Red Bull claim new Mercedes steer­ing sys­tem is il­le­gal

Ri­vals pon­der protest over revo­lu­tion­ary tech­nol­ogy Two-way bat­tle ex­pected in Aus­tria’s de­layed grand prix

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - For­mula One By Oliver Brown

Red Bull are con­sid­er­ing launch­ing a protest against Mercedes’s revo­lu­tion­ary dual-axis steer­ing sys­tem ahead of Sun­day’s Aus­trian Grand Prix, as the teams fi­nally un­leash their 2020 cars in Spiel­berg after a 3½-month hia­tus.

Mercedes had wanted to trial their in­no­va­tive “DAS” con­cept, which works by the driver push­ing and pulling on the steer­ing col­umn to change the alignment of the front wheels, in Mel­bourne in March, when Red Bull ad­viser Hel­mut Marko com­plained that the de­sign did not com­ply with the rules.

Should Mercedes, who de­ployed DAS to stun­ning ef­fect at pre-sea­son test­ing in Spain, de­rive a ma­jor com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage from the sys­tem in to­mor­row’s prac­tice ses­sions, Red Bull are poised to raise ob­jec­tions again. DAS has al­ready been banned for 2021, but Mercedes are ex­pected to use it this year in search of a record sev­enth con­sec­u­tive con­struc­tors’ ti­tle.

Red Bull are un­der­stood to re­gard Mercedes’s lat­est ruse as il­le­gal, given that the steer­ing wheel is be­ing used for pur­poses beyond its orig­i­nal func­tion. A final ver­dict was due to be reached by scru­ti­neers for FIA, the gov­ern­ing body, in time for the Aus­tralian Grand Prix, only for the race to be can­celled when a McLaren me­chanic tested pos­i­tive for Covid-19.

Mercedes in­sist that DAS, which they de­scribe as a “novel idea, an ex­tra di­men­sion”, does fall within the reg­u­la­tions. “It’s some­thing we’ve been talk­ing to them [FIA] about for some time,” said James Al­li­son, the team’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, dur­ing the first test in Barcelona.

With Mercedes and Red Bull both op­ti­mistic of their chances in the Styr­ian Alps, Fer­rari are in dan­ger of be­ing cut adrift after they were forced to re­design their car. Mat­tia Binotto, the team prin­ci­pal, ex­plained that the car’s un­der­per­for­mance in test­ing had led to a “sig­nif­i­cant change in di­rec­tion in terms of de­vel­op­ment”.

As such, Fer­rari are un­likely to bring any upgrades to keep pace with their near­est ri­vals un­til after the Aus­trian dou­ble-header. “We know that, at the mo­ment, we don’t have the fastest pack­age,” Binotto said. “We knew it be­fore head­ing to Mel­bourne and that hasn’t changed.” Sebastian Vet­tel, who leaves Fer­rari at the end of the year, said: “We have to be re­al­is­tic when it comes to the peck­ing or­der, but we are not down­hearted.”

Mercedes have de­liv­ered a ma­jor aero­dy­namic up­grade to their car, while Red Bull have un­veiled an im­proved Honda engine, in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of a two-way bat­tle at the front. Chris­tian Horner, who has waited seven years to savour a world ti­tle after win­ning four in a row with Vet­tel, said: “It’s the best we’ve been pre­pared since 2013.”

As F1’s trav­el­ling cir­cus de­scended on Spiel­berg last night, it con­fronted a dras­ti­cally re­con­fig­ured pad­dock, with no lav­ish mo­torhomes and team per­son­nel re­quired to work in small cab­ins. Sev­eral driv­ers, in­clud­ing Vet­tel, have cho­sen to sleep at the track in their per­sonal mo­torhomes.

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