DRS and tyres: Has F1 got the balance right?

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai, 2013The 2013 season is the third year in which F1 has tried to produce better racing using the Drag Reduction System and having Pirelli produce tyres that degrade rapidly.

Both have undergone changes this year. Pirelli has produced a new generation of softer tyre compounds and almost every track will have two DRS zones this year.

However it has opened a debate over whether Formula One has gone too far in altering the sport to make it more entertaining. Has it got the balance right?


Following complaints from some drivers the Drag Reductions System can no longer be used freely during practice and qualifying this year.

To ensure it still has a significant effect, an extra DRS zone has been added at most tracks which previously only had one. The last three races all had one extra DRS zone compared to last year.

Has that made DRS too powerful – or not powerful enough? Do you think F1 has got the balance right? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

What effect is DRS having on F1 racing in 2013?

  • DRS is having a very positive effect on F1 (3%)
  • DRS is having a positive effect on F1 (32%)
  • DRS is having a neutral effect on F1 (11%)
  • DRS is having a negative effect on F1 (38%)
  • DRS is having a very negative effect on F1 (16%)
  • No opinion (0%)

Total Voters: 539

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In the previous two seasons with softer tyres we’ve tended to see lots of pit stops and strategic variety in the early races, but by the end of the season the teams understand the tyres better and one-stop races become more commonplace.

In response to that Pirelli have produced softer tyres this year. But concerns they may have gone too far, voiced by Red Bull among others, have led them to change the hard tyre to a more durable compound.

Are this year’s tyres too aggressive? Has the move towards softer compounds produced better racing since 2011? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

What effect are the current tyres having on F1 racing in 2013?

  • The current tyres are having a very positive effect on F1 (11%)
  • The current tyres are having a positive effect on F1 (30%)
  • The current tyres are having a neutral effect on F1 (11%)
  • The current tyres are having a negative effect on F1 (24%)
  • The current tyres are having a very negative effect on F1 (23%)
  • No opinion (0%)

Total Voters: 531

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177 comments on DRS and tyres: Has F1 got the balance right?

  1. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:12

    It’s had to judge when the FIA DOESN’T HAVE THE BALLS to avoid DRS at one race just to try what would happen. So the whole premise of the DRS being a temporary solution changed to being a permanent concept, nowadays.

    I say DRS has had it’s benefits. But they were often overshadowed by the complete lack of interest by the FIA in making it work properly. Or being clever with it. Putting a DRS zone at the Kemmel straight in Spa is nothing but plain stupid. A striaght that has seen plenty of overtakes even in the 2000’s and they put it there?

    Same with the 2 DRS zones but 1 activation point at Canada 2011. Surely FIA, one of the leading global organizations, can do better.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:44

      @fer-no65 I think the opening races (where we had the telemetry problem) would’ve been a prefect test bed for trying a race with Pirelli tyres and no DRS but it seems the FIA have their heads stuck firmly in the sand.

      I think DRS can be useful in certain places (Catalunya or the Hungaroring for example) but on the Kemmel straight or the back staright in Shanghai? That is just simply stupidity.

  2. Andrew81 (@andrew81) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:13

    People who think DRS has ruined the sport really ought to go back and watch a whole race from 2010 or before. Drivers got within 2 seconds and then couldn’t do anything, even if they were 1-2 seconds per lap faster. While we do have some easy passes, DRS often enables battles around other parts of the lap that just wouldn’t have happened before. Just take a look at how much racing there was in Bahrain this year around turns 4-8, where there wasn’t a DRS zone.

    As for the tyres, I think they may have gone too far this year, but I am willing to hold definitive judgment until the second half of the season. At the moment there’s too much tyre saving but once teams figure them out properly the racing might improve. Just look at last year, when people were crying about ‘cheese’ tyres and lotteries early in the season but by the end we had one-stop races.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:07

      For me it doesn’t matter that DRS enables battles around other parts of the track. DRS still influences the racing too much even if it means it helped set up some action elsewhere on the lap. It’s still interference by a gadget imho. Frankly I would rather they do other things, of which there are many, to avoid the processions and the inability for faster cars to get by slower cars due to their dirty air. There are other options that don’t result in the passer making effortless passes because his wing is open, and the defender look like he is standing still because he has a temporary disadvantage to the guy behind. That’s not my definition of F1. Passing because you have a gadget, or passing because the guy’s tires and your own are vastly different in condition. It’s makes it not about driver vs. driver.

