Drag Reduction Systems: Your verdict

Debates and polls

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2011

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2011

Three races into F1’s experiment with the controversial “Drag Reduction Systems”, is it a success or a failure?

It may have increased overtaking, but has it done so in a way that’s to the detriment of the sport?

Or is any pass a good pass, as far as you’re concerned? Have your say on how DRS has changed Formula 1.


In races, drivers are allowed to activate their Drag Reduction Systems when they’re within one second of another car (including lapped cars). This helps them catch up to make an overtaking move.

In the first three races of the year we’ve seen several examples of the DRS working, such as Nick Heidfeld’s pass on Lewis Hamilton in Sepang and Mark Webber’s on Jenson Button in Shanghai.

The rule aims to address the problem drivers have experienced trying to overtake in recent years.

Nico Rosberg is a big fan of the way the adjustable rear wings are used in races, describing them as “best idea ever probably” earlier this week.


The chief complaint about DRS is that it gives one driver an advantage which the other driver does not have. It’s been likened to the FIA limiting the top speed of a leading car so that the car behind it can try to overtake.

F1 should be able to have exciting races without resorting to gimmicks which are fundamentally unsporting.

The system has also proved unreliable, with worrying implications. Fernando Alonso’s DRS opened incorrectly during the Chinese Grand Prix. Failures such as this could cause a driver to lose control and crash, or improperly gain an advantage.

I say

I enjoy watching the technology of moveable rear wings in practice and qualifying, when all the drivers are free to use it when they choose. It gives us another way to appreciate what the driver is doing behind the wheel.

But the way the technology is used in races is clearly unfair – something F1 fans picked up on when the rule was first announced last year.

We have seen more overtaking this year thanks to the new Pirelli tyres and the return of KERS. But DRS crosses a line.

It is an artificial device used to create unimpressive, ‘slam-dunk’ passes. It diminishes the spectacle instead of enhancing it.

The best wheel-to-wheel racing we’ve seen this year happened without DRS – such as Alonso’s battle with Hamilton in Sepang and Hamilton’s passes on Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel in Shanghai.

These moves were enjoyable because they were genuine racing rather than an artificially engineered show.

You say

What do you think of how DRS is used in races?

Tick ALL the statements you agree with below to show your opinion – and have your say in the comments.

Which of these statements about DRS do you AGREE with?

  • DRS has made F1 races more exciting this year (51%)
  • DRS is the only thing that has made F1 races more exciting this year (1%)
  • F1 should try running some DRS-free races (41%)
  • F1 should try running some races with more than one DRS zone (38%)
  • DRS makes F1 races too artificial (28%)
  • The rules on using DRS in races are unfair (32%)
  • I do not agree with any of the statements above (3%)

Total Voters: 573

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211 comments on Drag Reduction Systems: Your verdict

  1. PedroCandeias (@pedrocandeias) said on 21st April 2011, 11:39

    The same way you wouldn’t call an execution by firing squad “a battle”, you can’t call a DRS overtake “racing”.

    But the real problem lies with the rules. Limiting the defending driver to a single defensive move per corner – now THAT’s artificial. Get rid of that, and suddenly the DRS won’t seem like such a firing squad.

    • Interesting point. The removal of that rule is needed anyway in my opinion, and with it being there for safety, if a driver causes a collision defending too vigorously, they get a severe punishment. That’s something to think about though. Personally I’d like to see both DRS and the one-move rule scrapped :)

  2. box this lap (@sebashuis) said on 21st April 2011, 11:48

    I’ve voted: DRS makes F1 races too artificial.

    But is artificial a bad thing? the knife cuts on both sides with DRS. It’s great to see more overtaking instead of driver trains because I hate driver trains. On the other hand I think you need more skill to overtake a driver without having DRS at all and I like that too.

    I’m still wondering if Webber would have finished 3rd in China if there wasn’t DRS.

    • I feel he wouldn’t have – as superb as he was, without KERS he would have a hard time overtaking that many cars towards the end of the race.

  3. John said on 21st April 2011, 12:06

    Best idea is to keep DRS the same way as KERS, so that both the tools can be used at anytime. I think this would really make overtaking and defending more challenging. Right now, DRS during race is a bad idea in the current form. Some of the overtaking in China was really artificial.

