Heidfeld criticises “artificial” Drag Reduction System

2011 F1 season

Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Sepang, 2011

Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Sepang, 2011

Nick Heidfeld has joined the debate over F1’s controversial Drag Reduction Systems by admitting he is “not a fan” of the adjustable rear wings.

Heidfeld said: “Well, like with everything, the more you use it the easier it gets but we?re still working on getting the perfect switch positions which we should have ready for Turkey.

“I think it?s all working fine and going to plan, even though I?m not a fan of the rear wing because I don?t particularly like things which artificially aim to improve racing.”

Not all F1 drivers share his view. Earlier this month Nico Rosberg said DRS was the “best idea ever probably, for this sport”.

Heidfeld added the new tyres have also made overtaking easier in some situations: “The biggest difference is the tyres.

“With the rear wing active and the car in front having similar tyres, overtaking might still be difficult which is exactly as what was planned with DRS, however if you have fresher tyres it might be much easier to overtake. I think we?ve seen far more overtaking than in the past.”

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83 comments on Heidfeld criticises “artificial” Drag Reduction System

  1. slr said on 29th April 2011, 9:26

    I agree, I don’t think F1 needs DRS. The Pirelli tyres alone can do the job of creating a good show.

    • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 9:32

      What racing have you seen using Pirelli tyres that didn’t involve DRS…. DRS doesn’t just create overtaking positions when its deployed… from what I saw of the race in China it seemed to me that DRS created as many overtaking chances down into turn 1 as it did when it was deployed.

      As for it being ‘artificial’ racing… its a hell of a lot less artificial than what we experienced during the era of turbo boost…. I also wonder exactly is ‘natural’ about F1… The entire sport is a artificial…. the only natural thing are the drivers behind the wheel and the talents they have at making the most of the tools they are given to go racing with… DRS is just another of those tools.

      • OEL said on 29th April 2011, 9:37

        The thing is it gives the driver behind an advantage over the driver in front.

        • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 9:59

          and turbo boost didn’t? Nevermind the advantage that being in front has on disrupting the airflow to the car behind…

          The thing is the rules are the same for all drivers, we have seen drivers trying to be clever and use DRS in different ways to already to both attack and defend (as Petrov did in China when he dropped back to get the DRS advantage by judging the line and breaking).

          I think we also should show a little respect to the Stewards/officials who have been setting the distances and conditions for DRS… they have no more interest in seeing ‘push to pass’ than anyone else does…. its about creating close conditions that allow drivers to race and overtake… unlike what we have seen in previous seasons…

          This year saw the introduction of Pirelli tyres, DRS the reintroduction of KERS and the banning of F-ducts (although DRS is really just a variation on that principle, one that’s usage is regulated) and all these elements have worked together to provide some great racing already this season….

          • Well, personally I’d prefer adjustable front wings for the car behind. The problem with overtaking is the car behind loses front-end downforce, so increasing the downforce with about as much as the downforce lost, would give the drivers fairer battles, rather than creating passes.

            The question is, as I’m not an aerodynamic-expert, how increasing the front wing angle would affect the airflow over the rest of the car. Assuming it would work wihout problems, I think everyone should be able to use it at any time, as having massive oversteer won’t help the car in front.

          • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 11:29

            They tried that last season OEL, and it didn’t work… teams just used the adjustable front wing to help deal with balance and tyre issues as the race progressed. To be blunt about it… it didn’t work… hence the adjustable rear wing this season.

          • Andy, I know they did that in 2009 and 2010, but the reasons it didn’t work were:

            a) Too small adjustments
            b) Only available once a lap

            If it would be unlimited, I think it would work much better. I think I read somwhere that a car in dirty air loses about 25% of it’s front-end downforce. The changes available were nowhere near as big as that. If the front wing would be completely adjustable, or at least 25% adjustable, I think it would be a better solution than DRS.

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 29th April 2011, 13:40

            The problem OEL is that when the front wing adjusted they found it actually reduced drag instead of increasing downforce.

          • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 14:26

            OEL, I don’t know the science all I know is what I have seen on the race track and they tried that and it failed to have the desired effects…

            I just wonder if they had brought in the front wing changes they wanted how many people would be complaining that it was too artificial and it would be better if they did it by moving or stalling the rear wing ;-)

          • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 14:28

            I just wonder if they had brought in the front wing changes they you wanted

            and if those changes had the desired effect of making more racing possible…

          • orangutan said on 29th April 2011, 17:43

            The reason the front wing does not work as planned is because it is no longer even close to being an independent downforce device. Now, it is really more an aeroflow sculpting device to feed the rest of the car’s aero. As such, it is designed as optimally as possible. Hence, any significant adjustment will be less than optimal for the whole car, reducing downforce and drag, and also shifting balance. So as a fine tuning tool for balance, it is fine to adjust, but as a counter to massive aero push, it is not.

