Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Why the FIA has ‘re-banned’ Mercedes’ DAS for 2021

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1’s decision to postponed its highly-anticipated new technical rules until 2022 as a cost-saving measure appeared to give a stay of execution to Mercedes’ innovative Dual Axis Steering system.

The device, first seen during pre-season testing, was due to be outlawed when the overhauled technical rules arrived in 2021. The delay created the possibility DAS could remain on cars next year after all.

However on Tuesday the FIA nixed that possibility. Although teams will be allowed to continue racing their 2020 cars next year, a clause banning DAS appears in the new edition of next year’s technical rules.

Mercedes’ device allows its drivers to adjust the alignment of its front wheels by pushing the steering wheel back and forth. However the amended 2021 regulations now forbid this.

“The re-alignment of the steered wheels must be uniquely defined by a monotonic function of the rotation of a single steering wheel about a single axis,” states the revised article 10.4.2. “Furthermore, the inboard attachment points of the suspensions members connected to the steering system must remain a fixed distance from each other and can only translate in the direction normal to the car centre plane.”

The system has not yet been seen in action during a race weekend. Mercedes, and any other team hoping to copy it before the end of the current season, now won’t get the chance to run it until – or unless – the 2020 season begins.

Why has the FIA taken the step of outlawing a device which generated widespread interest during pre-season testing? (And, for that matter, won Mercedes much applause for the ingenuity of the design.) There is an immediate cost consideration, but also the possibility that the new rules originally planned for 2021 could be pushed back again to 2023 or even later.

Before the FIA confirmed DAS will not be allowed next year, teams had an incentive to develop their own versions. Previously, not only did they have the opportunity to use it in 2021, but potentially in subsequent seasons if the radical overhaul of the technical rules was delayed further.

The DAS ban suggests a delay beyond 2022 is on the table, which would allow teams to make greater cost savings at a time when they are coming under severe financial pressure due to the delayed start to this year’s championship. Some team principals have already suggested this is indeed under discussion, meaning the sport would have to wait even longer to see its next-generation cars in action.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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32 comments on “Why the FIA has ‘re-banned’ Mercedes’ DAS for 2021”

  1. Good idea, although i don’t think there’s much of an incentive for other teams to copy it now that we have this shortened season.

    Might seem a bit unfair to Mercedes but I’m not sympathizing them much

    1. ColdFly (@)
      1st April 2020, 10:15

      Might seem a bit unfair to Mercedes but I’m not sympathizing them much

      Interestingly, this is good news for Mercedes; they are now more likely the sole team which will have it available in the (potential) 2020 season.

      1. Unless teams develop it now but I highly doubt it. Even though, this year, if it happens, is definitely theirs. @coldfly

        Hopefully the ban on DAS for next season might make others a bit closer.

  2. Assuming that a 2020 season actually happens, Mercedes will probably not bother running it. Assuming they still win the WCC/WDC, I hope they run at least one race at the end of the season with DAS just so they can.

    1. I can also see the new Technical changes being held back until the new Engine regs come in around 2024/5 when they finally decide what they are going to be.

      1. @ijw1 I really hope that’s not the case, but you could be right

        I know it’s wishful thinking but I’m praying for the return of 19,000 rpm NA V8s or V10s

        1. The V8s were not as much fun, but V10s and V12s with no rev limit would be a joy. Some more freedom around exhaust design would be cool too, which should result in some variation in how the cars sound. i remember this being a real eye opener when i experienced F1 in the flesh for the first time (in 1999). on TV they had all sounded quite similar but at the track you could pretty begin to identify certain cars from the sound alone, which was very cool.

          I know that the Honda powered cars have sounded a bit different in recent years, so perhaps it’s the TV sound neutering things more than restrictive regulations.

          1. @frood19 the microphones FOM use completely wreck the sound of these current V6t engines, the microphones/software are too advanced. I’ve never been myself, but people say in person they’re amazing, and it shows on a lot of amateur videos

            I think the V8s did sound brilliant from 2006 to 2008, when they had no rev limit/19,000 rpm limit. When they reduced it to 18,000 rpm in 2009 they weren’t as good, especially as freezes restricted development

            But yeah, if I had a choice it would be the V10s in a heartbeat. The V12s were amazing too, but they are usually heavier and they’re not as good as the V10s!!

