Mercedes steering rack, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

FIA thought they’d made DAS “too difficult” to build – Allison

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes technical director James Allison has given new insight into how the team consulted with the FIA on the design of its innovative Dual Axis Steering system.

DAS, which was seen for the first time on the W11 in pre-season testing, allows the teams drivers to adjust the toe angle of the front wheels by pushing the steering wheel back and forth.

Speaking in a video published by Mercedes, Allison described how the team originally designed the device last year. The first version of DAS used a lever on the wheel as the driver’s input, which the FIA didn’t like.

“We first wanted to introduce this in 2019,” said Allison. “We took our ideas to the FIA, showed them, explained why we thought it was legal.

“They begrudgingly agreed the 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. They said ‘no, you’re going to have to move the whole wheel in and out’.

“I think when they said that, they were hoping that would be too difficult and that we would go and cause them no more problems.”

Allison credited the team’s chief designer John Owen with solving the problem of adding DAS to the car.

“He’s got a really, really good gut feel for whether something is do-able 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. But John has a good feel for whether he’s going to be able to get out of out of the woods and into into fair ground again.

“So 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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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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  • 21 comments on “FIA thought they’d made DAS “too difficult” to build – Allison”

    1. I do not get what is this huge thing about DAS. They talk about it as if it were a huge thing. But it is not. Teams have many such innovations year after year. Perhaps because this looks funky, while the others do not? Or perhaps people do not think or understand that there are other innovations by other teams too.

      The other strange thing is that even the team wants to talk this up high. They usually do not like to talk about innovations. Either they are very much full with themselves, or they are trying to hide something else, like when Redbull painted an exhaust outlet on to their car. This whole DAS story stinks.

    2. You have to feel for those engineers who spent one whole year developing this system, only for it to last 6 months.

      1. I think having a million(s) dollar budget to play with and build something is a reward in itself for an engineer.

      2. What about the engineers who spent 10 years working on a spacecraft just to see it crash into Mars? Limited use or project failures are common for engineers working at the cutting edge.

      3. Graham (@guitargraham)
        3rd June 2020, 23:04

        youre kidding right? this will be on their CVs forever. It’ll be right up there with the active Wiliams

    3. And then these FIA geniuses ban it.
      *facepalm*

    4. Really curious about the outcome of protest against DAS as soon as the season begins.

      1. I’m fairly sure we’re going to see it declared as legal, the casual way Allison talks about it would suggest so.

        1. The problem could be, @bernasaurus, that the system itself is legal but the use of it illegal as soon as the car moves into parc fermé. This would make the system useless during qualification/warm-up when it could create the most advantage

          1. @coldfly That’s hinging on the premise that it’s an illegal setup change.

            A steering wheel that can steer the wheels is not a setup change. It just steers the wheels in opposite directions, but it still steers the wheels.

            1. Not at all @f1osaurus.
              The parc fermé rules define that “34.1 Every team must provide the FIA technical delegate with a suspension set-up sheet for both of their cars” and that “34.6 A competitor may not modify any part on the car or make changes to the set-up of the suspension whilst the car is being held under parc fermé conditions.”

              Toe-in/out changes are perfectly legal, but it is unclear if it is part of the suspension set-up. Some will argue yes, others will argue no.
              But most interestingly, the suspension set-up sheets that I’ve seen (you can find some on the internet) all include toe-in/out settings. If that is officially included in the suspension set-up sheet, then changing this (using DAS) during parc fermé will cause them to start from the pitlane.

            2. @coldfly the indication is that the system would be of more use in race trim rather than in qualifying trim, as it would result in a more uniform wear pattern across the front tyres. If that is the case, then as the parc ferme regulations drop away as soon as the race begins, it would suggest that it isn’t really a problem.

              It’s also worth noting that Ferrari reportedly did have a similar concept on their car for at least part of the 2019 season – in their case, it seems to have been used to alter the ackermann angle as the driver steered through the corner – and that was considered entirely legal.

            3. To me running the car with different settings on qualifying and race seems like a perfectly normal and intuitive thing to do. Leave it to F1 to ban everything.

            4. @coldfly The suspension is not changed in parc ferme. Or ever by DAS.

              The steering wheel steers the wheels. They will have a hard time banning that. Although a new addition is that both wheels must steer in the same direction

              The fact that steering changes the ride height as a side effect is already covered and limited by the rules. That’s not considered a setup change either.

    5. Allison’s version of events is always extremely positive for his employer.
      And still the Parc ferme rules could ruin his great technological wonder I a heartbeat.

      1. Which rules specifically?

    6. The first version of DAS used a lever on the wheel as the driver’s input, which the FIA didn’t like.

      If the FIA had allowed DAS to be controlled by a lever then maybe all the teams would have it by now, but because they made it more difficult for Mercedes they also made it more difficult for all the other teams to copy the idea.

    7. So if Williams or Haas had come up with this idea and developed it, would there still be so much hate about it?

      I’m still a little annoyed that its been banned for 2021 and beyond and there’s already been statements suggesting that if anyone comes up with something new that gives them an advantage it too will likely be banned. Now that there’s budget caps, or as soon as budget caps commence there should be no reason to ban innovations like these – let the teams decide what risks they want to take to get an advantage.

      1. If Redbull or Ferrari had come up with it, you’d still be listening to the echos.

      2. DAS was banned under the 2021 regulations, but as they have now been delayed till 2022, there is absolutely no reason it shouldn’t be legal next year – as F1 will still be racing under the same regulations as this year.

        Basically, the illegality is based on the new regs, which are not going to be introduced till 2022.

    8. Got to hold on those engineers dearly as they really talented.

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