It’s time to ditch DRS

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I am no fan of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) and I doubt I ever will be. Color me reactionary but passing a car in the lead by artificially increasing the straight-line speed of your car, via reducing drag, is not a pass on merit in my mind. DRS is not the same for everyone and it artificially impacts Formula 1 in a way that I find frustrating.

Autosport ran an article in which they unpack the numbers behind DRS passes and perhaps while F1 is touting its new king of overtaking in the form of Max Verstappen, one must look further back to actually see the impact DRS is having on the numbers.

  DRIVER YEAR OVERTAKES AVERAGE PER RACE
1 Max Verstappen 2016 78 3.71
2 Daniel Ricciardo 2016 61 2.90
3 Sebastian Vettel 2012 60 3.00
4 Michael Schumacher 2003 60 3.75
5 Niki Lauda 1984 60 3.75
6 Felipe Massa 2013 59 3.10
7 Mark Webber 2013 59 3.10
8 Jean-Eric Vergne 2012 58 2.90
9 Sergio Perez 2016 56 2.66
10 Kimi Raikkonen 2013 56 2.95

Only two seasons remain on the list from the pre-DRS era and those are 1984 and 2003. In those years Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher did not have to luxury of a DRS button that would allow them to simply wait until the DRS zone to make their passes. They had to pass other drivers wherever they could and made opportunities to pass.

When DRS came to F1, making opportunities gave way to simply waiting for opportunities in DRS zones. The 1984 and 2003 seasons also had considerably fewer races on the calendar than the DRS-era calendar.

Using DRS is like pressing a button and reducing the car ahead of you to just five cylinders instead of six. Why is a leading car penalized and preference given to a trailing car? Why would the series ignore their main issue, aerodynamic reliance and the dirty air created by aero-wash, in favor of creating an artificial construct designed to mask the real problem?

Perhaps the most concrete evidence of how artificial DRS is can be found in the total number of passes per season. The year DRS was introduced (2011), passes nearly doubled from the previous season (2010) from 452 to 821. From 1990 onward, the highest number of passes was 494 (1990) and that was with only 16 races on the calendar opposed to the 20 races in 2012 when DRS fueled 870 total passes.

The simple fact is, DRS does not beget better racing but when asked, fans all over the world said they wanted more passing (I was not one of them)…so this was F1’s answer and it’s a patronizing façade on a much deeper problem with aerodynamic reliance and the impact that aero has on racing. F1 now has twice as much passing and fans are still unhappy with the sport. Clearly they didn’t want passing simply for passing’s sake.

Ultimately, F1’s historic relevance has been slightly dashed when the points system changed, DRS came about and the hybrid power units were introduced as well as 21-race calendars.  It’s difficult to measure today’s F1 against past seasons with reverence for achievements that eclipse previous records due to constructs like DRS, longer seasons and lopsided regulations prompting sheer dominance by one team.

For nearly two decades, F1 has been struggling with its aero-dependency and regulations intended to “spice up the show”. There are good reasons aero is king in F1 because it has been a less expensive route to higher performance than other alternatives. However, when the new hybrid power units came, it clearly sent a message that cost reduction isn’t that important in F1 so why not re-think the entire chassis design in favor of a car that is capable of racing wheel-to-wheel without aero reliance that destroys the trailing air preventing other cars from passing or following closely?

In the NFL and baseball, they have a few games in which they wear throw-back uniforms. If I’m honest, I would love to see F1 have a throw-back season and all teams show up on the grid with their 1995 F1 cars. If I’m honest, I think you would find fans elated with the racing and very few would complain of the lack of high-tech evolution in the cars. The sound of screaming V10’s and a lack of aero in the hands of Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso would be epic.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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McSerb
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McSerb

It is difficult to find the right balance here. I remember Alonso being stuck behind Petrov (who changed tires on lap 2) and losing the WDC simply because it was impossible to overtake an inferior car (with good straight line speed) over a whole race distance. An extremely frustrating experience. I remember when McLaren (at least Hamilton) were quicker than Red Bull during the races but could not overtake because of the dirty air Newey produced for that exact purpose. I think I would rather have DRS or even an engine formula than let Newey or the likes finish the… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

That’s one of the best examples of a slower car forcing a driver to set him up and make the pass happen and Alonso couldn’t go crazy because he needed to finish race. A tough, frustrating situation but that’s racing to me. Not getting free passes. Hamilton in 08 when he passed Timo who was on dry tires too. slower cars who have the position have a right to be there and can defend the position to their best advantage. The wash is a bummer and that’s what needs to be addressed. We say a spec rear wing would clean… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