          2. Jamie B, but who is going to bear the brunt of the costs for those engines?

            The annual development costs of those V10 engines were pretty horrendous, and the V8’s likewise until they introduced the development restrictions and the FIA mandated customer sales prices that were deliberately set below the cost of production.

            There does seem to be something rather contradictory about those who want to, on the one hand, “save the sport” by advocating for technical restriction, yet at the same time also calling for the reintroduction of major redesigns in engines and want to return to an era where engine costs were even greater than they are now.

    2. Every little advantage counts so they will be using it every race. It might make the difference in defending an undercut or dragging your oppenent tyres into total drstruction as he tries to chase them down towards the end of a race.

  3. I’m a little annoyed that it’s been banned at all. If it had been Williams, or Haas that had come up with it, would people be all that concerned.

    Again, why are innovations being banned? Teams have a choice – they can choose to include it or something similar in their design plans or they could asses it as not being significant enough to make a difference.

    As it is, we can only guess as to whether or not it was going to make any significant difference for Mercedes 2020 campaign. If it did, I for one would applaud them for continuing to strive for better performance when in reality they had little to prove.

    1. Again, why are innovations being banned?

      Costs, for one reason, and to keep the competition close, for another

      Some people want to see incredible innovation, others want close competition, and many want both – yet they are often fundamentally the opposite, so something has to give

      Add in the long-term financial sustainability of F1 teams, and innovation like this is not compatible. For years smaller teams were constantly running on the brink of collapse because they couldn’t keep up with the spending of the big teams, and fans complained FIA/Bernie/Carey hadn’t done enough to help. There have been other issues like the prize structure which are being addressed in the future, but for the time being, especially given the current crisis, banning devices like this will have to suffice

      1. So basically lets handicap the best teams just so the small ones can keep up, In other words lets gear it to the lowest common denominator.

        May as well just make it a budget spec series for the smallest teams, Indycar+.

        What we have now is not F1! F1 is dead, GP1/Indycar+ now lives in it’s place sadly :(

        I just hope they are able to get all the classic races onto the F1TV so fans get the opportunity to see what true F1 really was. And I also hope GP1/Indycar+ sees big decline in people watching so that the owners see that fans want real F1 & not some fake budget series.

        1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
          1st April 2020, 16:45

          If this was 1970 … then the Lotus 72 would most likely have been instantly banned.

          1. Under the current prize structure the smaller teams are not handicapped – the complete opposite, in fact. Success is rewarded with extra money leading to more success. F1 is different compared to most sports in that it’s predominantly about how good the car is, not the players. There needs to be something to level that out

            The comparison with the 1970s is pointless, this is not the 1970s (when teams had disposable tobacco money – and innovations were banned throughout F1 history, it’s the same argument been going on for decades). Things have moved on and F1 is struggling for viewing figures

            Casual fans generally watch F1 to be entertained by exciting action, not innovation, and that is what drives much of F1’s television revenue (as well as the promoters’ revenues). Easy to forget that F1 is no longer just competing against other sports and television programs, today it also has to compete against youtube and the rest of the internet for people’s time

            I agree F1 is dead but for different reasons. It’s clinical, too safe, and the cars aren’t exciting because teams have refined and perfected them too much

          2. Jamie B the problem that people have is the feeling that there is a drive to artificially force “randomness” and forced equalisation into a sport in a way that risks just alienating people.

            When you say that people want to see “exciting action”, against that there is an element of people not wanting to lean too far to the other extreme. Saturate every single race with that sort of action, and over time it ceases to have impact because it becomes just a momentary blip in something that ceases to become memorable because no individual event within it can make a particular mark.

            For some people, Formula E perhaps falls into something of that trap – whilst the individual races might be eventful, at the same time there is a feeling that some would struggle to recount any one particular race because incidents like collisions or crashes are so frequent that no particular moment is memorable any more.