  4. TheVillainF1 (@thevillainf1) said on 21st April 2011, 12:08

    very interesting comment by Keith about allowing a limited amount of DRS uses per driver. Say every driver gets 10 activations per race. This would totally defuse the ‘unfairness’ debate as both attacker and defender could use it in a fight, but it also adds a whole new strategic dimension to the race. It may make drivers wonder whether to go for a DRS pass or try it the ‘ol fashioned way. Imagine the final laps Lewis v Vettel. Lewis has 2 DRS uses left, Vettel just 1, when to use it, where,… Oh the drama and tension!
    I think that could be truly awesome

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st April 2011, 12:15

      Taking the idea further, you would probably have to limit them to one activation per lap, to keep them from using them just to jump other cars during pit stops.

      So it’s not perfect, but everything’s a compromise.

      • Damon (@damon) said on 21st April 2011, 12:54

        I think I like the “1 activation per lap” idea better.
        Because I wouldn’t want to see a 5-final-laps showdown between Vettel and Hamilton with Vettel having 6 DRS boosts left and Hamilton having none, only because he was stuck behind some backmarkers in the middle of the race after a pitstop and was forced to use all of them then.

      • DaveW (@dmw) said on 21st April 2011, 18:23

        CART/INDY had this in the guise of “push to pass.” You got 50hp for X seconds, and you got Y amount of pushes per race. The broadcast graphics would show how many pushes a driver had left. So yes, there was a whole strategy of when to save it to defend, when to use it to attack, etc. This would be an improvement on how DRS works now.

        It would be better if a car basically immobilized by having run the Pirellis one lap too long could thwart a pursuer who had foolishly used up all his pushes. That would be bona fide racing, because if the drivers arrive at the battle with unequal weaponry, it would only be because one of them did not properly forsee or prepare for the situation by wasting his arrows—rather than because every single lap and that particular point on the track the pursuer gets a special dispensation.

        But of course, that would be too easy and too economical, espeically now that we have a common ECU. Instead we had teams spend a fortune on a weak hybrid system, to improve passing, and then spend more money on a rear wing contraption.

  5. Boost (@boost) said on 21st April 2011, 12:10

    I´m absolutely for DRS. It still doesn´t make it piece of a cake to overtake.
    About the unfairness: The overtaken driver has the chance to use DRS and take a position back next lap but we haven´t seen very much of that.

    DRS makes it easier for the fast to use their speed, race and not being blocked by slower cars.

    • Damon (@damon) said on 21st April 2011, 12:58

      It still doesn´t make it piece of a cake to overtake.

      If we fought each other with you having a large knife and me having a sword, it wouldn’t be a piece of cake for me to kill you either.
      This fact wouldn’t make it fair though, would it?

      Like I’ve said:
      Not-a-100%-efficiency of an unfair measure does NOT make it fair.

      • Boost (@boost) said on 21st April 2011, 14:24

        @ Damon

        I never said the DRS is fair. It´s not but I´m fine with the fact that you “win” the advantage to use DRS if you come close to a slower car so you can more easily pass it to race on. For me, being faster and get stuck behind a car because of all the different reasons (dirty air, less grip outside race line, etc.) is not racing. It´s boring. Yes, I wish it would be easier to overtake in F1 so we wouldn´t need DRS but it´s hard with the technical rugulations as it is today.

        Like I said in other comments: If you don´t want somebody to DRS-zoom past you, don´t let them come within 1 second from your gear box.

        DRS+Pirelli=Better F1

  6. Bäremans said on 21st April 2011, 12:10

    I like DRS, but think it needs more finetuning.
    -> In 2008, we had 9 overtakes in China. This year, we had over 60… something is working and DRS plays a part in it. I don’t agree that the majority of all overtaking were made too easy on the long straight.

    But I only like DRS as a short-term solution for the problem of the “dirty air” and the overtaking issues it causes. Truly hope that the 2013 rules will address the dirty air issue (ground effect would be lovely), so that we no longer need something like DRS.
    KERS can stay (if all teams get it worked out and we see some different strategies in making use of it, otherwise it can be cancelled as well),but most important of all is that we keep having good tyres. Let them wear out quickly. I don’t care. All the more excitement.

    • Damon (@damon) said on 21st April 2011, 13:01

      -> In 2008, we had 9 overtakes in China. This year, we had over 60… something is working

      Yeah, the Pirelly tyres are working. ;)
      And I like the irony of that statement, haha.

      and DRS plays a part in it.

      A marginal one.

