Ferrari Formula 1 star Sebastian Vettel believes that the new Mercedes DAS steering system must be difficult for the team’s drivers to operate – comparing the unnatural effort of moving the wheel back and forth with “running in flip-flops”.
Vettel also questioned how much lap time the innovation might be worth, suggesting that it is not “the ticket to win.”
The four-time world champion confirmed that Ferrari became aware of the system on the Mercedes when most observers did, after onboard images from Lewis Hamilton’s car in Barcelona this morning showed him moving the steering wheel back and forwards for straights and corners respectively, and the front wheels reacting.
“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. We will see, but for sure it was a novelty for us to see.”
Asked if the system would be easy for other teams to copy he said: “I found out just before before lunch, and then we just looked at some onboards. Obviously, we’re lucky that we have the onboards here, otherwise, maybe we wouldn’t spot it. Obviously, we’re busy with our car and our stuff. So 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.”
Vettel compared the system with the era of the f-duct, when drivers had to use their hands, elbows or knees to block holes in the cockpit area for an aerodynamic benefit.
“I think it’s quite weird, when you have the feeling all of a sudden, you might have the wheel in your hand,” he said. “I could just imagine it feels weird. 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.”
Elaborating on that theme he said: “Imagine you are used to doing something… 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.
“So, obviously, 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 fulfil the task, and you have the capacity to do it and with enough practice, then why not?”
Asked if DAS could be a gamechanger for Mercedes, Vettel played down the suggestion, and replied: “I think it’s much more dependent what you have around it. I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating, but I don’t think that this is the ticket to win.
“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.”
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