            You talk about the issue of things being “too perfect”, but at the same time we have seen how many have poured scorn on teams and drivers for mistakes, whilst commenting favourably on those who have pursued those aims.

            For a sport that has taken the idea of the pursuit of perfection as being a point of pride, injecting the idea of wanting more imperfection comes across as a bit of an alien idea. The talk of variability is something that comes across as a very slippery and difficult thing to give shape and implement in practise, as the actual amount of variability that people are happy with seems to be less in practise than they might suggest they’d want if you asked them about it.

            There is a sense that people don’t just want outright luck to play its part, but want to see an element of skill come into play – and there can be a very fine line between something that is seen as a driver being able to take advantage of a rare set of circumstances and one where it feels like random chance.

            People want to feel that somebody has ‘deserved’ that opportunity, but too much unpredictability and action can make some feel it was arbitrary fortune. The comparisons with the 1970s here are comparisons in the sense that people admired the sense of ingenuity and felt there was an element of a performance advantage being deserved i.e. that the success came from genuine brilliance.

            A scenario like the early part of the 2012 season, by contrast, certainly saw more unpredictability in the results, but fans did not like it because the success of a number of drivers felt ‘unearned’ because even the drivers involved could not explain why they had succeeded.

            The problem here is that it feels like the sport is shedding one image, but people do not trust or necessarily want the new image that people are trying to impose on it and feel that there is a lack of substance to what the sport might be trying to become.

          3. Anon, I agree with some of what you say. It sort of shows my point though, everybody wants something different. When you say people/fans want to see this or they feel that, these are usually different groups of people (or sometimes the same people changing their minds). And bear in mind that what casual fans will be willing to watch for is not generally represented by vocal fans, who normally watch anyway, so it’s the casual fans who make up the difference for F1’s revenue

            I would just like to say though, that very rarely have I heard or seen anyone complain about the early part of 2012. But other than that, you’re right to say my opinions are quite alien

          4. Magnus Rubensson (@)
            2nd April 2020, 9:55

            I don’t mind that Mercedes are dominant at the moment. Williams were very dominant for some years, Ferrari were dominant especially in the Schumacher era, McLaren and Lotus have had dominant years etc. German teams were even more dominant in the 1930s.

            Obviously racing had a novelty factor back then, since most people didn’t have cars. There were also fewer races, so every race was most likely more of an event than it is now.

            The Mercedes double axis steering is a very clever innovation. Brawn’s double diffuser was another interesting technical concept. I would argue that such innovations should not be banned unless deemed unnecessarily unsafe. The double axis steering and the diffuser can hardly be categorised as unsafe, and therefore both technologies should stay.

            One example of a potentially dangerous innovation was (probably) Brabham’s BT46 fan car. A sudden loss of suction, most likely at a corner speed higher than that of other cars, meant a high risk. I can see why that system was banned rather quickly.

            In the case of the double axis steering, this particular innovation originated from Mercedes but that is not the point. It could have come from any of the teams. Today, the only real possibility for a midfield or backmarker team to consistently beat a very dominant team is if the smaller team comes up with some ground-breaking innovation that puts their own car ahead – and changes F1 at the same time, forcing others to play catchup.

            This happened with the Lotus 72 – soon after, all the teams had moved their radiators from the front to the sides. Rear-engined Coopers from the 1950s affected F1 in the same way.

            This is not the 1970’s, and fair enough. We will not see that era again. F1 back then was really bad in other respects. My main issue with today’s F1 is that some rules (especially regarding innovation) are too strict and things like testing bans will first and foremost prevent backmarkers and midfield teams from innovating. Thus, the continued success of the largest teams appears to be more or less secured.

        2. Except handicapping the big teams just means they spend money the small teams don’t have to get around the limitation.

          It’s not a handicap to the big teams. It only handicaps the small teams.

          All this drive for cost reduction has just made the gap between the big teams and the small teams wider.

