If DRS is unsafe for Monaco, then Monaco is unsafe for F1


Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Monte-Carlo, 2010

Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Monte-Carlo, 2010

Rubens Barrichello has spoken out after the FIA did not choose to ban the use of the Drag Reduction System in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Speaking to Autosport he said: “I just think it is wrong. I would love the people at the top to sit in the car and try to do the tunnel with the DRS open.

“Do they think they can introduce overtaking through the DRS? They possibly can, but they might hurt someone. That is a voice from experience.”

It’s not the first time Barrichello has warned over the dangers of DRS.

But the logical conclusion of his latest complaint is not that DRS shouldn’t be used at Monaco. It is that Monaco is not safe enough for Grand Prix racing.

Whatever your view on the controversial DRS, it is part of the F1 technical regulations and they are the same whichever circuit the cars visit.

What’s different here is not DRS, it’s the Monte-Carlo circuit. Barrichello is actually making the case that Monaco is not safe enough for Formula 1.

There was a similar debate last year as some drivers lobbied for qualifying to be split on safety grounds. They were concerned the narrow confines of Monaco were too dangerous for 24 cars to run at once in the first part of qualifying.

But the rules stayed as they are and the session passed without incident.

The word of a driver is always compelling when it comes to matters of safety. Barrichello escaped unscathed in a huge accident at Monaco last year when he appeared to hit a drain cover which had been lifted by another car.

Anyone would sympathise with him having reservations about safety at Monte-Carlo after that.

But while exceptions are made for some circuits when it comes to things like pit lane speed limits, going so far as to run the cars in a different specification would be tantamount to an admission that Monaco is not safe enough for modern F1 cars.

The glamour of Monaco and the wealth it attracts will no doubt ensure that never happens.


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114 comments on If DRS is unsafe for Monaco, then Monaco is unsafe for F1

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  1. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 16th May 2011, 8:33

    Barrichello is also one of the few drivers to have witnessed the last tragedy of F1 first hand. He certainly has a right to complain that the DRS has the potential to be dangerous in Monaco.

    However, I completely agree with the title of the article. F1, by its nature, is dangerous. Cars hurtling at 200mph down narrow strips of tarmac is dangerous. Especially in Monaco. I don’t understand how the DRS will in any way affect the danger of racing at Monaco. The chances of it failing are the same as any other part on the car – all of which, at a place like Monaco, could cause a huge accident. The DRS makes no difference in that respect. Then there’s the second argument – if the drivers don’t like it, then they don’t have to use it.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 16th May 2011, 9:09

      I feel pretty much the same about it.

      If it is deemed too big a risk, that would mean ditching Monaco.
      The dangers of the DRS (in qualifying and training) are about drivers trying to go for a maximum possible and finding out it was not possible after all for them to do so.

      But that is what racing is about, going to the limit, and stay just about on that edge between can and cannot to extract the maximum from the package. That was Senna in Monaco, those were some of the greates qualifying laps by Häkkinen etc.

      If the drivers stop doing that, they could just as well stay away altogether. And do a rally instead!

      • unnnooocc said on 16th May 2011, 11:54

        ARHHHH! Illogical arguements.

        1) It isn’t about the DRS failing as much (although that would be worse given no run off zones), but more about the lack of grip to use it in. When a driver uses it they need to have enough grip spare on the back wheels that flicking the switch and losing the downforce doesn’t cause the car to ‘kick out’ and oversteer. In Monaco because the speed is so slow and no real straights the wing needs to be used inbetween small corners where the line isn’t as clear and due to no longer straights it makes a much bigger difference amongst other things how you use it in and out of corners

        2) The DRS isn’t driving to the limit. It is a switch on or off. Putting the brake or throttle down as much as possible without losing grip or turning without losing grip is driving at the limit of grip. You couild be driving with a bit of grip spare, flick the switch and you’ll be oversteering. THat isn’t driving to the limit at all.

