Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel doubts that Mercedes’ innovative dual axis steering system has the potential to provide a significant edge, insisting the device is likely also difficult to operate.
Mercedes’ concept was revealed to the F1 community after onboard footage showing Lewis Hamilton’s steering wheel moving fore and aft was posted on social media.
The Silver Arrows squad later confirmed the DAS system, labeled as such by Mercedes tech boss James Allison. Vettel admitted that Ferrari was caught off guard by the idea.
“I’ve seen it and we talked about it at lunch,” said Vettel. “It obviously looks interesting. I guess the fact that they’re running with it means it’s legal.
“I don’t know, but it’s called steering wheel, not push or pull wheel!
“I don’t know if it works. I guess there’s quite a lot of work to bring it to the track and it’s probably not as easy as it looks for the driver to work with it. For sure it was a novelty for us to see.
“I don’t know if it’s easy to do or not, I guess no, because these things are never easy, but also guess it’s not easy to operate it.”
Assessing the complexities involved with operating the DAS, Vettel compared the system to the f-duct which was once part of F1’s designs and which forced drivers to use their hands and knees to block specific ducts in the cockpit to enhance a car’s aerodynamics.
“I could just imagine it feels weird,” he added. “But for sure if it’s faster and there’s no concern you go for the faster option.
“We had the f-duct many years ago, like 10-11 years ago, and we drove around with one hand most of the tracks.
“So that wasn’t safe, but it was fast. So you do what you’re pushed to do, but then that’s why we have the FIA obviously, to look after us and make sure things make sense, and we have got our hands on the wheel.”
For Vettel, getting used to operating the DAS is perhaps akin to learning to run with flip-flops!
“Imagine you are used to doing something,” explained Vettel. ” Imagine you’re used to running and you put on your running shoes, and then somebody asks you to run with your flip-flops.
“You can also do that, but it just feels very different.
“It’s not quite that extreme, but it’s just that you add something that’s completely new and feels probably strange and weird at first, but obviously if it gives you an advantage, gives you an edge, you can fulfill the task, and you have the capacity to do it and with enough practice, then why not?”
While intrigued with Mercedes’ ploy, Vettel doubts the gains generated by the system are anything more than marginal.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating, but I don’t think that this is the ticket to win;” he said.
“I think there’s a lot more elements to building up a competitive car, but for sure it’s an innovation, and we will see whether it’s something that everyone has to pick up on or not.”