            The real fix to aero push, if you want to preserve high downforce as an aspect of F1, is well known, and GP2 among other series do it. More undertray ground effects (tunnels, etc).

            However, I argue that racing is better with less overall downforce, as in much much less. Motorcycle racing, kart racing, etc, etc, are all great, in part due to very little to no downforce. At F1 speeds and masses, I acknowledge that some downforce is a safety requirement.

            So spec the downforce level instead of micro managing the aero device rules. They bring scales to tacks to measure mass. They can bring a portable simple wind tunnel to measure downforce at a couple reference air speeds as well. A wind tunnel whose only purpose is to measure overall downforce is vastly simpler and less expensive than a research tunnel, and could be made in a tractor trailer.

          • Andy W said on 30th April 2011, 10:53

            @orangutan –

            Interesting suggestion, I am just curious as to how the downforce tunnel test would work… and what the teams would do to try and get around it… but it could be very interesting to find out and could make for some great racing… Until the teams found out how to break the spirit of the regs whilst staying inside the wording… but hey thats F1, the regs have to be constantly changing to deal with that).

        • Mike said on 29th April 2011, 11:16

          Yeah, it always gives the driver behind the advantage, no matter who it is.

          It’s the same for everyone.

      • I’ve seen plenty of overtaking outside of the DRS zones.

        • Fixy (@fixy) said on 29th April 2011, 13:34

          I have seen it too, and being not on the straight it was even more entertaining.

          • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 14:31

            Yup, and just think of how DRS and defending against the possibility of it has created that racing.

            It was great to hear Lewis talking on the Forum after China when he was telling us about how he planned his overtake on Vettel, I just wonder what Vettel was thinking about… was he caught with his pants down in part because he was planning and preparing for how he would defend against Lewis’ DRS at turn 13 and not paying enough attention to Lewis earlier in the lap….

      • Hallard said on 29th April 2011, 17:37

        I dont buy this argument about F1 being entirely artificial. Taken as a strictly athletic sport, it certainly is, but as a racing series? I dont see how you can say that. Other than the DRS, what is it that makes F1 “artificial” to you?

        • Who me? I never said DRS made overtaking artificial, I just don’t think it’s necessary.

          • Hallard said on 29th April 2011, 23:53

            Sorry I was replying to Andy just below you. These long strings make it hard to decipher :)

  2. Alonso_McLaren (@) said on 29th April 2011, 9:26

    Everything in F1 is artificial. So why blame DRS?

  3. Icthyes said on 29th April 2011, 9:41

    I officially give up on the DRS debate. The arguments just keep going around in circles and it seems so many are hung up on its artificiality without really caring if it works or not.

    The entire car is an artificial drag reduction system in effect, as the aero wake robs downforce from following cars. Sure, I’d like the DRS to be used out of the fast corners rather than into overtaking zones to cement its function as a device to overcome the problem of aero wakes. But this is better than nothing. You couldn’t ask teams to have changed their cars for this year because it’s a major regulation change and an expensive one, not what F1 needs after having a major change just two seasons ago in the midst of a financial crisis. Would people rather we just had another two years of no-one being able to overtake unless they have a 1.5 second advantage?

    Oh, but it’s the Pirellis doing that. Partly. But from the amount of DRS passes we’ve seen that were far from simply breezing past, it suggests to me that something more is needed, especially since the mass overtaking we had was partly down to contrary strategies: those on the same strategies are still hampered by the aero problem.

    People say overtaking shouldn’t be easy. Well, we haven’t seen a single easy pass with DRS that wasn’t the result of a massive speed difference already existing. On the contrary, most DRS passes have still been dependent on tactics and up to the driver to execute properly. The DRS simply got them there.

    I was supremely critical when the idea was first announced. But now we know there’s an endgame to the idea. I may wish they’d simply mandated simpler wings or failing that, DRS activation out of fast corners to counter-act the yo-yo effect. But let’s not pretend even last year’s situation was any better than what we have now. Ironically the DRS promotes the idea of the fastest getting to the front. Sounds like motor racing to me. If some want to deny the spectacle because of one artificial constraint as opposed to all the others that exist, that’s their loss.

    • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 10:00

      Completely agree with everything you have written.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th April 2011, 10:23

      Nice to see your back, how was the holliday Ichtyes?

