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|
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