        • VXR said on 16th May 2011, 11:59

          This post is correct.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 16th May 2011, 12:39

          Maybe you care to explain that line about illogical arguments unnnooocc?

          Where do you get your 1st (It isn’t about the DRS failing as much) from, it has nothing to do with my post.

          And DRS as used in Qualifying is just as much about driving on the limit as is engine power, tyres, setup or getting a line close to the barriers.

          I argued, that the “danger” of the DRS is about drivers trying to use it there where their package (car/driver combo) is just not up to it (see where Vettel activated it in Turkey turn 8 and compare to say Schumi or Maldonado) during qualifying (and FP when they test what works).

          Being able to use it where others do not dare or can’t is about driver skill and a bit of courage just as much as having a good car.

          • unnnooocc said on 16th May 2011, 15:55

            The failing bit I was responding to the post above you


            The chances of it failing are the same as any other part on the car – all of which, at a place like Monaco, could cause a huge accident.

            2ndly, I see you arguement that it takes skill to know when to use it, but the way I see it is that drivers don’t do the same thing lap in and lap out. They have to improvise and if drivers are able to ‘use’ up much of their grip with the push of the button rather than fighting to use it all I think it just seems a bit weird. I see your point though, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I’m just not a fan of teh DRS, its use, output or how drivers use it.

            I guess what I’m trying to say is that if used properly by drivers then it (as a non driving related thing… pushing a button) doesn’t do anything other than facilitate passing that the FIA is too scared to do properly themselves.

            I see it more as like asking it juggle some balls after each corner. Obviously they can’t while the car is still turning, so they have to drive in a way that allows them to juggle balls the longest amount of time. Sure juggling balls has nothing to do with driving but it provides excitement for casual fans and some would aruge as you do (I think) that drivers need to skill to juggle balls more because it means they have to straighten the car faster so they can take their hands off to juggle again.

            And at the end of the day I don’t want to be thinking.. was Massa really 0.061 seconds faster than Alonso around the track or did he just feel a bit more confident and hit the button slightly earlier a few times?

          • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 16th May 2011, 19:21

            The topic is about the ‘danger’ of the DRS.

            The dangers of the DRS are twofold:

            a) it failing
            b) the ‘kickout’ you mention.

            My argument was not illogical.

            The unbalancing of the cars can be countered by driver skill. I would also imagine that at slower speeds the effect of the unbalancing will be lesser than at higher speeds. Further, the DRS during the race will only be activated on a straight – the same as any other track.

            Those with cars that can use the DRS more have a higher chance of an accident through this – but then again, those are also the cars that are the most planted and most stable. We would have seen major accidents at other race circuits if the DRS was the problem. We haven’t – so the only reason for this entire argument is because its at Monaco. Accordingly, the article’s title is correct – if the DRS is unsafe for Monaco, then Monaco is unsafe for F1

        • Tobitron said on 16th May 2011, 13:06

          unnnooocc, DRS is a tool the drivers can use whilst driving. Tactics, skill, competency, all go in to driving one of those beasts, so the inclusion of DRS pushes the already edgey limits of a car’s and driver’s abilities.

          DRS is not simply some tool that goes on at random, it’s down to the driver, so of course it’s driving to the limit. It’s down to the individual behind the wheel to understand where to sacrifice rear end grip for raw speed.

        • Spaulding (@spaulding) said on 16th May 2011, 14:33

          Actually, the second point is slightly off as it depends on the point of the track where DRS is enabled. At some tracks, I think Australia and maybe Malaysia, the DRS point was used in the middle of the last corner and at all events, it effects your braking point for the first corner. Also, during qualifying, the DRS can be enabled VERY early in the corner and also kept engaged through some high speed corners, by not braking, where significant car control comes into play to ensure that the car can make the corner. While I’m not advocating that the DRS makes a GREAT change to most corner dynamics and “driving to the limit”, during practice, qualifying, and *some* race events, it does have a significant and direct effect on where the limit is.