      Stable tires, no DRS, and much less aero dependancy for me please. Let’s get back to driver vs. driver racing rather than lottery racing. I reject all claims that if we didn’t have DRS and degrady tires we would then by default have processions. There’s all kinds of shades of grey in between those two options that to me would look and feel a lot more like F1 should be.

      • Andrew81 (@andrew81) said on 4th May 2013, 0:10

        The thing about driver vs. driver racing is, it sounds like a great thing to aim for, but it’s an abstract notion that has never been consistently achieved. Sure, you can go through highlights reels and find isolated examples, but at the time you had to sit through many boring races to see them. You say there are many alternatives to what we have that aren’t artificial, so what are they? Less aero dependency would be great but would require a structural shift in the technological side of the sport which isn’t feasible, at least not in the short term.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 6th May 2013, 17:39

          Well I don’t profess to be an engineer, but it seems to me that F1 has, or at least had, an opportunity for 2014, while I assume the chassis are going to be different to adapt to the new engine concept, to do something such as raise the height off the ground that the underside must be, by half an inch for example. They could also reduce the amount of wing they can use by restricting further their shape or angle. Or even just raise the minimum height the underside of the front wing must be. They can eliminate rear diffusers all together. That’s just a few examples off the top from a non-engineer armchair fan, and given that there already seems to be a structural shift in the technology side with the reduction of carbon fibre aero bits all over the cars, reduction in the effectiveness of the rear diffusers and the exhaust surrounding it, elimination of refuelling stops, and the addition of DRS, I don’t see why it would be such a technological stretch to continue to work toward less aero dependancy.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:48

      @andrew81 I would agree with you except for the fact that we now have Pirelli tyres: I honestly don’t think both are needed and of the two I’d take the Pirelli’s, just slightly more conservative.

  3. Matthijs (@matthijs) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:22

    It’s pretty obvious to me: all tracks where it is virtually impossible to overtake without DRS all have serious flaws in track layout (Abu Dhabi, Catalunya, Valencia, Hungaroring etc). DRS covers the flaws a bit. Well balanced circuits that already provided good racing/overtaking before DRS, such as Spa, Suzuka, Silverstone, Malaysia need no DRS.

  4. Jason Ferguson (@jason5165) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:26

    I don’t think Formula 1 is supposed to be about which driver/team is the best manager of tyres. It’s Formula ONE. It’s about who is the fastest, surely. Why not put grooves back in the tyres and the winner can be the one with the greatest tread depth? When saving tyres is so crucial it’s affecting Qualifying, it’s gone too far. I want to see driver’s being able to push their cars to the limit.

  5. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:30

    The tires are close, the softs could be a bit more durable and the tire formula would be pretty decent.

    DRS is not all bad. It helps to eliminate the processions behind slower cars that faster cars are unable to pass due to dirty air. The scrapped 2014 aero regs would be a better solution, but if DRS is to stay it should be better implemented. Less or no DRS at tracks that don’t need it. Better implementation of activation points and shorter durations of DRS zones would be better.

  6. PhilEReid (@philereid) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:47

    I’m of the opinion that we need one and not the other. Personally, I’d rather see DRS but with the old Bridgestone tyres. We didn’t see much close quarter stuff because it was almost impossible to follow in the wake of another car. DRS would solve that.

    Alternatively, we could have no DRS and these current tyres (albeit slightly more conservative so that it’s the same number of pit-stops, but the drivers can push). It would be interesting to see how that goes.

    Just once this season I’d love to see FIA say that there is to be no DRS for a single race, and see how it unfolds. I think we’d see less people trying to pull away as much to escape DRS, so it could, theoretically, be a much closer field whilst racing.

  7. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:49

    I think they had it right in 2011, and it’s slowly gotten a bit much since then. I think we (or the guys making the rules) need to keep considering what F1 would be like without DRS. Because I don’t think we need it to make the sport more entertaining any more – nor do the casual fans.