      I do not really like DRS for being artificial and I would love to have less downforce altogeter. But it does just about what it was meant to do and helps improve the racing so we can have a great experience until new aero regulations come in from 2013 onwards.

      • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 11:33

        Do you think the new aero regs will work any better than they have any of the previous times the regs have been changed to strip aero off the cars? All that has happened each time in the past was the designers got to work on the bits they could found ways to maximise the effectiveness of those…. which in turn created the huge dirty air problem that has been faced in recent seasons….

        Less aero just means that more work has to be done by less air, and the cars have become ever more dependant on clean air.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 29th April 2011, 13:41

          I think they key to the 2013 rules is that it’s less about removing downforce and more about changing how it is produced. That way the aero interest is kept happy but we get rid of the wake problem.

          • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 14:34

            Thats what I understand to be the plan… and giving cars more ground effect should do that, I hope… but again they have to balance a number of different issues… I really don’t want to see skirts or moveable skirts coming back in because they are simply too limiting in other factors.

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 29th April 2011, 13:41

        Thank you BasCB, I had a nice time.

  4. wigster (@wigster) said on 29th April 2011, 10:03

    If Nick is against doing things to artificially improve the racing is he also against KERS, banning double diffusers, the 2009 aero changes, reintroducing slick tyres, and changing the layout of a circuit (Abu Dabhi)? All of these things were or are being done to improve the racing, and are artificial.

    Surely banning something, changing the regs, or altering circuits to increase the quality of racing are just as artificial as allowing a following car to adjust its wing to help it gain back some of the disadvantage of being in dirty air.

    This is F1, we’re talking about, were the tracks are all designed with creating good racing in mind, and the cars are created entirely from scratch to do 20 races a year then get binned and have very little outward likeness to real world cars.

    So in this great big artificial world that F1 inhabits I cant see how DRS doesnt fit in.

    • Well, it all depends on how you define the word “artificial”. The thing is DRS gives the driver behind an advantage over the driver in front.

      • Snusmumr said on 29th April 2011, 10:53

        The purpose of DRS was not to give advantage to the driver behind, but to remove advantage of the driver in front (to negate this “dirty air” thing and such stuff…).

      • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 11:42

        Yes it does depend on the definition, and whilst I have some sympathy with your point I can think of a few others you might want to consider….

        How artificial is it that McLaren, Ferrari and Red bull probably each spend more money on designing pit clothing for their engineers than HRT does on developing its front wing, or Virgin does on its entire design (CTD)?

        How artificial is it that a rookie driver can step into a car capable of competing for podiums and race wins, whilst other drivers (and race winners) have to compete in cars that struggle to make it into the race at all?

        How artificial is it that one team receives a large and undisclosed sum of ‘prize’ money simply because they have history in the sport?

        The thing is the entire sport is artificial, trying to pick out one element and say that its more artificial than the rest is just dubious at best and ludicrous when you take into account how DRS is implemented and the fact that the regulations call for it to be under constant review with each circuit having it tailored to meet the specifics of that circuit….

        • Yes, I agree. That’s why I won’t use that word anymore. Of course, being in dirty air gives a disadvantage which makes overtaking more difficult, and is not good for the sport. Having that said, overtaking shouldn’t bee too easy, it should remain “overtaking”, not “passing”. I don’t suggest that’s fully what has happened, but I would prefer adjustable front wings to remove the dirty air disadvantage, because that would ensure the driver behind doesn’t get an advantage over the driver in front. See my comment above.

          • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 14:42

            Having that said, overtaking shouldn’t bee too easy, it should remain “overtaking”, not “passing”. I don’t suggest that’s fully what has happened,

            We are in complete agreement over that, DRS is a tool that needs to be tightly regulated and its use governed and I feel that the team responsible for this have done a great job so far, Oz was maybe a little to little, KL maybe a little to much and China was about perfect.

            The problem I have about the debates about DRS is that a lot of it seems to be based on future worst case scenarios… rather than what we have actually seen on track.

            When DRS was introduced to the regs I was pretty negative about it – for pretty much the reasons people are against it now… but I decided to sit back and see what actually happened on the race track before I made my mind up… and I have been pleasantly surprised by how well it seems to be working in conjunction with everything else this season…. and I am also anticipating DRS giving us some incredible racing (actual racing not push to pass) in future races as the drivers and teams figure out how to actually use DRS and defend against it.

  5. BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th April 2011, 10:19

    Hard not to agree with Nick on this one. Yes, it works pretty much for what it was meant to do. But No, I do not like how its used in the race.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th April 2011, 10:40

    Nick Heidfeld has joined the debate over F1′s controversial Drag Reduction Systems by admitting he is “not a fan” of the adjustable rear wings.