I don’t think a spec wing is going to make much of a difference. The cars are open wheel, and in 2017 even bigger open wheels. Just the wheels and body create massive turbulence, so following cars are in dirty air. If we wanted to minimise turbulence off the cars, so the cars behind have stable aero conditions, we’d need full bodywork, with external wings………like sports cars ;-)

Van Dieu
Guest
Van Dieu

DRS is the lesser of evils on the table, imo. Aero puts the trailing car at such a huge disadvantage that even if you are 2 seconds/lap faster you are going to struggle to pass. I would like DRS only available in-race (not practice/quali). People might think this a stupid videogame gimmick, but I would like to see F1 implement an engine boost system whereby you automatically get additional engine power the further back you are (could be controlled by eg max fuel flow).

Negative Camber
Guest

I understand your point and I may be missing your nuance here but due to that aero wash, the trailing car that’s faster does get past. IF that weren’t the case, the passing totals would not have nearly doubled right?

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

I think you maybe are missing the nuance. I think he’s saying that without DRS a faster car can’t pass because their speed advantage can’t overcome the wall of bad air when they get close to the car in front. And let’s face it that’s true, we know this because before DRS, no matter how much you might not like it, long trains of fast cars with one pig at the front would circle around the three ring circus of boredom while the fans slept. Next year Massa will be back. I like him but do you really want to… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Welcome back Zac, good comments. I’m 100% with you on changing the tyre technology so marbles don’t turn wide circuits into single line trails after 5 laps. We see lots of off-line passing in the first few laps and in the rain, but as soon as the marbles are down the cars have to run in each others tracks. I think DRS doesn’t function quite as you describe (it has the same effect but for a different reason). In a straight line, the F1 cars get the same stalking effect as bikes, even without DRS, as the drag on the… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

I completely understand that, I really do. My point is that the entire series evolved to a aero-dependent series including the way tracks are designed. I understand that DRS is there to try and overcome aero-wash but perhaps there’s another way to get cars competitive without being overly aero-dependent and without circuit designs to compliment aero-dependent racing. It’s a long-term issue and aero will always be a part of the equation but what other technologies could F1 use to produce closer, more competitive racing without the typical Tilke design of 45 degree turns and neutered straights and cars that can’t… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

DRS was introduced because the trailing car has a liability, just because it’s trialing. That didn’t seem right either.
MIE is right, its a symptom not the problem.

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

Agreed – an imperfect solution it is. I just want to hear some concrete information about what the better solution is going to be before I let go my hold on the imperfect solution, you know?

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Potential solutions;
1) Full bodywork, and no external wings (like sports cars)
2) Ground effects with fans (ala Chapparal 2j, Brabham BT46)
3) No aero downforce (like Formula Ford, F1 until about 1967)
4) Reverse DRS – DRS opens on the leading car for the corners, when a trailing car is within 1 sec, and they both corner with impaired downforce!
Technically, I like 1, 2 or 3, but for a bit of mischief, 4 would be exciting (!) and easy to knee jerk into effect – do it Bernie, do it now!!!
Anyone else got any alternatives????

Godfather
Guest
Godfather

The DRS makes up for the dirty air thrown out by the car in front. Besides the advantage is for the driver whose following so when they swap positions, the driver that was leading can use the same DRS advantage on the next lap to retake the position.

Negative Camber
Guest

That’s not going to happen if the passed car is slightly off the pace from the car that passed. In your scenario, a red bull leads and is passed by a Merc in DRS zone with ease. the next lap, given that the Merc doesn’t gain over a second on the red bull, the red bull can use DRS but there is not a very good chance it will get by the Merc even with DRS. Point being that slower cars can hold a position through defensive driving and forcing the faster car behind to make the pass on merit.… Read more »

J Cotter
Guest

Well, you’d have to go back further than ’95 … the writer’s argument for less aero would ultimately give us cars like we had in the mid-1960’s (Jim Clark era) – just the engine, gearbox and four wheels. Maybe that’s an answer …we seem to be going round in circles trying to “improve” the racing/entertainment. Minimal aero would reduce costs both in research & actual part production. Have 2 or 3 tyre manufacturers back and just allow R&D for engines and tyre technologies?

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

The 4 wheels and an engine still works great for formula ford, and go karts.
Maybe F1 needs to run a couple of parallel race series like motogp to give the various fan groups what they want; a Formula Ford style no aero pure ‘drivers’ series, a Formula 5000 style wings, slicks and big grunty n.a motor, and no driver safety series for the nostalgia buffs, and a high tech ‘constructors’ series for the tech wonks. Sorted!