        • Warren2185 (@warren2185) said on 16th May 2011, 14:57

          I agree…ARHHHH! Illogical. It has to do with the “kickout” being done in the middle of a corner due to the nature of Monaco.

      • LuvinF1 said on 16th May 2011, 14:45

        I don’t agree that the converse statement is true. This is not a case of Type I or Type II Error, but a case of an ill-defined problem. This circuit is already regarded as a demanding track requiring low average speeds and it is already thought of as dangerous.

        Cars are set up with the best “compromise” to attack straights, high speed turns and low speed turns based on the characteristics of the track. In qualifying, the DRS allows the driver to ignore the compromise on the straights, and for the more aero cars, to ignore the compromise on the high speed turns. And if you still feel confident, the drivers will still probably ask, “can you squeeze out another half-tenth on the low speed turns?”

        So, if Monaco is a high downforce, low speed, already demanding track and DRS scrubs off drag and downforce – Rubens is asking “are the two safely compatible?”

        For me, I say let them have it and go all out.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 16th May 2011, 15:38

          Yeah. Having DRS for qualifying might get some teams go for even more downforce in the corners as well, making them more vunerable in the race.

          I am really looking forward to seeing a Vettel or Webber go through the tunnel and put on the DRS right at that last apex, and maybe shoot past the chicane, or just make it and do a superb lap.

        • DaveW said on 16th May 2011, 22:39

          I havent’ gone to dust off my game theory texts but I have to recommened unnooccc’s second point. The problem with the DRS at Monaco is not that it creates a loose car when it’s on. The throttle creates a loose car when it’s on.

          The problem here is that the driver is not in control of the DRS as he is with the throttle. It’s on or off. And it’s whole purpose is to create an instant, dramatic effect on aero load. This is a particularly bad scenario for Monaco.

          Yes, tey get lots of money to drive, but humans have a finite reaction time. It’s a little silly to say, you get the money, so when the wing opens, you catch that slide like a big boy.

          What it says to me, is that Keith frames the wrong dilemma. The answer to the DRS versus Monaco argument is that DRS should be made continuously variable, at all times. That way, it’s down to skill and set up of the car.

          • TdM said on 24th May 2011, 10:16

            I agree with this comment completely – the issue is instant removal of downforce at speed whilst going around a curve, totally uncatchable.

            I actually like the fact that the drivers have asked for a ban in the tunnel – it kinda shows that they DO have big balls. They are basically saying – if you don’t ban it in the tunnel we are going to go out there and hit the button in the tunnel and see if it works. The reason they are asking for the ban is because they don’t know if it’s going to put them in the wall but if it’s there they WILL try it.

            It’s a big difference to most tracks because unlike turn 8 in turkey for example you don’t get a run-off. Have you seen accidents in that tunnel? They are usually harsh and a DRS accident in there would be very bad.

            I for one do not want to see big bad accidents – I’ve seen plenty in the past in this sport.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th May 2011, 10:24

            But again, what you’re saying here isn’t that DRS is unsafe, you’re saying that the corner is unsafe. There are plenty of other reasons why a driver might crash in the tunnel.

          • TdM said on 24th May 2011, 11:16

            I see what you are saying Keith, but I think it’s a combination of the two – the corner IS dangerous but the risks are reduced when DRS isn’t available.

            With DRS that is a VERY dangerous place to be – it won’t be any more dangerous once everyone has had a go or two on the button at that point but by then is it going to be too late… The first person to try it is playing Russian roulette and that is what I believe the drivers are trying to get rid of.

    • Babis1980 said on 17th May 2011, 18:20

      It is time to get THE answer to the most f1fanatic question ever : Will a f1 car drive upside down in a tunnel? I think that Webber will try it for sure!!!! He is more experienced than anyone else in the paddock …. I think that every driver will be extra careful in Monaco.

  2. The Dutch Bear (@the-dutch-bear) said on 16th May 2011, 8:41

    We all know that Monaco is unsafe. The only reason that Monaco is still on the calendar is because Monaco is the most prestigeous and glamourous Grand Prix of the year. The Grand Prix of Monaco is for F1 what the Super Bowl for American Football is. Monaco is in the same league as the Indy 500 and the 24 hours of Le Mans. Monaco is THE classic on the F1 calendar, even more than Spa and Monza.