    I’ll await till mid season till I pass my judgment on the tyres. Last year it was much less of a dictator during the races by that point, and a lot had it figured out.

  8. Dusty in California (@dusty-in-california) said on 3rd May 2013, 18:55

    I remember a few years ago (before both DRS and Pirelli) watching lap after lap of cars circulating in position, completely unable to pass. Even if a car was visibly quicker, once it got into the dirty air, it lost its advantage. There was one particularly famous 30+ lap episode, maybe with Massa, but it happened all. the. time. A driver would get close, but never close enough to pass and they’d finish the race like that.

    I am confused why someone would want to return to that. Can those of you so against the tires and DRS give me an honest answer why you think eliminating them wouldn’t return us right back to no passing?

    • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:10

      Can those of you so against the tires and DRS give me an honest answer why you think eliminating them wouldn’t return us right back to no passing?

      There was plenty of passing prior to 2013. Tyres made of cheddar cheese are not a requirement for passing.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:43

        The options do not have to be either gadgets and phoniness or processions. There is lots they can do to reduce their aero dependancy like taking away rear diffusers, limiting their wing shapes and sizes, perhaps they could require the cars be a further half inch higher off the ground underneath, or some argue the opposite in that ground effects are the answer and less wing. Sure I agree that if you hardened up the tires and took away DRS without reducing their dependancy on wings and downforce they’d be back to processions, but as I say there is tons of middle ground in between.

        JV used to argue back in the day of grooved tires for the return of the big fat slicks they had in the 70’s. Not only did they provide tons of mechanical grip, but they also created so much drag down the straights that in order to achieve any kind of respectable straight-line speeds you had to run less wing. So that would kill two birds with one stone. Mechanical grip plus less wing and therefore less dependancy on downforce and less disturbance of your car when in dirty air. They had confidence back then to pull out and attempt passes by the seat of the pants, not by gadgets that make the job too easy like DRS does, and on tires that they fear killing just by trying to pass someone or by trying to defend.

      • Dusty in California (@dusty-in-california) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:45

        So you would be OK with 2012-spec DRS and tires?

        • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:13


          The tyre question posed was “What effect are the current tyres having on F1 racing in 2013?”

          I get the impression a lot of people are responding to some very different question of their own creation, one which perhaps looks like: ‘Do you like the Pirelli tyres of the last few years more than the tyre situation as it existed in the early 2000’s?”

          In fact I see several commenters who explicitly say they voted “positive” on the tyre question even though they think the 2013 tyres have gone too far, on the grounds that they like the “Pirelli era” in general. Which is not actually responsive to the question which the poll asked.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:19

            The effect for me of the current tires is that most of the passing we see cannot be trusted to be a driver vs. driver competition but rather an advantaged drivers vs. a disadvantaged driver competition not due to one being more skilled than the other but due to one driver being on tires in a totally different state than the other or because one is forced to drive to delta times, far too often in the races. Or by DRS. In what is supposed to be the pinnacle of racing.

          • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:51

            @jonsan good point actually: overall I like the Pirelli tyres, but I feel that the 2012 ones would be better than these. So in that case, I disagree on that account that they are beneficial to the sport.

      • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd May 2013, 23:47

        @robbie I think the best way to curtail dirty air is to use ground effects and then simply remove front wings, and limit the rear wings to single elements. That way, we don’t have the stupid aero-sensitive, unnecessarily complicated, multi-element wings we have now which cost a fortune to develop.

        With the ERS systems in place from 2014, we can then remove DRS entirely and toughen up the tyres a notch, so we still have that element of strategy which I think is key but there is also an abundance of flat-out racing.

        I live in a dream world though… ;)

  9. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:07

    The tyres are atrocious. If the FIA wants more pit stops (as they evidently do) than they should simply require that every car make some mandatory minimum number of pit stops per race. That way we’d get the strategy involved with multiple pit stops plus we’d see a bit more actual racing.

    Claims that “tyres have always been a part of F1″ sail right past the point. Engines have always been a big part of F1 as well – it does not follow that the FIA should require all engines to be less reliable than they currently are because unpredictable breakdowns would add to “the spectacle”. Or does it? Based on some of the opinions I see here, it sounds like engines deliberately designed to be unreliable might go over very well with some people.