Negative Camber
Guest

I’m fine with finding engine performance and tire performance, as you suggest, but I’m also ok with chassis development but feel that a spec rear wing would reduce downforce by, say, 50% and therefore you couldn’t just dial in tons of downforce on the front wing or the car would be unbalanced so they’d have to reduce front wing downforce but could get very creative in how they work with balance and grip to overcome reduced aero downforce.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

But the F1 would be slower than GP2! And you know we expect F1 to be at least 5 sec a lap faster!

Negative Camber
Guest

As I wrote in another piece, I’m honestly not that hung up about being 5s faster. I understand that F1 should be quicker than GP2 and I agree with that but I feel they have other issues to solve than outright pace. HOWEVER, as I admitted in the editorial, I’m no engineer and if making them 5s faster begets some of the key design elements that will allow for more competitive racing, then so be it. I’m excited to see wha the new regulations will bring though. Let’s hope it adds some competitiveness to the field. I’ve no issue with… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Cheers Todd, I was trying for irony, I know you want tight racing.
But other than going to a spec series, with full bodywork, or no aero down force, I’m not sure how we get that.

Negative Camber
Guest

I know you were. I should have pointed that out. My response looks like I completely missed your campy self…I didn’t. ;) I got it.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

‘Campy self’? Does that mean something different in the US?

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

“campy”: See also “humorous”.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Thanks Paul
In the UK/NZ ‘camp’ means ‘effeminate’, I’ll assume NC meant your version ;-)

jiji the cat
Member
jiji the cat

No drs and a spec rear wing would be nice. But me thinks it’s here to stay unless the new owners know what they are doing. Me smells the .4 sec gap coming into play this year.

Member

While you’re at it, maybe advocate for the abolition of carbon ceramic brakes. Bring back steel brakes. Also ban drafting on the back straights because it gives the trailing driver an unfair speed advantage. Todd, please acknowledge the nature of the beast. This is F1 not touring cars. So please stop applying sports car racing principles where they don’t apply. What would you say if someone came along and said we should ban power steering and revert to manual steering? Power steering makes the cars too easy to drive. Bottom line is you would have a nearly endless list of… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Happy New Year Purple one (it already is 2017 in my part of the world). I agree with much of what you say, F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport technology, and being an ‘older viewer’ my experience, over a few decades, is that F1 has been a sequence of periods of domination by one team or technology, with sporadic occurrences of close racing. Personally, the ‘golden era’ of F1 I am nostalgic for is when technological innovation was diverse and rapid (so 60’s through to 90’s). In the current era, many of the ‘constructs’ that F1 have… Read more »

Member

Happy New Year, Jay! That’s all I’m trying to say. In 20 years who knows what kind of technology will be on the track? Demanding the formula adheres to my particular taste is futile. I too remember the days of diverse innovation. But by the time we reached the 90s, engineers knew what worked and what did not. This made the research more focused and expensive. Millions in R&D just to gain a tenth or two. We could go spec like Indycar, but that’s not that great either. Costs are lower, but is anyone outside of Penske, Andretti, or Ganassi… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Thanks P, I’m sure if the regulations were more open there are lots of areas of innovation still available – F1 can’t have; cvt gearboxes, alternative fuels, movable aerodynamics, ground effects, more (or less) than 4 wheels, abs brakes, active suspension, more than 1 driven axle, etc, etc. Have you seen formula student? The cars are really diverse, they’ll try anything. My suggested rules – you have €50million, you have X Mega joules of energy per race (any fuel, combustion type, and power delivery system you want), some specification of max width, driver safety, min weight, and off you go!… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

I understand your point, I do. It’s not an ageist issue my friend. Even “old” people can appreciate the tech and evolution of F1 but it is more about the entertainment value of F1 and the ability to race between teams and car-to-car. DRS is nonsense in my opinion and there are better ways to achieve good racing without the constructs. I’m not advocating going back 20 years in tech and safety, I’m advocating going back to the driver impact on the sport, the lack of aero wash and the ability for cars to race closer together. If you can… Read more »

Member

The NFL throw back jersey analogy would be akin to running 60s-70s liveries on todays cars. Which I would be happy to see. 60s-70s NFL players are not going to lace up and play football with todays standards. Neither are 60-70s F1 drivers going to be able to race todays machines.

Liveries also belong to title sponsors, who paid to have their colors represented, not the teams. BTW, all of this is available. Its called historic racing.