    • Bigbadderboom said on 16th May 2011, 13:59

      Completely agree, Monaco no longer fits F1 in terms of technical requirements, the cars are too fast, the pits are too small, the track not wide enough and the chance of genuine overtaking is slim. But Monaco does fit the F1 profile perfectly, Wealth, glamour and over inflated egos bathing themselves in the most prestigious racing event. But it will always be on the calender, but modifying the regs to fit 1 race, seems a bit far for me. Perhaps turning the “anywhere, anytime” option off in quali and practice is the best solution. Just have one area on the track it can be used all weekend.

  3. tolgakaranlik said on 16th May 2011, 8:42

    I believe Barichello could escape from many incidents he involved, but on the contrary, he caused some of those incidents. When someone is complaining about safety in car racing, and if he is a driver, then it might be the most logical option for him to try to avoid incidents as much as he can. Unless I am mistaken, the manouver that he made to Rosberg two races ago was not the safest possible move there, as well as many other dangerous situations he caused in the past. So it makes no sense to me that he complains about safety now.

  4. Dan Selby said on 16th May 2011, 8:53

    I totally understand what he’s saying and take it on board, but the bottom line is, no one’s forcing anyone to use it.

    Theoretically, could the GPDA agree not to use it if they feel it’s unsafe?

    DRS must be activated by the driver – they are under no obligation.

    • topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 16th May 2011, 12:07

      This is exactly what I was going to propose. The GPDA is there for – among other things – the drivers to agree amongst themselves that the race is safe. In the past, there have been agreements that no-one would overtake at specific parts of a circuit; why can’t they simply say “OK – in practice and qualifying, we all agree not to use the DRS between the corners either side of the tunnel.” Simple.

  5. smifaye (@smifaye) said on 16th May 2011, 9:02

    It sounds like Barrichello doesn’t know where the DRS activation zone in the race is. It’s on the pit straight isn’t it?

    I know they can use DRS in the tunnel during practice and qualifying, but we didn’t hear drivers complaining about people using it on Turn 8 in Turkey, they just chose not to use it.

    I think F1 drivers are sensible enough to know and understand the limits of DRS.

    If you think about it, F1 cars are flat out through the tunnel without DRS. If they weren’t flat out, due to higher top speeds, you would see drivers lifting off to go through the tunnel. They aren’t stupid.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 16th May 2011, 20:38

      That was my thought as well, I was pretty sure that they announced the DRS zone as being on the pit straight, so its use through the tunnel will only be open in practice and qualifying where drivers can choose to use it at their discretion. Monaco has always been dangerous, but I don’t believe it’s become too dangerous for modern F1.

  6. F1iLike said on 16th May 2011, 9:03

    Monaco not safe for F1 argument doesn’t make sense. It is the DRS-zone that is messed up in that case. In Q the drivers decide themselves when to use DRS. If they want to use it through Copse on Silverstone, go ahead and crash. No one stops you. If you want to use it somewhere else where you can’t, go ahead. But if the DRS zone is indeed through the tunnel and that it can’t be used through there with race fuel, it’s stupid to put it there. It’s like putting the DRS zone through maggots/beckets-complex. Has nothing to do with the track not safe for F1.

  7. DVC said on 16th May 2011, 9:07

    I’m with Keith here.

    Accidents are possible at any time. With or without the DRS accidents happen, all that the DRS might do is increase the chance of an accident.

    The result of the accident will be the same whether DRS was in use or not though. Ok, on a very fast circuit you might be going 15 km/h faster, but in the tunnel at Monte-Carlo your speed couldn’t possibly be more than 5-10 km/h faster.

    Drivers have crashed in the tunnel before. Why would it be more dangerous if it was a DRS assisted accident?