  10. pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:20

    DRS, get rid of this nonsense.

    Tyres, produce a tyre that can last the distance but if pushed too hard drops off. But comes back after a cool down period.

    Let the drivers drive, not manage. If I wanted to watch a bunch of managers I’d attend our board meetings more regularly.

  11. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:30

    I’ve never felt that “one stop races” are the bane of Formula One and a problem which urgently requires correction. Where did this idea come from anyway?

    But if they really are such a problem, simply mandate that every car must make a minimum of two pit stops per race. Then make tyres which actually work. Result: we get to see pit stop strategy and we also get to see drivers pushing to the limit a little more often.

    • Craig Woollard (@craig-o) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:06

      @jonsan Not really. If the tyres lasted forever (like in the Bridgestone days), we would see basically a three-stage race, similar to the two-stage race we had back in 2007-2009, where positions would all be determined after a driver made their only stop.

      • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:31

        Sounds like you’re basically saying that it’s a bad thing if the finishing order in a race is determined by the order of the fastest car/driver combo.

        Absent reliability issues and driver errors, we should expect that in general (1) the starting grid would be in order of the fastest drivers/cars, that (2) the order at the pit stop (or stops) would reflect the faster drivers/cars, and (3) the finishing order would reflect the order of the faster drivers/cars. That is the entire purpose of a race, after all. If we’re going to start making rules to try to prevent this from happening then we’re getting away from racing and moving towards theater.

  12. @Adorimedia (@adorimedia) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:48

    Due to the shrinking margins between cars/laptimes, to see more “pure racing/ overtaking” do we now need 2km+ long straights?

    Or DRS.

    and/or degrading tyres?

  13. andae23 (@andae23) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:50

    The main complaint I have against DRS is that it’s unfair: the driver trailing has an advantage over the car in front, which just seems wrong to me. One way to make this more fair is to give the drivers a certain amount of ‘DRS seconds’, which I still don’t like as it’s still artificial.

    Regarding the Pirellis: today I read some stories about Grands Prix from the 1950s. For instance there was the 1956 Italian GP: the Ferrari drivers Musso, Castellotti and De Portago didn’t put any effort in preserving their tyres. And within six laps, all three drivers either had to come in and change tyres, or in De Portago’s case crashed out following tyre delamination. Fangio on the other hand had put some effort in conserving his Ferrari’s tyres. As a result, he probably could have done the 60-lap race on one set of tyres (he hit mechanical troubles after 17 laps).

    What I’m trying to say: conserving the tyres is nothing new. Only because the teams are able to understand the tyres better (because of all sorts of measuring tools and simulations), they are able to give their drivers target laps. So it’s unfair to blame the ‘target lap’ thing on the current Pirellis.

    I voted the Pirellis have a neutral effect: like many comments on this article say, I think the tyre degradation is a bit too much, but essentiall it really isn’t all that bad.

    • @Adorimedia (@adorimedia) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:54

      andae23 I agree re tyres.

      But e DRS: didn’t a trailing car always have an advantage with the slipsteam effect anyway? The aero on modern F1 cars has negated that. DRS brings it back.

      • Craig Woollard (@craig-o) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:04

        @adorimedia I completely agree! DRS should though be adjusted to give back the disadvantage of running in dirty air behind a driver, rather than give them the chance to be past any driver regardless half way down the straight.

        • @Adorimedia (@adorimedia) said on 3rd May 2013, 22:50

          Yep, I see what you mean and it would be great to have the device as accurate as that. But I’m not sure that any car can pass any other down a straight. Its still the faster cars that will pass the (slightly) slower ones in front. Slower cars struggle to pass faster cars.

          Overall, what’s happened over the past 30-40 years is that in order to make the playing field more equal (fairer) and reduce costs, rules to level the playing field (somewhat) have been introduced. Initially this is seen as the way forward by teams and fans alike because everyone wants a level playing field. But when that happens, and particularly when huge resources/budgets are in play and at stake, then the point of difference becomes smaller. It becomes harder to achieve. It also becomes more expensive to achieve especially when loopholes are closed as quickly as they are in this era. Thats where F1 is now. Progress directs engineers to focus on an area that hasn’t been focussed on before, simply to gain that 10th advantage. In this day and age an “advantage” is 10ths of a second. 20-30 years ago it was more than that.

