Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2011

Drag Reduction Systems: Your verdict

Debates and pollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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”

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  1. 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.

  2. Keith,

    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!!

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. oops, 2+ drivers

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. The DRS should be permitted at any time. It should also work the other way, to increase downforce on command, at any time.

    1. Well it does increase downforce when the flap is up…drag is a ‘side-effect’ of downforce.

  7. DRS has made F1 races more fair.

    -> Faster drivers are able to pass slower drivers.

  8. If the main reason of introducing DRS was to negate the bad-aero from the car infront, why not make a rule stating the DRS can only be used when the car behind is 0.5-1.5s from the car in front. This will allow the car to close in and hence negate the bad-aero effect, but to make the pass stick, the driver has to use his own skill.

  9. wheres the option “We’ll find out after Abu Dhabi”? or possibly Valencia

  10. to me f1 has become a tv show. It has taken me a few years coming to terms with it. Now that i have, and after having decided not traveling to another f1 race until the cars improve in performance. I have to say that drs helps with the show. So i say i don’t mind having it. At the end of the day the best driver always preveil. congratulation lewis, you are the best of the current f1 pilots.

  11. Yes it is more exciting with DRS. but then it gives the slow cars a chance to pass a faster car, which basically mocks that faster team for wasting all the time spent upgrading the car’s aero pack to get like a little advantage.
    As we saw in China, all the good drivers were able to pass the cars ahead of them no matter which part of the track they were on. So DRS is more of a 1up for rookies who aren’t that good at passing yet.
    DRS can be dangerous if deployed accidentally due to glitches, but then that is very rare.

    True, it helps those cars which are stuck behind a slower car to pass faster. but the faster car cannot pass, cause the slower car has a better driving and blocking style.

    It seems more like an unfair advantage to me.

  12. I think that instead of being able to open it every lap, every driver should get maybe twenty opportunities to use it. That way it can be used to defend as well as attack but adds another strategy element to DRS.

    Much like Indycar’s push to pass in a way.

  13. It’s an interesting system that definitely needs working on. Sometimes it’s blatantly unfair (Malaysia) but I think China and Australia gave us some exciting battles.

    If it was to be scrapped, I wouldn’t miss it though. The most exciting moment from this year was Hamilton defending from Alonso and that was all because of Alonso’s glitchy DRS. If it was working he would’ve easily passed him and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as compelling.

    1. Why do you think it was unfair in Malaysia but (presumably) not at Australia and China?

      1. Just from a spectator’s point of view it seemed like the overtaking in the DRS zone was incredibly easy at Malaysia, while the other two not so much.

        It’s extremely difficult for someone of my position to say whether that’s down to the drivers, the race situations, the tyres etc.

  14. I don’t take the view that its giving an advantage to the car behind. I think that it is going some way to negating the advantage the car infront has. For people that say that they wouldn’t have it in the 60’s, well the cars infront didn’t have their advantage either. It needs refining still but its only worth around 4 tenths a lap in the race from what I could see in China while the cars infront are meant to have around a second advantage from clean air.

  15. I think Martin Brundle has got it absolutely correct. In exchange for an ajustable rear wing which reduces downforce, they scrapped the ajustable front wing which increases downforce. Which one assists overtaking? Doesn’t take a genius to work that out…

  16. I feel that DRS does what it is supposed to do – compensate for the loss of downforce encountered when ~1sec behind another driver, as such I only ticked the first box, although I wouldn’t mind if they tried a race without.

  17. DRS has got to go.

    Im surprised that so many people are now embracing it now, but mark my words…as soon as we have a race victory decided by an easy DRS pass in the last few laps of the race, the fans and the media alike will be calling for it to be scrapped.

  18. I seem to have a strange glitch : in order to vote, I have to post a comment, because the page shows me as offline (and shows the results of the poll). All the other pages show me as logged in, but this one doesn’t. I’m using Opera, maybe it’s a problem with this browser.

  19. There will be NO point in using DRS at Monaco because of the crash risk. Look back to Australia with Sutil. Now think about the Anthony Noghes exit (or in the tunnel) and if you lose downforce there you will crash and the safety car will come out.

    1. DRS really has very little to do with how close the barriers are to the circuit or indeed how narrow it is. The only time DRS is dangerous is when you apply it too soon after a corner, which like you said happened in Australia. As long as the FIA designate an area that’s safe and allows the car to balance itself before DRS activation there shouldn’t be an issue. The issue is finding a place that suits in Monaco.

  20. How does the technology prevent the driver being overtaken from using his DRS? Is there a mechanical/electronic inhibitor or just a gentleman’s agreement, in which case why go to all the trouble? Just wave them past with an “after you Fernando”!

    1. The rules state that only the following driver can use DRS as long as he’s within 1s of the guy in front. Of course that also applies if the person you’re chasing is also 1s behind someone else.

      You could try your best to defend by going tight into a corner and being the last of the late brakers and KERS might even help.

      There’s no point defending too much, you will get done Hamilton-style for weaving.

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