Thursday Thoughts: DRS

So Jackie from VivaF1 has resurrected Thursday Thoughts as there is very much a burning issue in F1 these days – the Drag Reduction System or DRS for short.  Jackie wants to ask:

What do you think of the Drag Reduction System?

Firstly, a little background.  It was designed to facilitate overtaking, because no matter what the rule makers have tried, it seems that once a car gets within a second of the car it is chasing then it is almost impossible to overtake them.  The fans have been crying out for more overtaking for years and last year’s dry races were not exactly thrilling to watch.

If you want to see the mechanism in action, anotherf1podcast have a great video on the subject (bear in mind the use of DRS is unrestricted in practice and qualifying, but can only be used in one part of a circuit by a chasing car less than one second behind in the race):

So what do I think of the DRS then?

Well, although I have been an F1 fan for a long time, I felt that F1 was getting a bit boring to watch last year – the dry ones at least.  And I really disliked that the championship came down to the wire and yet was effectively decided by a slower car being able to block a much faster one.

DRS, KERS and Pirelli tyres have transformed F1 this year into a sport with loads of strategy and overtaking – I blogged more about what I thought about the new rules after the Chinese Grand Prix, but needless to say that the sport has been transformed into something exciting and entertaining that people are really embracing – many of my friends have been coming up to me telling me how much they love F1 this year when they barely gave a stuff about it before.

The main criticism of DRS comes in multiple parts:

1. It’s Gimmicky and artificial

Yeah it is – but so were grooved tyres, KERS, wings, Turbocharging, frozen engines, in fact any rule over the last 50 years that restricts a car’s design could be referred to as artificial.  And besides, they look much better than the F-ducts they replace, which were monstrous :(

2. It’s unfair as it gives the defending driver little chance of success

A valid point.  But then the defending driver becomes the attacking driver the next time around, no?  Often the defending driver is slower anyway, so why should his race be ruined because of the way an F1 car is designed?

Which brings me to the next criticism:

3. Why not just ban wings? That would solve the ‘dirty air’ problem!

Great idea.  In fact, why not just make replicas of the Lotus 49 – after all, they had some great slipstreaming races in those days?  Except they weren’t all like that.  You have probably seen the Villeneuve vs. Arnoux video on YouTube (heck of an excuse to plug it anyway):

Guess what though?  That was 3 minutes out of a 90 minute race, which only came about because Villeneuve’s tyres were shot.  Yet nobody called that race artificial and gimmicky, did they?  Tyre management is a central part of a driver’s skill in most series.  It was only a tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone anyway that made the tyres last so long.  In effect we ended up in a situation unlike any other F1 season last year.  So Pirelli have actually given us a specification of tyre that seems to be historically correct then?

We can’t unlearn technology – even shaped under body cars apparently may not solve that problem of dirty air anyway.  And F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sport, the fastest a car can lap a circuit.  Wings are an integral part of a single seater “look” and more cynically, would never get banned as they are too good an advertising space ;)

4. It makes overtaking too easy

Not necessarily.  We have only had four races and in Australia the DRS didn’t work.  Malaysia and China seemed to work well, giving the cars a good boost, while in Turkey the DRS zone was too long and therefore the attacking driver gained a little too much.  But the drivers still had to make the moves stick, and apart from seeing some “3-wide” overtakes, we saw drivers using the DRS zone to catch up and plan an overtaking move in another part of the circuit which wasn’t really possible before either.


There are the purists (some quite high profile) who say that this is all bad for the sport and that F1 is pandering to the masses while ignoring the hard-core fans.  But how could they have enjoyed the races how they used to be?  I find it mystifying myself – as far as I am concerned, in 2011 we have great racing, proper strategy and interesting stories after each race.

We didn’t have this in dry races before.  Only wet races were exciting like this.  So the only other alternative was Bernie’s sprinkler idea.  Would you prefer that instead?

I feel strongly about this because in most fan surveys we all cried out for more overtaking and to fix the dirty air problem.  We now have a formula that works great and has fixed all this, yet there seems to be a lot of people that are still unhappy.  Maybe F1 has had so many drastic rule changes over the years that it now has an identity crisis – maybe people’s perception of F1 is governed by when they started watching it?

