Shocking the entire paddock, Mercedes were caught by using a mysterious new system on the front suspension of its new car, the W11. The Dual-Axis Steering has caught the attention of the rival teams’ engineers.
Kimi Räikkönen topped the timesheets on the second day of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Finn taking the wheel of the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C39 for the first time since the car’s shakedown last week. However, it was not the 2007 world champion standing in the centre of attention after Mercedes’ latest innovation has raised eyebrows.
The congested pre-season testing has prompted all teams to make slight alterations to their usual programme. Most of the teams will split driver duties between their drivers at different points of the six-day winter testing with three of them having done that today. Beside the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team which is running with both its drivers on all three days of the first week of pre-season testing, Renault and Ferrari have worked with two drivers today.
The second day of pre-season testing saw teams completing high mileages after the very productive first day. A total of 1369 laps have been completed by the 13 drivers driving on Thursday. By notching up a total of 158 laps, Romain Grosjean has proved the most reliable driver today in front of Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez.
Of the teams, it was once again Mercedes to set the daily record for the highest mileage with a total of 183 laps. The Anglo-German team completed two race simulations with Hamilton in the morning and with Bottas in the afternoon. Proving the W11’ excellent reliability, only a slight ERS-related issue hindered the world champions’ day at the very end of Thursday. On the other end of the spectrum, Renault was the only outfit to fail to rack up more than 100 laps.
With the sun beating down at Barcelona, teams could complete a wide variety of runs with different compounds of Pirelli’s 2020 F1 tyres on a beautful day. En route to the fastest lap, Kimi Räikkönen used the Italian company’s softest rubber, the C5 compound. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set his best lap time on the C4 compound while Lewis Hamilton has become the only driver to register his quickest lap on the hardest C1 compound. All other drivers have set their best times on either the C2 or C3 rubber.
Smiles all around at the Mercedes camp
Mercedes stole the show today after it was noticed that Lewis Hamilton was pulling his steering wheel towards him on the longer straights and pushing it away coming into braking zones. The entire paddock was caught by surprise by Mercedes’ latest device and rival teams’ engineers are still pondering about the role of the system.
Smiling in a short video produced by Mercedes, the team’s Technical Director James Allison stated that his engineers refer to the new system as Dual-Axis Steering (DAS), but he declined to go into detail regarding the exact functionality of the device. “We have a new system in the car, it’s a novel idea and it just introduces an extra dimension to the steering for the driver. We hope it will be useful during the year but how we use it, and why we use it, that we’ll keep to ourselves.”
When confronted with the question whether the new device is legal, Allison sounded optimistic that it complies with the 2020 F1 Technical Regulations.
“I’m not really [concerned about legality]. This isn’t new to the FIA, we’ve been talking to them about it for some time. The rules are pretty clear about what’s prevented on steering systems and we’re pretty confident it matches all of those requirements,” he said.
’Ok’ day with the new C39
Although Sporting Director Beat Zehnder stressed that testing times count for nothing, the Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen team ended the second day of pre-season testing with delight after Kimi Räikkönen topped the session. The Finn took the wheel of his new machine for the first time since the car’s shakedown at Fiorano last week.
Despite to a late red flag caused by the C39, the team was encouraged to see its new car cover „good mileage without any issues.’ Räikkönen racked up a total of 134 laps, equivalent to 623.77km on the 4.655km Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“For my first testing day, it was an ok one. The important thing is that everything seems to be working well, with no major issues. The immediate feeling is pretty positive, but it’s still early days. There is still a long way to go but I think we made a step forward compared to last year: who knows where this is going to take us, but so far so good,” he added.
Precautionary engine change at Red Bull
By completing mammoth stints once again, Red Bull continued today where it left off yesterday. After Max Verstappen kicked off Red Bull’s official pre-season testing yesterday, it was Alex Albon’s turn today. The London-born Thai driver racked up 134 laps in total with registering a time of 1m17.912 as his quickest lap. The former F2 driver echoed the words of his teammate Verstappen by claiming that Red Bull successfully addressed the areas „where we felt we were struggling”.
Speaking about the day, Head of Race Engineering Guillaume Rocquelin called Red Bull’s second day of pre-season testing productive despite to the small hiccups regarding the reliability of the power unit.
„We did have a small issue just before lunch when the Honda guys noticed something in the data and we therefore elected to perform a precautionary engine change. They’ve done a thorough check and there are no problems, so the original PU will be back in the car tomorrow.”
Red Bull will be splitting driver duties on the third day of winter testing with Verstappen being in the car in the morning and Albon working on the development of the RB16 in the afternoon.