Negative Camber
Guest

You may be taking my point too literal. I understand liveries and complexities of this not being possible. My point was sort of a cheeky analogy of how throwback in NFL is fun to see and a hypothetical throwback for F1 would produce closer, more entertaining racing due to the less aero-dependent cars. I’m not suggesting this is remotely possible.

Member

…had they been able to defend the positions they held.” You mean like Truli trains or like how Petrov held his position in Abu Dhabi 2010? “Although 2010’s Championship proved to be one of the more thrilling with four drivers in the hunt for the World title heading into the final race in Abu Dhabi, it finished like a boring procession. Contenders Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, who were first and second in the title race, chose the wrong strategy and found themselves stuck behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov with no way to overtake. It was a boring end to a… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

DRS is not passing, it’s aided passing to overcome aero wash and a heavily aero-dependent series at the moment with hybrid engines that are more reliant on carrying speed rolling through corners than in the past which was more late, heavy braking and on-throttle out of corners. The track designs have been favoring this as well with 45 degree angle turns. The entire series has moved toward the heavily aero-dependent formula. If you like that, then that’s your kind of thing but it does have a price to pay in the driver-impact and focus. As for teams challenging top teams… Read more »

Member

Well…good luck with that. I see no end to your frustration. Regression has never been part of the competition formula.

Old school is never the recipe for success, ask Ron Dennis.

Negative Camber
Guest

I’m not wrought with immobilizing frustration. Yeah, removing traction control, active suspension and j-dampers was certainly no move to regression of tech. Flexi-wings and floors and even the dubious fan car. Nah, F1 never regresses from technology when the horse has run does it? ;) Group think is a tough cycle to break. ;)

Member

Good point. But those technologies are still on the cars today in one form or another. Why do the engines sound like they are misfiring or broken around slow corners? ;)

Negative Camber
Guest

Yeah, diluted versions intended to be sneaky. :) I like the sound of the Honda ICE the best in the current formula. They have to be doing something different with a sound like that. :)

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

I noticed it too, kind of like a Caddy CTS, I’m not sure I like it but there’s a value to being unique. On the other hand, it might just be what a less powerful engine sounds like? Tiny explosions/tiny turbo/different sound? If so it’s not music to McLaren’s ears.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Something to do with this – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homogeneous_charge_compression_ignition, and fuel use management

@_canuck_
Guest
@_canuck_

Seems like most F1 fans know the wings (downforce) are the problem yet the powers that be keep making them larger and more important. Make them smaller like an Indy 500 package and lose the DRS would be my solution.
I suppose the teams would cry when their advertising bilboards have shrunk.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Mclaren would be fine with less advertising space ;-)

Negative Camber
Guest

One other discussion point is that we’ve nearly doubled the amount of passing from pervious non-DRS seasons and yet the racing is arguably not more exciting, entertaining or competitive. When surveyed, fans overwhelmingly said they wanted more passing. You’ve got it now…are you much more pleased with F1’s product now that you have twice as much passing? In fairness to the fans, the survey question was slightly off. What I believe fans were trying to say with answering “yes” to the question of more passing was that they wanted more competitive cars and teams and closer racing between cars and… Read more »

Zachary Noepe
Guest
Zachary Noepe

” the racing is arguably not more exciting, entertaining or competitive” Oh man I think this is one of those ‘the past remembers better than it lived’ problems. I respect your opinion but I think the racing sucked. People just went around and around stuck behind slower cars the whole day. I was a motorcycle racer in the 90s and I remember in RoadRacingWorld one month there was a picture of the Bernie visiting a GP500 race and some retired racer like Kevin Schwantz or someone was hosting him and they were standing by the fence and you could see… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

Hmmm…not quite sure I’m harkening the halcyon days of the 60’s. One could back back to 2007 through 2010 and I would argue that there was some very exciting racing in those pre-DRS years. A least to me there was. Two championships decided by a point.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

You have to wonder what F1 has to do. In recent years there has been lots more passing, and with more cameras and better tv coverage, we get to see them all – live or in replay.
Most of us ‘mature’ fans remember F1 coverage used to follow the leaders and you’d never see anything outside the top 5 cars.

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Happy New Year Todd and all the F1B community!
When I saw the headline I thought this was a repost from 2012.
I’ve got an alternative solution, don’t drop DRS, allow the use of ‘movable aerodynamic devices’ at all times!

longshot
Guest
longshot

Here’s another throwback series set to start in a year’s time, and which I’m really looking forward to – https://www.motormag.com.au/news/1611/formula-thunder-5000-in-action

Minimal aero, fat tyres, tons of power, and a 1970s style engine intake.

