FIA didn't believe Mercedes could make DAS work, says Allison
Mercedes Formula 1 technical director James Allison believes that the FIA didn’t expect that the team could make its dual-axis steering system operational and fully legal after the governing body rejected its original idea.
Mercedes created a stir at Barcelona pre-season testing earlier this year when onboard TV images showed the drivers moving the W11’s steering wheel back and forth, and the front wheels responding.
Rival teams questioned the legality of the novelty the team called dual-axis steering or DAS, but the FIA confirmed that the system had been assessed and approved.
Allison said that the team planned to run DAS in 2019 using a lever system on the steering wheel, but the FIA turned down that arrangement, and suggested that the whole wheel would have to move.
Responding to a question from a fan about how hard it was to make the system work, Allison said that the FIA hadn’t expected the team to succeed.
“The simple answer is it was really quite difficult indeed,” he explained in a Mercedes video. “And in fact we first wanted to introduce this in 2019.
“We took our ideas to the FIA, showed them, explained why we thought it was legal. And they begrudgingly agreed that dual-axis steering was actually legal.
“But they didn’t much like the way we’d done it, because the second axis we were getting from a lever on the wheel, rather than that whole wheel movement.
“And so they said, ‘No, you’re going to have to move the whole wheel in and out.’ And I think when they said that they were hoping that would be too difficult, and we would go away and cause them no more problems.”
Allison says the team was confident that it was still worth devoting resources to solving the problem.
“We have a very inventive chief designer, John Owen, and he took one look at that challenge – he’s got a really good gut feel for whether something is doable or not, and that’s a really helpful characteristic, because it allows us to be quite brave spending money when most people would feel the outcome was quite uncertain.
“John has a good feel for whether he’s going to be able to get out of the woods, and into fair ground again.
“John took that challenge on, reckoned he could do it, put it out to our very talented group of mechanical designers, and between them they cooked up two or three ways in which it might be done.
“We picked the most likely of those three, and about a year after that out popped the DAS system that you saw at the beginning of this season.”
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