Onboard footage of Lewis Hamilton in action at the Circuit de Catalunya has raised about the legality of the W11’s steering with the wheel moving back and forth.

Mercedes’ movable steering wheel

With Formula 1 embracing social media, and especially footage of the cars garnering huge hits, users on social media have taken to posting what they can.

That, though, is catching teams out.

Last year it was Renault and the RS19’s brake bias system with rivals accusing the Enstone team of gaining a “big advantage” by running an automatic system.

Renault lost the points scored at the Japanese GP as a result.

This year it is Mercedes who are walking the line, at least in pre-season testing.

Video emerged on social media on Thursday of Hamilton in action at the Barcelona circuit. All good and well except that his steering wheel was moving back and forth.

The steering wheel appears to move towards the driver as he heads down the straight, and then back to its normal position through the corners.

The footage shows that the steering wheel’s movements coincide with that of the front wheels.

Mercedes call it ‘steering mode’

Mercedes has told Autosport that it is ‘steering mode’, which the team is trialling in testing.

Mercedes gave no further details.

There is some speculating that it controls ride height of the car with the driver able to adjust it as they deem fit.

Other reports claim it improves handling through the corners while also aiding drag reduction down the straights.

Increased toe-in helps reduce oversteer while more toe-out helps with understeer.

What the FIA regulations state

Without concrete details about how the movable steering wheel works, rivals cannot say whether the Mercedes system is legal or not.

They will, naturally, be asking the FIA for clarification if they haven’t already.

What the rules state is that “no adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion”.

Article 10.2 adds: “With the steering wheel fixed, the position of each wheel centre and the orientation of its rotation axis must be completely and uniquely defined by a function of its principally vertical suspension travel, save only for the effects of reasonable compliance which does not intentionally provide further degrees of freedom.

“Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of any suspension system is forbidden.”

Mercedes believe the system is legal and have spoken with the FIA.

“This isn’t new to the FIA,” said tech director James Allison. “We’re talking to them for some time now.

“The rules are pretty clear about what’s prevented on steering systems and we’re pretty confident it matches all of those requirements.”

Should the system be deemed legal, expect a whole lot of protests come the season-opening Australian GP in March.

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