          1. All teams set their budgets which they then spend one way or another. It’s better for them to spend it on an advantage worth two tenths, than one worth half a second (those figures are to demonstrate the point). And if the smaller teams have the means to copy the big innovation, the big teams will then spend on the small innovations anyway…

            It handicaps a big team, because a big team is having their advantage removed. It’s not as complicated as you want it to be

            (NB in my response above, I said the smaller teams are not handicapped, I meant the bigger teams)

      2. I’m sick of the “costs” argument. That’s what the budget cap is for. If teams are unable to get enough sponsors etc to be able to get to the cap that is not the problem of those that can.

        And let’s be very clear, the competition is already close, or just as close as it has been in years, and other than Williams last year (and extreme back markets over history) there is a very real and tight competition, albeit not necessarily for the top podium step, pretty much all the way down the field.

        Competition in F1 is not a dozen cars running nose to tail, it never has been. It’s been about drivers having the skills to compete with another who may have superior machinery but still being able to prevail and teams striving to give their drivers the machinery to do that.

        1. @dbradock Being sick of the costs argument doesn’t mean it goes away. The budget cap hasn’t come in yet, which was my point, until it does (and I hope it is successful), this is how F1 is going to be.

          And the competition is very close, because they’ve been banning innovations for years

          1. Really?

            The cap come in next year so pretty much a false argument from you.

            As for the closeness – had innovation been encouraged and allowed, there’s a high probability that Merc wouldn’t have stayed so far in front since 2014 so there would have been a much better chance of a change at the top end. Midfields always get closer over the duration of a rules package.

            Restricting innovation plays right into the hands of the big spending teams and always has, especially if one of the second tier teams comes up with a good one. The only reason for banning something should be if it represents a serious safety risk. Sadly that won’t be the case for next year and beyond but instead will be the opposite.

          2. Jamie B, I think that there is an element of whether correlation is necessarily the same as causation, because there might be some questioning whether one really has caused the other.

            As DB-C90 notes, we have seen a tendency for a regulation change to initially spread the field, followed by a period when the field begins to close back up as the top teams start to reach diminishing returns. The line that “the competition is very close, because they’ve been banning innovations for years” is not necessarily true – it could also be that, over an extended period of time, those smaller teams would have started catching up with the bigger teams anyway.

          3. The budget cap hasn’t come in yet

            The cap come in next year so pretty much a false argument from you

            @dbradock not quite sure what you’re… never mind

  4. I understand the finance constraints but It’s a bit crap when the pinnacle formula class of motorsport technology bans innovation. I want to see the brain child of a mad uni engineering grad free of ideological constraints let loose on a rule set. If the FIA just ban innovation to lower costs, is the luke warm result actually F1?

  5. Mercedes have time to come up with yet another game changer, for whenever we get back to racing. I suspect they are already hard at work on finalising as we speak.

    Ferrari? That’ll be the day..

  6. I’m interested to know which circuits DAS would have a huge effect. If it has a benefit on the circuits we won’t likely see this season, then no team will try to copy it. If the inverse is true, then there’s still incentive to do so.

    1. For now its a question if the system really delivers. When using the system for a complete season you can develop it further and get some practical info about the use.
      I guess this short season will not give enough possibilitys to use it. So my guess is Merc will not use it.

  7. Tell us again about the maFIA conspiracies deluded Tifosi?

    Absolute joke. Ferrari run an illegal engine for half a season which is fine, Mercedes find something within the rules and they rewrite them to get the pathetic red team a little closer.

    Spoiler: They will won’t.

    1. RB13, it should be noted that most of the complaints on DAS have been coming from Red Bull (amid their threat to protest the system) – Ferrari don’t seem to be that bothered at all.

      In fact, it would appear that Ferrari probably aren’t that unhappy as it appears they are using that same gap in the regulations to vary the ackermann geometry – something which it seems Ferrari have been working on since the French Grand Prix last year, and there is a suggestion that Ferrari have licenced the design to Haas and allowed them to fit it to the VF-90.

      Rather than helping them get closer to Mercedes, the change in the regulations might actually be an adverse change for Ferrari as it seems they might also have to remove their system as well – Red Bull are probably the team that will actually gain the most from the rule change.

  8. So, were Mercedes stupid to show their hand in pre-season testing?

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