Onboard images from the first day of testing at Barcelona have revealed that Mercedes’ new W11 features a steering wheel assembly that moves forward and backward – apart from the obvious rotational movement to steer into corners.
The recording, coming from an onboard shot of F1TV, shows how Lewis Hamilton’s steering wheel moves towards him when coming on a straight, and forward again when nearing a corner.
As Mercedes have meanwhile confirmed this is an additional way for the driver to control the steering, and given that we can see the front wheels change position as the driver moves the steering wheel back and forward, it is clear that this new way of steering input changes the toe of the front wheels.
Now, regularly speaking, a racing car’s front wheels are set-up in such a way that they toe-out slightly, meaning they are pointing outward by a few milimeters to improve handling in the corners.
However, this isn’t typically something that is needed on a straight line, first of all because wheels pointing slightly outward will rub the tarmac harder, increasing their temperature and increasing wear. And let’s not forget the aerodynamic impact, as perfectly aligned front wheels will reduce the drag created by them, simply because their frontal surface will be reduced.
How it works exactly is still secret, and not visible from any images, but the most likely explanation is that the backward movement of the steering wheel means backward movement of the steering rack. This movement would then pull the steering rods so that the wheels will come closer together at their fronts, thereby reducing toe-out.
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