          The rule makers do listen to the fans and try to spice it up – hence the tyres/DRS. I’m not saying I agree with it, but i understand why we’ve got to where we are. And if we didn’t have it, F1 would be back to where it was in 2004 – before we had as many forums to voice our displeasure.

      • andae23 (@andae23) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:21

        @adorimedia – DRS is indeed intended to artificially induce ‘slipstreaming’, but the reality is that on most occasions the trailing car is able to just sail past. The difference between DRS and slipstreaming is that slipstreaming always switches off at exactly the right moment, while DRS (under current regulations) doesn’t understand the difference between driving behind, ahead or alongside a car.

        I would say: if you want to have a DRS system that perfectly simulates ‘slipstreaming’, don’t overcomplicate it and do what the FIA initially wanted, which is tweak the aero regulations to optimize slipstreaming (for intance: separate the rear wing into two parts on top of the rear wheels). But… unfortunately they postponed these regulation changes to 2017 (originally it was 2014) and to be honest, I don’t have much hope for that either.

    • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:59

      Tyres in the 1950’s were the best they could be. Nobody was deliberately putting bad tyres on the cars back then to try to create an artificial challenge for the drivers and teams.

      he hit mechanical troubles after 17 laps

      That was also an inherent limitation of the cars of the period. If we’re going to pit rapidly degrading tyres on the cars to ‘spice things up”, why don’t we likewise put rapidly degrading engines and other mechanical parts in them for the same reason?

      • @Adorimedia (@adorimedia) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:07

        Firstly, I would guess its cheaper to make the tyres degrade and easier to maintain/police than an engine or a gearbox. Because if we put rapidly degrading “everythings” on cars, websites would be filled even more with disgruntled fans.

        Re 1950s: No one had the resources to look into the tyres back in those days. It was a challenge in itself to get the car to the finish line mechanically. Thats where R&D was directed (if at all). Its the price of progress…

    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:43

      The main complaint I have against

      That’s not correct English, is it? :/

  14. Juan Pablo Heidfeld (@juan-pablo-heidfeld-1) said on 3rd May 2013, 19:52

    I voted positive for both. DRS in the last race was very good, brought the driver close enough to challenge, if they were clearly faster they passed, if only slightly then it put them side by side.

  15. Craig Woollard (@craig-o) said on 3rd May 2013, 20:01

    I think DRS has been good for Formula 1. I do however think the current regulations are not great. I preferred the regulations regarding DRS from 2011 and 2012.

    Tyres on the other hand, I think have been fantastic for the sport. The only issue is, there has to be some compromise, either you make tyres really durable and then drivers can push like mad in quali, but only make 1 stop every race, or make them not last so long and have the problem we have today regarding having to only push 75-80% as oppose to perhaps 90-95% (and sometimes 100% if your name was Schumacher and you managed to make a 4-stop work) we had in the Bridgestone era.

    2011 and 2012 were fantastic years racing-wise, but perhaps some people are getting ‘bored’ of how F1 currently is. People didn’t mind Schumacher winning in 2000 and 2001 (the latter by some margin) but 2002 was silly and deterred a lot of people. Arguably it was similar in the ’90s when Williams was dominating, though I am a bit young to remember that. F1 is all about evolution and innovation as well as sorting out the legendary drivers from the great drivers from the above average drivers, and remember we have all these regulations coming in for 2014. None of the first 4 races have been an absolute classic, though the first half of Malaysia was fantastic, and then all of a sudden everybody is saying F1 has become boring or that Vettel wins every race because the tyres are messed up or something along those lines.

    Despite all this I do feel something does need changing regarding both DRS and tyres, but there’s absolutely no way whatsoever that (be warned, I’m about to defend the FIA here) whatever changes are made will please everybody, so really the FIA are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If F1 is ‘boring’ at the start of 2014, then I will worry, but at the moment I’m not concerned about the state of it.

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