Mercedes steering wheel cleared by FIA in boost to Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has been handed what could prove a pivotal boost in his bid for a seventh world championship after Formula One’s governing body gave the green light to Mercedes’ new steering wheel.

The FIA are satisfied that the innovative DAS, (dual-axis steering) device, which allows the driver to push the wheel back and forth to create greater straight-line speed and cornering set-up, is safe and within the rules.

The sporting federation, however, declared that the concept will be banned in 2021 when F1 goes through a major technical overhaul.

“There are no questions regarding the safety of the device,” said Michael Masi, the FIA’s race director on the concluding day of this week’s opening test in Barcelona. “Safety is the number one element and our highest priority.”

The contraption will be examined by stewards at next month’s Australian Grand Prix. Should they provide it with the stamp of approval, then Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas will be free to run with the new steering wheel at Albert Park.

Mercedes, winners of the past six drivers’ and constructors’ championships have worked on the innovation for more than a year and are confident it will provide them with a new edge as they bid to continue their dominance of the sport. Rival teams are considering whether to copy the device, but it could take months to design.

“It has been a pretty big project, and it will be difficult to copy,” said Bottas on Friday.

“I hope we can have an edge with it. We wouldn’t run anything on the car like this if we didn’t think it would provide us with a gain in performance.”

On track it was Bottas who posted the fastest time of the opening week.

The Finn’s time, which he set on Friday morning, was within just three tenths of the Circuit de Catalunya track record, and suggests Mercedes will remain the team to beat for the forthcoming campaign.

Although mileage, rather than speed, is paramount during the first week of pre-season action, Mercedes’ blistering pace will be a major cause of concern for their rivals.

Indeed, Bottas’ fastest lap was an eye-watering 1.3 seconds faster than a driver from any other team clocked during the three days here in Barcelona. Mercedes also managed more laps than anyone else, too.

Ferrari were dealt a setback when Sebastian Vettel broke down with an engine problem, losing valuable track time for the Scuderia.

The final three-day test kicks off back in Barcelona on Wednesday, before Hamilton opens his championship defence in Australia on March 15.