New restrictions won’t put teams off passive DRS

F1 technologyPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Jerez, 2013For F1’s third season with Drag Reductions Systems the rules are getting a small but significant tweak. The DRS zones used during races will now operate during qualifying and practice as well.

That means drivers will no longer be chasing hundredths of a second in qualifying by daring to flip open their rear wing earlier than their rivals.

The change was provoked by concerns from drivers that it had become a safety problem: “I think it’s good,” said Mark Webber during last week’s test at Jerez.

“The drivers have been pushing for it for quite a while just to have the DRS in the sections in qualifying where we’d have it in the race.

“It didn’t really make any sense of the teams, the drivers, the fans to run on Friday and Saturday with the DRS open. It just adds a bit more risk and where we can manage that a bit better then why not?”

Not all the drivers were on board with the change: “I personally prefer using it everywhere,” said Lewis Hamilton, “but all the drivers want to use it less so that’s fine.”

However he doubts the change in rules will have a significant effect on the racing: “I drove with DRS and there’s not really much difference,” he said. “I was using it on the pit straight and on the back straight and there was no real difference.”

Knife-edge wings

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Jerez, 2013Lotus technical director James Allison agrees with Hamilton’s view: “I don’t think it is a sufficiently large difference from team to team.”

“Let’s say the top half of the grid, I don’t think there’s sufficient difference between the solutions from the various teams to cause much of a shuffling. There’ll be a little bit.”

Allison pointed out there is now less reward for pursuing more powerful Drag Reduction Systems: “DRS is sort of easy set-up-wise,” he explained. “It’s not tough.”

“What’s tough about DRS is rear wings used to be about the easiest thing on the car aerodynamically to do. Everyone had more or less the same rear wing and it just wasn’t an area of competitive advantage. You just had big ones for Monaco and small ones for Monza and in-between ones for everywhere else.

“With DRS you have to have a wing that produces reliable downforce but shifts a huge amount of drag when you switch it. And that means taking the wing much closer to the edge of stalling in normal operation than you would traditionally have done because that’s just a very obvious way of getting performance.

“The dilemma with that of course is that skirting to the very edge of stall with the wing means that things like bugs hitting the leading edge of the wing or a bit of a bit of rain or just misjudging it a bit in the wind tunnel means that your wing is not stable enough.

“And that’s where all the set-up difficulty is with the rear wing, it’s just getting the right compromise between stability and switch size. And the change to the DRS rules don’t affect that. All it does is de-power the effect of the DRS on lap time.

“So you could say that maybe there’s slightly less incentive to put a lot of effort into maximising the switch versus the stability. But there’s still lap time there, there’s still a competitive pressure to make this knife-edge wing which is difficult to do.”

Passive DRS

Teams have been banned from using DRS to cause stalling elsewhere on the car, as Mercedes did with their front wing using their Double DRS last year. However they may create ‘passive DRS’ by using the airflow over the car to stall a wing and increase the car’s straight-line speed.

This is fraught with difficulties, however, as the threshold speed at which the stalling should occur may vary from track to track and even throughout a race. And a sudden loss of downforce at high speed while cornering could cause a serious crash.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Jerez, 2013Nonetheless some teams plan to experiment with passive DRS during pre-season testing, including Mercedes. A new rear wing arrangement appeared on Hamilton’s car on Friday morning at Jerez which may be an early development of such a device.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve found the solution yet but we’ll be doing some work on it in the next few tests and we’ll see where we are,” said team principal Ross Brawn.

However he expects a breakthrough will be found: “We’re keeping it there, we’re still interested, we’re still doing some work but I wouldn’t say we’ve found absolutely the right solution yet and I think that seems to be what other people are experiencing.”

“We may see somebody find a solution and that will probably accelerate the development of the systems. But they’re pretty tricky.”

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