After a spectacular season opener in Austria on 5thJuly, what is different about F1 this year and how has the sport adapted to the current world climate?
Dual-axis steering (DAS) system protest
On Friday 3rd July after FP1 and 2, Red Bull protested the DAS system that Mercedes have spent two years developing.
DAS was first revealed in pre-season testing, thanks to an on-board camera view on one of the cars. The technicalities of the system are still mostly unknown but Mark Hughes, F1 technical expert, explains that DAS changes the alignment of the front wheels. This is controlled by the driver’s pushing and pulling of the steering column. Its main aim seems to be to heat the tyres more evenly and Bottas can be seen to use it on warm-up laps and behind safety cars.
Discussions about its safety were raised during pre-season testing and Red Bull officially protested on Friday after the two practice sessions. The FIA declared the system legal and safe to use.
I don’t think this system is revolutionary, so I doubt it will be developed by other teams this year or next before the rules come into play in 2022.
With so much delay to the start of the season due to the pandemic, how did the sport cope with and mitigate COVID-19 infections? I think they did well with their precautions. More than 4,000 tests were performed in the week leading up to the race and every one came back negative! Everyone was wearing masks and/or visors (most people’s over their noses) but some were slipping when talking so were being touched quite a lot. The limited people in the pit lane and on the grid was effective; I did miss the pit walk before the race but I can cope without for the greater good. Having no fans in the stands seemed to work well, except the few shown in the hills looking from afar. The new podium system was effective and felt like the drivers were still rewarded for their performance, even if it was confusing how to drink celebratory champagne with a face mask on. Overall, I’m impressed with their efforts and am proud to support this sport.
Black Lives Matter
Another key subject in the present day is the movement to address anti-Black racism. Hamilton previously expressed how he was disappointed in the sport for not supporting the BLM movement sooner, but drivers soon started to use their social media platforms to promote ways to combat racism.
Before the National Anthem played, fourteen of the twenty drivers took a knee to show their support for tackling racism and inequality. All drivers wore an ‘END RACISM’ T-shirt during the race build-up, and ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ was seen on the halos of many cars as well as around the track.
Mercedes made the biggest impact this weekend by changing the livery of their Silver Arrows to sleek black. This was in a pledge to improve the diversity of their team and a clear statement that they stand against racism and all forms of discrimination. Read about this in more detail here.