  8. Dev said on 16th May 2011, 9:21

    it’s time that Monaco is dumped for better venues maybe another track in US or maybe in Russia. this venue is plain & boring..

    • Mike said on 16th May 2011, 11:17

      When you say “better” I assume you are talking about the corporate facilities?

      To call the Monaco anything but one of if not the most exciting track in the world for F1 is absurd.

    • DVC said on 16th May 2011, 11:23

      I look forward to Monaco more than any other race on the calendar.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 16th May 2011, 11:24

      Race in Monaco, a world famous race with wonderful history and intense challenge, or some soulless Tilkedrome in Russia? Are you aware of how dangerously silly your proposition is?

      • Alf said on 16th May 2011, 11:58

        Tilkedrome.. I like that lol

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 16th May 2011, 12:35

        Race in Monaco, a world famous race with wonderful history and intense challenge, or some soulless Tilkedrome in Russia? Are you aware of how dangerously silly your proposition is?

        You do realise the Sochi circuit planned for 2014 is directly modelled on Monaco, right? If you’ve seen the plans, the resemblance is obvious. In fact, Sochi was deliberately created as a high-speed version of Monaco.

        • King Six said on 16th May 2011, 13:34

          That’s what they’ve said about every other street track. New tracks will never be like Monaco, Spa, Monza and such because the FIA wouldn’t allow it. It’s the rules, not the Tilkes.

        • bananarama said on 16th May 2011, 14:20

          But Sochi is not Monaco, Pepsi isn’t Coke. Maybe Sochi will be great, but the history will stay in Monaco no matter how hard you try to copy it.

        • Isn’t Singapore the “high speed Monaco”? Or “modern, high-speed Monaco” if you will.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 16th May 2011, 18:16

          That’s a poor argument PM. Yeah, let’s race on some Monaco clone instead of the track we know and love. Even if it turns out to be better than Singapore (not too hard), it certainly shouldn’t replace the crown jewel of this sport.

        • Mike said on 16th May 2011, 22:13

          At what point do you think “directly modeled” actually means anything like it?

          Monaco is a one off.

    • smifaye (@smifaye) said on 16th May 2011, 11:35

      I can see where you are coming from, because sometimes people can dismiss Monaco because of it’s lack of overtaking, and this can put some people off.

      I for one absolutely love it, it is a true test of driver skill and it is a place where you can truly see where a driver is on the edge.

      Plain and boring – far from the truth I’d say. It’s exciting and intriguing. The fact the walls are so close means any mistake, and you lose your wing, or worse, a wheel. Every bit on the track is somewhere to lose time, rather than gain time.

      I think you are missing the point of Monaco, the history, the glamour, the pushing of limits.

    • Richard M said on 16th May 2011, 15:22

      If you had ever been, you certainly wouldnt say that.

    • MattW said on 17th May 2011, 9:55

      “this venue is plain & boring”? I’m guessing you’re new to Formula 1, Dev?

      If you are watching for overtaking you’re out of luck…

      But if you are watching for drivers pushing to the limits and being a hair’s width away from disaster lap after lap unlike any other circuit, then Monaco fits the bill.

      I’m starting to think Rubens needs to look for something else a bit more sedate in his old age

  9. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 16th May 2011, 11:27

    An interesting piece.

    The history, nostalgia and glamour of Monaco have been its savinng grace for as long as I can remember. I’ve always assumed that the race would always be on the calendar, but I thought the same thing about Spa and that was dropped a few years back. Perhaps a time will come when the F1 supremos say enough is enough and ax the Monaco GP, if it does it’ll be a sad day…

    • topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 16th May 2011, 12:12

      The Bahrain GP when it was new… and the Valencia GP around the Americas Cup marina… and the Abu Dhabi GP with its shiny hotel… and the Singapore GP…

      All of these were introduced as new potential “glamour” locations. Fact is, Monaco is Monaco.

    • DVC said on 17th May 2011, 13:43

      Monaco is the only race that doesn’t pay to be on the calendar. I think that tells you all you need to know about how willing the supremo’s will be to give it up.