I personally think DRS and the other rule changes for this year are going to make for great racing and the best season in years.  I just hope the FIA continue to tweak it so that we get more races like China and none like the dreadful Abu Dhabi finale (amongst countless other races) that we had before this year…

About these ads
This entry was posted in F1, Opinion, Thursday Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , by rubbergoat. Bookmark the permalink.

About rubbergoat

Hi there! I’m a mad keen F1 fan who has been addicted to the sport for 20 years. I watch every race and follow the sport in every way I can. I have a keen interest in numbers and I would like to analyse the races from a statistical point of view to see if the data shows something we can't see on TV. As always, I’d love to hear what you think and especially if we can discuss my analyses that would be great – but please no nasty stuff!

7 thoughts on “Thursday Thoughts: DRS

  1. “We now have a formula that works great and has fixed all this, yet there seems to be a lot of people that are still unhappy.”

    I think Pirelli fixed it and DRS is just a sideshow. Until Turkey, the overtaking was happening as the tyres reached the end of their useful life. Turkey was different and DRS was allowing passing right from the start. Cue people saying the DRS zone was too long. What they were really saying is that when DRS alone allows overtaking, they don’t like it.

    • You could be right – but I think it is too early to make these kinds of calls. It is typical of the FIA to change things so drastically though!

  2. Nice post Gavin .

    I think DRS has its merits but I really don’t get why it’s only available in one part of the circuit. In effect they give this whacking great advantage on one straight and then there’s no overtaking again until the same place on the following lap. They can use it whenever they like in quali so why not allow that during the race but shorten the length of time the flap is open for to make it more of a challenge. In its current form it makes overtaking too easy and that takes the enjoyment out of it for me.

    Do we really need DRS anyway? With KERS and tyres also changed this year we face a situation where we don’t really know what works and what doesn’t… change one thing and see how that works, if it doesn’t, add something else but not before you understand the effect of the initial change. We probably would have gotten the overtaking we craved just because of the degredation of the Pirelli tyres. DRS is too gimmicky

    • Thanks Jackie, agree with your idea in the first paragraph. It makes more sense and may help those who think it’s too artificial.

      Second paragraph – yeah, to be honest we don’t know what has worked, whether it is one factor or a combination of two or all three together? For what it’s worth, I reckon KERS doesn’t work very well, but like Maverick says, the Pirelli tyres create opportunities at the end of the race while the DRS assists during the early part.

      I suppose without the DRS we would have overtaking, but I reckon we would have more crashes as strategies may still get ruined in the early part of the race. So maybe the DRS helps all the pieces on the board get to the right place before the final act starts?

  3. DRS, KERS, weak tires…. It’s all the perfect formula. Magnificent. Glorious! I agree with you totally. Those that want pure races should watch 100m running in the olympics. Everything else is man made!

  4. I disagree with your comment:

    “It’s Gimmicky and artificial. Yeah it is – but so were grooved tyres, KERS, wings, Turbocharging, frozen engines, in fact any rule over the last 50 years that restricts a car’s design could be referred to as artificial.”

    It’s artificial in a way none of the other items you refer to are – it’s only available to the car behind (in the race at least). It’s this aspect I disagree with. I actually think DRS is entertaining to watch during qualifying, but it needs to be available to all.

    It’s the equivalent of success ballast and reverse grids, neither of which would get widespread support from fans. Football would never consider making the goals get bigger for losing teams to make it easier for them to score.

    Also there’s the aspect that it’s not been that influential on the overtaking. Taking the overtaking analysis from James Allens’s article here:

    Average normal moves per race: 24.5
    Average DRS per race: 22.25
    Average overtakes per race: 75.5
    Total overtakes this year so far: 302

    The tyres have given more overtakes than can be attributed to DRS and the chances are most DRS overtakes would have been possible without it anyway.

    I really think that the tyres and KERS are enough to give great racing and more importantly fair racing.

  5. Where DRS has been a part of the overtaking maneuver, I think it has been tyres with KERS being the main parts and a little DRS. With the DRS making some overtaking too easy in places like Turkey. Would like to see a race, at a Tilke circuit, without DRS to see what happens.
    The first lap on new softs also makes overtaking too easy. Vettel would probably have not won in Spain without this advantage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s