    Doesn’t stop him from using it …

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 29th April 2011, 10:45

      Agree. Didn’t see him complaining after the Malaysian GP, where he got on the podium only because of a DRS assisted overtake on Hamilton.

      • HxCas (@hxcas) said on 29th April 2011, 13:25

        Hamiltons tyres were shot, Heidfeld was going through no matter what, also Hamilton pitted right after the pass. You can’t put that podium on DRS

        • Andy W said on 29th April 2011, 14:45

          but would Hamiltons tyres have been in such a bad state if it wasn’t for DRS usage… would Hamilton have been able to hold Nick off if Nick hadn’t had DRS… last season we saw a number of drivers try the strategy of fresh rubber at the end of the race to attack and getting nowhere….

          Lewis in Oz springs straight to mind… his car was a lot faster on fresh rubber but he could do nothing about slower cars on old rubber in front despite closing us at seconds a lap.

          Lewis was forced to pit early in KL because he simply couldn’t defend… DRS or not… Lewis was able to pit for fresh rubber in China and storm to the front…

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 29th April 2011, 16:25

            last season we saw a number of drivers try the strategy of fresh rubber at the end of the race to attack and getting nowhere….

            No, Kobayashi usually did this and passed lots of people.

          • HxCas (@hxcas) said on 30th April 2011, 3:05

            I see it as a case of fresh tyres against tyres that were still giving huge amounts of grip (aus last year) and fresher tyres against tyres that were completely dead and couldn’t make it to the end of the race (Mal this year.) Hamilton wouldn’t have wanted to have stopped again, the team didn’t want him to but he insisted as the tyres were so far gone

          • Andy W said on 30th April 2011, 10:57

            @ David A – and how many people tried it and it didn’t work… or simply didn’t bother try it because they would rather trail home without risking loosing places….

            This season its abundantly clear that being on the right rubber at the right time is essential… It took Lewis from 6th to 1st in China…

    • Ben Curly (@ben-curly) said on 29th April 2011, 14:07

      Doesn’t stop him from using it…

      Wow, that’s a silly argument, to put it mildly. A driver must use everything he can in order to finish better than his competition. He might not like the DRS, but he still has to fight for positions. It’s not like there’s a choice in the matter.

      Heidfeld’s comments are perfectly reasonable.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 1st May 2011, 4:25

        It’s not like there’s a choice in the matter.

        He has every choice – he can simply not use the DRS. It’s not like he needs it to defend his position. If he wants to prove the DRS is unnecessary, he should do a few races without using it and demonstrate its ineffectiveness.

        • Ben Curly (@ben-curly) said on 1st May 2011, 8:22

          He’s not arguing against its effectiveness, so your point is moot. DRS works, but Nick thinks it’s artificial and he doesn’t like it. I can understand that. He still has to use it if he wants to score decent points, but he’s not obliged to be fond of it.

          I’m a bit surprised that you don’t get it.

    • RandomChimp said on 29th April 2011, 19:50

      Is this supposed to devalue what he’s saying?

  7. UKfanatic (@) said on 29th April 2011, 11:48

    After china it became obvious that F1 didnt need any more artificial overtake device the tyres are just too ridiculous. This tyres make racing artificial we know that sooner or later all cars will run the same strategy and overtakes will only be possible due to tyre issues and not skill

    • Alonso_McLaren (@) said on 29th April 2011, 12:03

      No overtakings are purely about skill. A slower car will never pass a faster one.

      • F1_Dave said on 30th April 2011, 14:13

        well we saw sutil un-lap himself from vettel at shanghai as a result of better tyres & drs.

        so there is a case of a slower car passing a faster one.

        • Alonso_McLaren (@) said on 30th April 2011, 15:54

          Sutil unlapped himself because of better tyres and drs, it means that Vettel was slower than Sutil at that time.

          • F1_Dave said on 30th April 2011, 16:25

            but my point still stands.

            you said that a slower car would never overtake a faster one. well the force india is a slower car than the red bull yet the DRS allowed sutil to overtake the red bull.

  8. Bäremans said on 29th April 2011, 12:09

    Is DRS an advantage for the car behind or is it only cancelling the advantage of the driver in front caused by dirty air? Honestly: who cares?
    Races have been exciting so what is the complaint exactly about?

    Seen the article on the steering wheel on this site a while ago? There’s a lot more artificial stuff going on in these cars, than only DRS.
    Hell, you could say that the only thing more artificial than F1, is F1 on PS3.

    But I honestly don’t care.
    F1 is still the pinnacle of motorsport and this is the 21st century people!