  10. Jack Flash - Adelaide said on 16th May 2011, 11:46

    The activation of DRS system in Monte Carlo is a nonsense. There is no place (straight) long enough to activate the DRS with effectiveness for its intended purpose. Why would you enable DRS for no benefit to the racing, BUT thus take the risks associated with allowing removal Rear Drag/Downforce. This is only likely to enable greater potentials of serious loss of car control, with no racing upside.

    Monte Carlo is already treated very differently in rules and car setups. The Monaco GP is the highest downforce setup track of the year (by a big margin), just as Monza is the other end of the spectrum as the lowest downfoce track setup. The compromises the FIA make to keep the “Jewel in the F1 Crown” going for nastalgia and commercial reasons is already very clear for decades.

    Why would the FIA even think of giving the drivers, with competitive blood in the veins an option to ‘run the gauntlet’, when the PIRELLI boots and KERS are more than enough to give us an exciting race in the Principality.

    Risk management is not about being a sissy, it’s about taking risks that make a required payoff. A benefit that warrants the risk being taken. The FIA are supposed to know that. Rubens Barichello know this. JF

    • Woffin said on 16th May 2011, 12:16

      The Monaco GP is the highest downforce setup track of the year (by a big margin)

      I’m sure I’ve heard a fair few interviews where people have said the downforce level is actually greater in Singapore than in Monaco. At least in Singapore you’d have that big straight for the DRS though I guess.

    • agreed said on 16th May 2011, 12:21


    • Viz said on 16th May 2011, 12:36

      100% agree with you. If the most experienced driver in F1 thinks the circuit is too dangerous for F1 then the FIA should be taking it seriously. Hey I’d hate to see the race there cancelled but it should br up to the collective driver opinion.

      • bananarama said on 16th May 2011, 14:27

        Or as Schumacher likes to say: There are drivers and then there is Rubens. When did you hear him not complain about something?!

        Of course nobody would allow Monaco to have a race if it was a new track, it just isn’t up to standards but they try everything they can and maybe someone wi invent crash systems that wil mae it safe enough one day. Until then we will return to Monaco year after year no matter what.

        • Icemangrins said on 16th May 2011, 21:00

          Or as Schumacher likes to say: There are drivers and then there is Rubens. When did you hear him not complain about something?!


  11. maxthecat said on 16th May 2011, 12:07

    Ridiculous article, honestly Keith you can do better. Slow news week eh.

  12. VXR said on 16th May 2011, 12:07

    Monaco is an exception. How many of us would watch 20 Monaco type races? It’s a circuit that could see the DRS activated in areas where any accident could be serious. The DRS is something that cannot be adjusted by small amounts. It’s an On-off device. It’s a device that drastically shifts the balance of the car from rear to front in an unpredictable manner.

  13. topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 16th May 2011, 12:16

    As above, I think the GPDA might have to agree among themselves that the DRS shouldn’t be used in the tunnel, even in practice and qualifying when it’s allowed. That way, none of the drivers will succumb to the temptation to open it up.

    I just checked a long-range forecast and it looks lkike it might rain for Monaco anyway… that’d resolve the situation at a stroke, as there’s no DRS if it’s raining.

  14. UKfanatic (@) said on 16th May 2011, 12:30

    I don’t see things that way I think he is simply saying that DRS is unsafe for f1 not monaco, cars are made to race in monaco they must have good suspension and good lock to go through tight hairpins, so if cars are made for monaco that means that f1 is monaco instead of monaco being an f1 gp.

  15. jimclark1967 (@jimclark1967) said on 16th May 2011, 12:40

    In the ‘good ol’ days’ cars didn’t have wings at all. Drivers weren’t able to achieve laps with 80% full throttle or they’d crash.

    It’s not compulsory to drive through the tunnel or any other section of track flat out and the drivers should adjust their right foot and steering input in line with any lack of grip caused by the circuit conditions or by technical regulations.

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