Thursday, 12 May 2011

Looking at DRS and racing in 2011

The main talking point from the Turkish Grand Prix was the Drag Reduction System (DRS) and whether it was making overtaking too easy and artificial. Here's my thoughts on it...

Let's start by saying why the DRS system was introduced in the first place. A main objective of the teams and the sport was to create more overtaking after a survey a few years back seen more than 80% of fans who answered saying more overtaking was the number one thing they wanted to see. A high figure indeed. Changes would come, the main things were in 2009 with the overhaul of the cars (front and rear wings, bodywork, adjustable front wing) We seen some good action initially but the very clever people of F1 were soon finding new ways of adding downforce and again the problem of cars following closely was occurring with regular ease. So the idea was developed of a rear wing which could be adjusted to reduce drag so a car could increase straight line speed behind another car and make up for the loss which you suffer in the dirty air. So the principle of the adjustable rear wing was to allow cars to have a better chance of overtaking when close to another.

A fair enough principle and when you look at the extra speed it gives a driver it would have probably helped cars get closer in the 2010 season but without too many passes where it was done before the braking zone. So i think it would have really helped things, especially on circuits like Valencia, Barcelona and Budapest where overtaking is very difficult. However this season has seen Pirelli come back to the sport and their tyres are much less durable than the Bridgestones of the past seasons. This has been a massive change in the dynamic of the racing. We've rarely seen this rate of degradation in recent years (Australia 2009 and Canada 2010). The problem of close racing has been fixed by this because there are more variable strategies and people with different levels of grip throughout the race. The DRS 'oversolves the problem' because when you have it coupled with better tyres it is easy to overtake

In the first stints of races this season we have seen good racing and barely any easy overtakes because the tyre wear between cars is relatively equal. So what the DRS has been brought in to do has actually worked well because we've had loads of close battles but never too easy. Come the pitstops and we get the split in strategies and then the chaos really begins as we get people on old tyres attacked by new tyres. So because of this cars are getting close, overtakes happen in unusual places and if they reach the DRS zone then it's just a slam dunk.

I agree that the DRS was too powerful at times in Turkey. A tail wind on race day seem to make the DRS an even stronger weapon than usual. What we should remember is that against the negative of some of these easy passes was a massive amount of battles into turn 12 as well as other duels around the track. There was loads of action and way more than in races of previous seasons. It's not a perfected thing yet but it is an improvement. Fans have spent years frustrated at the processional nature of Sunday afternoons and living in hope of some rain during a race just to make it interesting. This is now gone. The opening 4 races of the season have been 'normal' races. No rain, no safety cars, just a proper grand prix and 3 out of 4 have been crackers in my opinion.

It's important that the FIA continue to analyse the affect the DRS has. Personally i'd like to see the DRS zone reduced slightly. Doing this or moving it to a part of the track which isn't such an obvious overtaking spot would help spread things about a bit. Another option would be having 2 really short zones so a driver would get more regular but smaller 'boosts' so that the disadvantage of the dirty air is combated. Yet another option would be allowing each driver a certain amount of times to use the rear wing during a race. That would make it more strategic and less gimmicky. I still think the 1 second zone idea was a necessary one because that's how bad things had become regarding overtaking but now that we may have improved things it is less needed. The DRS is still a very clever device and has a place in Formula 1. It just isn't needed as prominently now we have the changes to the tyres. Another tweak could be to reduce the gap in the rear wing when the DRS is activated, hence reducing the extra speed gained.

There are other factors in the racing. I've mentioned the tyres and hailed them as a success. 4 stops was probably one too many in Turkey but China showed how the split between 2 and 3 kept the race in suspense until the end. Pirelli are learning all the time. Track design is also key. Just look at those brilliant final corners in Istanbul. Yet some circuits seem unable to simply stick a tight corner at the end of a long straight. It isn't that difficult for most places!

So lets be positive about the fact F1 is actually tackling the on track issues and have tried to improve things. There are still areas to work on but the sport is heading in a good direction. There's been a great buzz about the season so far, people are enjoying it and there is plenty of enthusiasm for what lies ahead in 2011.

So in conclusion, the fundamental issue of the cars being so aerodynamically good and the cars being so grippy remains. This growing issue triggered the creation of the DRS to help cars get close and produce more on track racing. The new tyres have given the teams a strategic and racing headache and allowed more variance in the tactics. Most of the simple passes have come when cars have had major differences in tyre compounds/wear. The DRS alone has helped create lots of action but coupled with other factors can become too powerful at times. However there have been lots of great battles this year to outweigh these negatives. It still needs more analysis and tweaking but the ingredients are there to create a new era of Formula One which delights old and new fans alike


  1. At least we've got more overtaking. What do people want a bore-fest again? like 2002 and 2004. The Ferrari/Schumacher era.

  2. I agree, at least we're getting lots of excitement in the races

  3. I love DRS, but not just on it's own. The whole package of 2011 rules have made the sport incredible to watch

  4. I love car racing and I usually play NFS the car racing game in plays tation.

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