Brawn: DRS, grid penalties need to go

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In an article in which F1’s Ross Brawn discusses the end of grid penalties following Stoffel Vandoorne’s 65-place affair in Belgium, I was encouraged by the fact that F1’s technical director feels that the time for grid penalties is coming to an end.

What’s more interesting in that article is Brawn’s thoughts on DRS or Drag Reduction System. If you’ve listened to our podcasts or read our posts, you’ll know we’ve hated DRS since it was introduced and the impact it has had on the sport is too much to stomach. Neutering race tracks, promoting passing only in certain areas and causing drivers to take fewer passing attempts as well as artificially affecting the grid in an unequal manner by penalizing a leading car. It’s a silly construct and only present because teams have refused to design cars that are less reliant on aerodynamics.

Over the years, my ranting has become tedious and the sound of one hand clapping but Ross Brawn says it better than I do:

“It’s a compromise,” said Brawn. “What we should do is find a better solution.

“What we really want is the cars to be able to slipstream one another properly and overtake.

“So for me the solution, which we’ve now started a program on, is to design the cars, so that they can race each other in close proximity.

“A current Formula 1 car is totally optimized around running by itself.

“The teams, when they go in the wind tunnel and create their CFD programs to develop the car, it’s all done in isolation. So when you put another car around it, the car doesn’t work as well.

“What we are working on is generating the capacity to look at cars that are racing each other in close proximity, and what sort of designs we need to enable that to happen.

“When we do that, which is our ambition for 2021, then we will have cars that don’t need DRS.”

The only additional point I would argue is that the current F1 car is aero reliant because that is an area of development that recognizes big gains for relatively low cost. If you can find 10 points of aero through good design, that’s less expensive than trying to find 50bhp in an engine that’s homologated.

Therefore, aero has been king for many years now and the DRS was the adoption of a simpler, more elegant solution of removing drag down long straights when you don’t want the punitive effect of a rear wing.

As for grid penalties, well, it comes with the entire notion of engine limits and this year ther are four (4) engines for the entire season. This was to limit costs by clamping down on how many engines a team could use and develop. It’s not working and in fact, it makes F1 look silly. Brawn is right, there needs to be a better solution. I’m not sure what they will decide given the hybrid power unit formula but it would be nice if they would just get back to good racing and stop trying to be the kings of pragmatism—that’s a crap philosophy and it proves time and time again to not work in the context of F1. If it were, then clearly they are missing the practical application and the consequences of those applications.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Paul KieferJr

So, the question is: How long can you reasonably expect an engine to last? Where is the point of diminishing returns? Obviously, five engines was past that point, and four made it worse. Cut costs, but at what price?


There should only be 1 rule. Naturally aspirated and Turbo engine maximum displacements. The rest of the rules have ruined F1.

peter riva

2021??? Good lord. Come on Ross, you worked faster than that at Ferrari and Honda (oops, sorry, Brawn F1).


Nice column, and good news. It’s no surprise that Ross correctly diagnoses the problem, and I am surel he’ll come up with a good way to address it. Can he – or anyone – get it through the special interests and arcane bureaucrazies which control F1? That’s what I’m not so sure about. The whole idea of limiting engines never ever made sense from an economic or engineering standpoint. The expensive part of any powerplant isn’t the item itself so much as the R&D which goes into its development. Basic engineering means that to make something last longer, a lot… Read more »


Great to hear that DRS will be phased out. It was a poor compromise solution from the ‘overtaking group’ set up by the FIA. There are better solutions, but the rules around the design of the cars will have to change, alot. I remember being stunned by a comment from Pat Symmonds in a Motorsport podcast that the teams aren’t allowed to model cars running together in wind tunnel testing – no wonder they can’t work effectively when following another car. They will also need to think about the current big wheel and tyre format, as they are also a… Read more »


As far as the grid penalties go, I can see that introducing something as complex as the hybrid p.u’s along with the development tokens and ‘falling lid’ on p.u elements was folly as far as enabling equalisation of p.u performance is concerned.
But F1 does need to find a way to constrain costs, which this was intended to do.
Unfortunately F1 teams and manufacturers are addicts. They seem incapable of any self control over spending, so cleverly conceived rules will be required to break the addiction cycle of ‘the more you spend the faster you go’