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Yanno, a lot of that sounds like NASCAR. ;-)

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

They’ll sound as good as they look! The F5000 racing here in NZ (and in Aussie) has been spectacular, the Thunder series should be just as good.

longshot
Guest
longshot

I just hope its covered on FTA TV – we only get the Supercars here in Aus (plus the Bathhurst endurance race), and to be honest I’m pretty bored with watching the clumsy taxis trundling around.

It’d be awesome to be able to flick the TV on and see old school seriously-fast open wheelers. It’d remind me of the good old days, watching F1 as a kid ;)

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Fingers crossed for FTA coverage for Formula Thunder. We get pretty sporadic motorsport coverage here, but it can be anything from WRC (now there is a kiwi in a Hyundai) to the Toyota Racing Series (where young guns such as Lance Stroll, Nelson Piquet’s other son enjoy the southern hemisphere summer).

longshot
Guest
longshot

I’m in total agreement with you NC. With the new 2017 formula, they had the opportunity to put much greater emphasis on under-car ground effect (which isn’t susceptible to dirty air) with much simpler front wings. A return to the early 1980s, if you will. Combined with the larger and more resilient tyres, this would have allowed drivers to push hard, follow opponents closely, and engage in wheel-to-wheel fighting. Its that wheel-to-wheel action that we crave, not lame DRS overtakes down the main straight. Admittedly the 2017 regs do take us a small step in the right direction, with not… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

None other than the ‘ever insightful’ Pat Symonds poured cold water on the belief that ground effects are not affected by turbulence. Possibly this podcast, maybe this one (maybe one of the other 8 he’s been on) http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/opinion/f1/2016-formula-1-preview-podcast-pat-symonds
However, you’re likely right that the 2017 rule changes will increase the impact of DRS, so Todd id probably right that now is the time to ditch its current use.

Gaetano Colosi
Guest
Gaetano Colosi

Agree 100%. Personally I would love to see wheel to wheel racing around bends and esses rather than 1 car being faster than another down a straight. We had some examples of wheel to wheel racing in 2016 and it was applauded by everybody. That is racing. The number of times an assisted faster car can pass another car on a straight is irrelevant and it annoys me when I hear ‘fans’ asking for more overtaking.

myusername1234!
Guest
myusername1234!

The latest rule changes are going to make the cars faster and give them even more aero. Many commentators have said this will shorten braking zones, increase the dirty air effect and make it even more difficult to follow closely or overtake. So I’m not sure now would be a good time to ditch DRS. The other issue with the lack of wheel to wheel racing I think is not helped by the inconsistent penalties applied if contact is made. Two drivers can be given different penalties even at the same race weekend, and it can vary wildly from race… Read more »

MIE
Editor

Years ago driver’s were able to pass because the driver in front made a mistake (they missed a gear or missed a braking point and went wide) these things are no longer possible, paddle shift gearboxes mean an end to fluffed gear changes or over-revved engines and excessive tarmac run off means it is often as fast or faster for the driver to run wide. In my opinion the cars need to be harder to drive so that mistakes will creep in when drivers are under pressure. Max Verstappen is undoubtedly talented, but it shouldn’t be possible for a driver… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Hi Dave, I wonder if ‘the problem’ is that F1’s core premise “the pinnacle of motorsport technology” is at odds with the notion that ‘racing’ involves the drivers having to tame unruly beasts of machines. F1 has already outlawed a number of technologies that could make the cars faster, and even less demanding on the driver (cvt, abs, traction control, etc), we can already buy road cars which are higher ‘pinnacles of automotive technology’ than an F1 car. The F1B community have often discussed ‘what is the purpose of F1’, and I don’t think we’ve ever got close to a… Read more »

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

To make them harder to drive, we just get someone to fiddle with all the switches on the steering wheel. It worked a treat at the European GP ;-)

Member

I think dumping DRS is only part of the problem. Yes, get rid of it but at the same time, eliminate carbon brakes. Let’s extend those braking zones

kyroszz
Guest
kyroszz

I think DRS should be ditched and an active aero system should be used instead like in the super and hypercars.

Darth Vader
Guest
Darth Vader

DRS sucks. Giving an artificial advantadge to the trailing car is artificial racing. Drivers should have equal chances in racing. Only their cars and their skills must play a role on the outcome of a race, NOTHING else. End of story. KERS should come back, DRS should be banned.