    But I also hope that the importance of aero will be largely reduced in the 2013 regs and I would not mind the reintroduction of ground effect. But it should be kept within limits, otherwise Newey designs a car no human being is physically able to drive.

    • Rocky said on 29th April 2011, 13:32

      Is DRS an advantage for the car behind or is it only cancelling the advantage of the driver in front caused by dirty air?

      Exactly, this is the point.

  9. John said on 29th April 2011, 12:27

    I hope they get rid of DRS soon, but Im sure it will remain for this season. Hopefully no more DRS nonsense next year ( unless all drivers are free to use DRS anywhere anytime , just like KERS ).

  10. Hezla said on 29th April 2011, 12:37

    I love this season and I love DRS, KERS and the new Pirelli’s

    To all others that don’t agree just watch all old boring races from f.ex Bahrain.

    • Alonso_McLaren (@) said on 30th April 2011, 10:26

      Exactly. F1 cannot satisfy everyone’s need. Those who have a fetishism on processional stuff, please watch Bahrain 2010.

  11. Rocky said on 29th April 2011, 13:28

    For me DRS allows a more competitive car to pass (get around) a less competitive car for position. I don’t believe it provides a big enough advantage to pass an equal car for position e.g. Button Vs Massa. This is perhaps what Nick does not like, the fact that a slower car can keep faster car behind. With DRS I would also like to see them do away with Blue Flags. Nick in fact your seat in F1 is artificial as you did not have one prior to the misfortune of Kubica.

  12. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 29th April 2011, 13:33

    I don’t mind DRS but it got to be in places where overtaking isn’t too easy.Like in China I guess they had the thing right.I still think tyres are providing good racing but there will be some races when all will do same amount of pit stop in a race then we may need DRS.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 30th April 2011, 16:04


      We should look at DRS to purely balance the cars out.

      It makes me think that if F1 had started out with DRS 61 years ago and had it suddenly removed now, there would be just as many people complaining about the driver behind suffering from dirty air.

  13. DaveW (@dmw) said on 29th April 2011, 15:22

    Thanks, Nick. We don’t need extended briefing to know what he mean means by “artificial” and why the DRS is actually, functionally different from anyting that has come before. The DRS is not there to cancel any “disadvantage,” it is there to cause passing, period. And it causes a certain kind of passing. If a DRS pass causes you to spill your popcorn jumping off the couch, to each his own. But to me any one of Kobayashi’s Suzuka ’10 passes or Hamilton’s pass on Button in Turkey is worth 100 DRS zone “passes.”

    The tire-caused passing is an excellent comparison we have now. Whatever one’s views about the tires, even if a leading car may have as much traction as if it he had a flat, the passing driver still has to drive his car ahead of the other—with the wheel and pedals, rather than a button. Ask Alonso.

  14. sabatino said on 29th April 2011, 17:48

    Yes , DRS overtakes are artificial , but if we must cancel this rule we must do it for 2012 . DRS is better that changes of rules during season !

  15. Alex Currie said on 29th April 2011, 20:43

    I have to agree with Nick.
    F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of innovation in engineering and race technology but instead has become a commercial adventure for FOM.
    McLaren innovated the F duct which others copied but the FIA has interfered with the process, banned it and created an artificial form of racing that interferes with the results.
    if in doubt look at Webber vs Button on the back straight in China.
    JB would pull on Webber with his KERS while Webber could open his wing when he was within 1 sec and JB was a sitting duck. Under normal conditions he would have had to earn the pass and not have it handed to him on a plate.
    In quali, they can use it a the driver’s discretion but only at the designated spot and when within one second of the car ahead. How balanced is that? How do the lap times in quali really reflect the pace of the cars in race trim which Q3 is suppose to be?
    The IRL is bland and boring when compared to CART in its past.
    NASCAR has started down the road to blandness regulating the daylights out of the cars. How is love bug racing on the high speed ovals racing? It is boring follow the leader high speed driving.
    Racing is about the smartest guys making the best decisions and coming up with stuff that gives them an edge when the other guys are not as smart or innovative.
    We have seen McLaren wax and wane over the year to be replaced by Ferrari who did the same and others such as Williams. Red Bull has the edge but for how long? Will Ferrari come back? Sure they will.
    The point is that they did it without regulating them to death and not artificially interfering with the race results the was the DRS does. KERS makes sense because it is road applicable as were ABS brakes, ESP and traction control. DRS has no road application because legal road speed aero is not a factor. It is simply designed to create artificial passing opportunities for drivers who otherwise could not create them for themselves and hence interferes with the race results.
    Ban it too if the F duct was a problem.

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