  7. Basically, for this year at least, there is no other option other than run without in which case, whilst the tyres are different, the formula will basically be the same as the last few years:

    Have a quick go at overtaking if you are massively faster than the guy in front, if not then drop back out of the dirty air because all you are going to do is wreck your tyres and you are unlikely to get past anyway – best bet, try to distract them but preserve your tyres and try to do them on an undercut.
    Other option – Hero or Zero lunge. Unlikely to be attempted – not good racing – often ends up taking one or both cars out of the race.
    Result – mainly processional ‘races’ where people settle for places and deliberately hold back away from other cars. It would be even worse this year with high tyre wear because running in dirty air for a few laps will ruin your day.

    Now: People attack everywhere – there is always a chance to overtake even in equal cars you will get close enough to ‘have a go’ if the DRS zone is correctly placed then it just allows you to get close without making an easy pass. We see actual racing throughout the field. Nobody holds back and we don’t have a fast car getting mired down behind a really slow car that’s 2 seconds a lap slower ruining the best battles (P.S. No that’s not a battle in general it’s a rolling road block)

    I wasn’t behind DRS at first and I don’t think that it’s a solution that should be kept forever BUT for this year for a step on the road to ground effect (which is almost certainly the solution) it has to be accepted as a GOOD thing for the sport and a clever and well thought out move.

    • SiY (@siy) said on 21st April 2011, 12:54

      This post is closest to my thoughts on the issue.

    • nice post this one, I understand your views. I’m against DRS but I suppose if it’s just for this year and maybe next, then ground effect is brought in for 2013, that will satisfy me. The racing with ground effect will be much improved.

  8. Don M. said on 21st April 2011, 12:32

    DRS is wrong for F1. The racing has been better this season, mainly due to the tyres, and there is a danger that DRS will become a fixture. We need a better solution to the overtaking problem and it has to be reduced downforce.

    Attempts to reduce downforce have so far been ineffective because they haven’t been drastic enough. Designers have recovered the losses too easily and we have been back to square one too quickly. Rear wings should be lower, front wings narrower, and both should be simpler in design. Ground-effect should not be re-introduced. The circuits could then be altered to get rid of the chicanes and tight turns that are being used to keep speeds in check. The cars would be better for racing and the circuits would provide a greater challenge. There would be no need for push-to-pass gimmicks.

    • Dougie (@f1droid) said on 21st April 2011, 13:21

      Sounds awfully like Indycar… small wings, no tight turns, no chicanes, lots and lots of slipstreaming. No thanks.

      That said however, I follow the context of the idea, in that I am all for drastically reducing aero downforce and increasing mechanical grip. No additional aero appendages as currently. I’d have the wings, the sponsors need the advertising space, but smaller and ineffective. I would re-introduce ground effect and the diffuser, as they are less influenced by the wake of the car in front. Increase the tyres and lets go racing.

      • Dougie (@f1droid) said on 21st April 2011, 13:23

        ps. and I’m for KERS, or other electicity generation tools, but open up the restrictions. I like the idea that James Allen reported on recently of electricity only in the pitlane too.

      • Don M. said on 21st April 2011, 21:34

        It would be nothing like Indycar. I can’t imagine how you got that idea.

        I didn’t say ‘no tight turns’. Of course there is a place for tighter corners and hairpins. I’m talking about reinstating sections of circuit like the final sweeping double-right at Barcelona.

        It seems we have to choose between fast cars or fast circuits. Slower cars on faster circuits would actually go faster than the current super-grippy cars are allowed to go on todays overly-tight tracks.

  9. DRS has to be:
    a) banned altogether
    b) allowed everywhere at any time on the track.
    c) working properly if b = true.

  10. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 21st April 2011, 13:24

    I think there would still be more overtaking if DRS wasn’t there. I voted for option 1, 3 and 4.

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 21st April 2011, 13:39

    I think DRS has improved the racing so far this year. I think by the very nature of the varied circuits across the calendar there will be races where DRS makes more of an impact than others.

    The way I see it, DRS allows for a battle in the braking zone then leading into a corner, Vettel displayed this brilliantly with Hamilton in tow in Shanghai.

    I think it’s a fair system. The turbulent air coming off the back of the car ahead cannot be ignored simply because you can’t see it. You may as well attach tin cans to string and dangle them off the diffuser for the amount of disruption it causes. DRS goes some way to addressing this issue.

    Why should a leading driver be at a disadvantage during the race due to DRS? This argument is negated when you appreciate that a following driver has to put up with tremendous amount of dirty air.

  12. Marco said on 21st April 2011, 13:40


    I have to say that I am big fan of your site and tend to agree with your views. In this case I strongly disagree with you!

    First let me say that having raced karts competitively, I am a purist racer. I believe the fastest guy with the best race craft deserves to win.

