Mercedes Chief Designer John Owen revealed that the team’s 2020 challenger, the W11 features several key innovations besides its Dual Axis Steering system that is visually the most striking novel device.
After securing their sixth consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship title in 2019, Mercedes hit the ground running in Barcelona during pre-season testing in February. Although the 2020 season looked to present the final year of the current technical regulation before the introduction of the sweeping technical changes, Mercedes carried out a thorough investigation into its car concept in order to find a competitive advantage in several areas.
Apart from a few technical niggles, the Brackley-based team’s W11 proved comfortably the fastest in every condition during winter testing which can be a big asset for Mercedes considering the current situation. Given the decision to impose a strict development freeze on the 2020 cars that will be in use not only this year but also in 2021, the W11 can bring the team two more titles.
In Mercedes’ Deep Dive series, Chief Designer John Owen disclosed that the team’s 2020 challenger features several innovations, but he refused to go into detail in a bid to keep the secret of the devices that are set to provide the team with a competitive advantage.
"I think that's perhaps what's lacking, that visual innovation that people can talk about and get excited about. There's a lot of things on the 2020 Mercedes that are great innovations, none of which we really want to talk about because they are an important competitive advantage.
The Anglo-German squad’s visually most stunning innovation was the Dual Axis Steering system. Mercedes turned heads on Day 2 of pre-season when the new innovative device made its track debut in Barcelona, leaving its competitors amazed and prompting immediate questions about its legality. Despite Red Bull threatening Mercedes with a protest against the system, Owen is sure about the legality of their controversial device.
"I think we've seen with the DAS system already there's a lot of immediate reaction that it must not be within the rules. But the more people look at it, the more people say 'oh OK, maybe it is within the rules, and why haven't we seen it before? Now there's a definite [push] to find why it isn't within the rules, and that's just Formula 1 in general."
The Cambridge-born also explained the origins of DAS, claiming that the idea of the device with which drivers can alter the alignment (toe) of the front wheels emerged from a separate project.
"The DAS system was born out of the ashes of something else we'd tried and actually raced on the car a couple of years ago that sort of worked, but didn't really deliver all the promise that we had in it. That was sort of put to one side as something we tried and perhaps didn't live up to our expectations.”
"There are many other things like that that are out there, within the team, within people's minds, projects that people remember. The DAS system was really well, what about if you could do something like this, what do the rules say? And the rules effectively didn't stop it. We thought that's unusual and surprising,” the Brit concluded.
Despite the decision to retain the existing cars for 2021, Mercedes agreed to outlaw the Dual Axis Steering system for next year.
“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. Furthermore, the inboard attachment points of the suspension 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,” states the new Article 10.4.2 of the updated 2021 Technical Regulation.