This year in Formula 1, we’ve been introduced to a new aerodynamic system which has been developed to improve overtaking. The Drag Reduction System, labeled as DRS is a moveable rear wing which reduces the rear drag on the car when activated. This provides the added benefit of making the car more slippery down the straightaways, and improving the overall top speed of the car.
That itself isn’t a bad thing. However, my problem with DRS is how it is employed by the FIA for Formula 1. During free practices and qualifying, the DRS can be used anywhere on the lap. This allows the drivers to go out for maximum laptime, straight from the word ‘Go’.
The real failure of DRS, in my opinion, is how it is used during the actual race.
Why is it a failure?
- In normal conditions drivers cannot use the DRS during the first two laps of the race. (-1)
- During race conditions, the DRS can only be activated in specified zones on the race track. (-1)
- If both cars are in the DRS zone, the wing can only be activated by the chasing car, and only if he is less than one second behind the car in front. (-1)
Three strikes for DRS. Although I think that the engineering concept of the Drag Reduction System is brilliant, I think that the application of it in Formula 1 motorsport is flawed.
First of all, there are too many rules for when the wing can and cannot be used. It is lame that the FIA will trust the judgement of F1 drivers to drive around at 160+ mph inches from the ground , but will not allow them the judgment to know when and how to use their wings during racing conditions.
Second, it makes a lot of the overtaking in the artificial DRS Zones seem unbalanced and less impressive. To be frank, the leading driver is handicapped. The leading driver can only defend from a DRS attack by using KERS-battery power- if they have it available. It just doesn’t make sense to provide a function that can only be used by a certain car, on a certain part of the track, when the other guy cannot use theirs.
If both drivers can use KERS and only one driver can use DRS, then the effect from KERS is negated and the race balance is unfairly given to the chasing driver who can use his rear wing. (Thoughts reference back to Michael Schumacher in the Canada GP, being stranded from 2nd to 4th all because of DRS overtaking.)
Ok, so complaining aside, what could be done to fix this? I have two suggestions:
- Remove the DRS Zone and remove the two lap race regulations for when it can, and cannot be used.
- Take a page from Champ Car, and implement a ‘Push-to –Pass’ style system.
Under ChampCar regulations, drivers had a certain number chances to increase the engine output of their cars in order to attempt an overtake. If the driver uses all of his ‘Push to Pass’ chances too soon, he can be vulnerable later in the race.
I say that a similar style system be applied to Formula 1. Allow them to use the wings anywhere on the track, but only provide them a limited amount of activation usage over the race. So how would this work?
Allow each car 50 DRS usage attempts at the start of the Grand Prix, just for the sake of argument.
The driver may use DRS in the beginning of the race to overtake cars on the opening laps, or excessively in the opening stint in order to build a gap. However that risks leaving him vulnerable for the end of the race against drivers who have been more conservative.
At the opposite side of the race, drivers could save the DRS for the later in the race when attempting to catch opponents that have used more of their attempts earlier.
Additionally, teams might use their DRS usage in conjunction with the overall race strategy. For example, teams could use more DRS during stints that they are running a slower tire to help equalize lap time. Additionally would allow drivers to be able to use the DRS for attack as well as defense, anywhere on a lap.
Yes, it would make the sport a bit more technical to follow, but I believe that having a clear HUD on the television will make it easier for viewers to understand who has more DRS usage vs. less.
Having this new DRS system would also improve ‘the show’, as drivers who were less skilled in knowing how to deploy DRS would make more mistakes. One example is Adrian Sutil’s spin in the Australian GP. Why would we treat a spin like this as a bad thing?
Thoughts? I say death to the DRS Zone.