    There is no doubt that DRS is not a perfect solution but the problem of following a car in turbulent air is a very real one that needs to be mitigated to avoid processional races. Before the first race I pointed this out to the many people on this site who were deriding the system before they had even seen it in action! It was ridiculous then and only marginally less ridiculous now we have seen the racing.

    We absolutely do not want the leading car to be a sitting duck to the guy in second place but the point is this: in other formulae where aero is not an issue do we see racers breezing past because the catch a slipstream? No. Do we think that cars behind should not be allowed to use the slipstream because it is ‘unfair’ on the car in front?? Nope! There are many race circuits around the world where it is actually an advantage to be in second place on the tail of the leader going into the last lap.

    We have racecraft: the ability to position the car on the race circuit to defend.

    The point is that the tools are available to everyone in the same measures. It is not like the additional weight limits that touring cars adopted in the 90s when Audi became totally dominant to slow the fastest cars down at the next race.

    Until a car sits in second place until the last lap and then uses DRS to breeze past and win or we have Indy car like swarming fields I will totally disagree with you…

    Improve and refine the system? Yes absolutely. Do away with the system all together because I few idealistic fans are miffed?! No way!!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st April 2011, 14:48

      I have to say that I am big fan of your site

      Thanks very much!

      Do away with the system altogether

      I didn’t say I wanted that – I said I enjoy seeing them use it in practice and qualifying.

      But I’m not convinced the way DRS is used in the races is the only way to solve the dirty air problem. We’ve seen ample evidence so far this year that the change of tyres and the return of KERS has improved it enormously, and neither have the same taint of gimmickry and outright unfairness DRS has.

  13. David BR said on 21st April 2011, 13:41

    I’m against DRS being an artificial advantage for the drivers behind, but I’m also against cars being designed in a way that increases turbulence for cars behind, making overtaking much more difficult. The purism is a bit hollow when the teams constantly design the cars to be ‘impure’,working round, stretching or breaking the regulations (and not always being detected). So which wins?

    I think being practical FIA could run another couple of races with DRS as it is, collecting more data and impressions, then run a few races with KERS only (plus the tyres of course) to see what the difference is. Of course asking FIA to be practical may be a bit much.

    I think the interesting phenomenon nobody has really mentioned is the bunching effect DRS causes. We see more packs of 3+ drivers trailing behind a ‘slower’ car, which translates into TV coverage as ‘battles for nth position’. That certainly adds excitement and sets the race up brilliantly overall.

    All in all I can’t help feeling that the DRS advantage balances out over a race (after all those who were ahead and get passed have the chance to use the same advantage on the driver ahead) and that it’s a fairly good solution to the turbulence problem. Enforcing aerodynamics rules to try to reduce the latter won’t work, the teams will always design round it, though at ever escalating design costs.

    Plus in the end the better skilled drivers and more strategically clever teams, on the day, use these elements to their overall advantage – as Hamilton and McLaren did in China, beating a faster car. I think the number of additional variables (tyres + KERS + DRS) helps ensure that races aren’t too predictable. Formula 1 is always in a way a battle to ensure that it’s not just the faster car that wins. That can happen through the driver skill of course, but to be honest we now have 4 or 5 superb drivers, any of whom could take the fastest car – now the Red Bull – and, all other things being equal, walk the championship, as Vettel was threatening to do.

  14. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 21st April 2011, 14:16

    I think the tyres do more for the spectacle than DRS does. Since I’m not sure, I want the FIA to try it without DRS (or even with unrestricted use for everybody anywhere).

    DRS originally was intended as a short term fix for the aero wake problems. The leading car had an unfair advantage, because of the wake.

    Ideally the DRS negates this effect – and does no more than that. The DRS assisted overtakes did make me wonder if it has become too easy and indeed unfair.

  15. Nigelstash (@nigelstash) said on 21st April 2011, 14:18

    I would rather have racing without DRS, but in the short term i see it as a good thing. I agree with the argument that better tracks with more than one racing line – like the first few corners in China where Hamilton took Button – and designing cars that do not create so much ‘dirty air’ is the best way forward, though don’t be surprised if developments under any new regulations end up creating dirty air in a different way, so we should be much more focused on tracks than on cars. The fact is though, that under the current regulations, too many races have been spoilt by the impossibility of overtaking a car that is slower but sticking to the racing line. At least DRS lets aggressive drivers have a chance to even things up for a while. Yes it looked a little too easy in China, but on the whole I think has been a success so far. And don’t forget, DRS doesn’t make driving easier. It changes the balance of the car and requires skill to control.

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