acute angle and a very subtle design, used to ensure car stability around corners. This is helpful around twisty bits of the track, but redundant on the straights. With Mercedes employing this neat little trick, the wheels of its car will not heat up unevenly.
— Savlar (@SavlarSVK) February 20, 2020
This could preserve tyres and have a huge effect on tyre degradation. There could be other benefits to this but are unknown at such an early stage. All the other teams are keeping a close eye on this invention. However, some fans and self-styled F1 pundits are calling for its ban.
Speaking to Auto Moto und Sport, Mercedes technical director James Allison opened up about the invention.
“It’s a new system. We call it DAS. It opens up additional possibilities and creates a new dimension in steering. It will benefit the driver throughout the season.”
“How it works and why we have it, we keep it to ourselves.”
Mercedes dominated the first day of winter testing. The German team ended day 1 with a trademark 1-2 finish.
Sergio Perez currently leads the timing sheets with a 1:17.347. It will be interesting to see today’s developments after Mercedes’ neat little trick.