Red Bull have lodged an official protest against a controversial and revolutionary steering system on Mercedes’ 2020 Formula 1 car.
Red Bull allege that the so-called dual-axis steering system (DAS) breaks the rules on two counts.
These are that it constitutes a moveable aerodynamic device and that it is an adjustment to the suspension while the car is in motion.
DAS alters the ‘toe’ of the front wheels by moving the steering wheel.
The ‘toe’ is the angle of the front wheels in relation to the longitudinal axis of the car.
F1 cars operate with a degree of ‘toe-out’ – which effectively means that the front part of the tyres are turned outwards by a few millimetres.
This is beneficial when the driver turns in to the corner as it gives them more grip and stability but causes a degree of ‘scrub’ on the straights, where the tyre is dragged across the track at an angle, which causes its temperature to rise.
In the Mercedes system, the driver can pull on the steering wheel to straighten the front wheels as he comes on to a straight and then push back on it to revert to the ‘toe-out’ position as he enters a corner.
The potential advantage is two-fold: it reduces tyre ‘scrub’ on the straights and so improves tyre wear; and it reduces drag to increase straight-line speed.
The system has been banned by a change of rules for 2021, but governing body the FIA has already said it considers DAS to be legal under the current rules.
The success of the protest, lodged with the stewards at the delayed season-opening race in Austria this weekend, will be determined by whether officials agree with the FIA’s assessment of the system.
It has been declared legal on the basis that it complies with a rule that states: “The front wheels are adjusted solely by the steering and under the full control of the driver.”
But Red Bull have lodged their protest on different grounds, namely articles 3.8 and 10.2.3 of the technical regulations.
Article 3.8 says that any part of the car that influences its aerodynamic performance “must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car” and “must remain immobile” in that relationship.
Red Bull contend that the change in the angle of the front wheels gives Mercedes an aerodynamic advantage by reducing drag on the straights.
And article 10.2.3 says “no adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion”.
The success of that part of the protest will depend on whether stewards consider DAS to be part of the suspension system or, as Mercedes will contend, the steering.