Asanator, I did say “if other factors are anything like equal”, and indicate large car superiority, tyre wear and DRS-zone savviness as three factors that re-introduced inequality. As a result not every battle was ever going to result in the effect initiating, especially once some drivers started cottoning on about the importance of DRS-savviness and tyre wear. Examples of the effect happening despite that include (note I have listed each occurence by beneficiary(ies)):
China: Mark Webber and Tonio Liuzzi
Turkey: Vitaly Petrov, Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello
Canada: Nearly the entire midfield that was left standing by this point was affected by this, from positions 6 (Felipe Massa) to 11 (Nico Rosberg). Of these, Massa, Jaime Alguersuari, Rubens Barrichello and Sebastien Buemi benefitted from the effect. The last-lap pass by Button doesn’t count as it was a combination of Sebastian Vettel spinning and DRS helping Jenson Button get to the scene to take advantage (which is not the specific effect Asanator was asking about).
Europe: Vitaly Petrov
Germany: Sebastian Vettel
Belgium: Felipe Massa
Singapore: Felipe Massa
Japan: Pastor Maldonado
Korea: Jaime Alguersuari, Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi
Abu Dhabi: Jenson Button
Total occurences of effect counted by beneficiaries: 18 in 18 races
Races where no incidences of “becomes a question of who is behind and in the zone before the last DRS zone of the race” (8): Australia, Malaysia, Spain, Monaco, Britain, Hungary, Italy, India. Several of these were tracks where the pro-DRS brigade didn’t think the DRS was powerful enough and a couple of others (Monaco, Britain) were subject to unusual circumstances that ended up reducing overtaking at the end of the race in general.
Maybe it’s more noticeable for me because I often focus on the midfield, where serious car superiority is less likely to be a factor than the front of the pack. But an average of once per race is definitely significant. It’s more common than a Vettel victory at the moment, put it that way…
“Serious superiority” for a single-DRS zone race means 0.5 seconds per lap; this is guaged on the basis that it is difficult to get closer than 0.5 seconds to the car ahead in normal running due to the dirty aero effect that DRS was introduced to combat, and getting more than 1 second away by the next DRS zone breaks the battle. For a multi-DRS zone race, it’s more complex; the amount of superiority needed is 0.5 seconds in the longest distance between zones. If two DRS zones are within the same quarter of the lap, for example, then “serious superiority” means 0.67 seconds per lap as there is only 3/4 of a lap to get the advantage back (the zero-sum effect induced by the two DRS zones cancels out the effect the 1/4 lap bounded by their zones).
Statistically, cars are more likely to finish where they started, adjusting for retirements, this year than last. That indicates that a lot of the overtakes that are happening are simply reversals of previous passes, hence “zero-sum” overtaking. I have yet to see any evidence that any car this year has broken away from a battle it wouldn’t have broken away from in 2010, except for cases where a skilful driver might have been able to fend off a potentially-somewhat-faster rival.
In 2010 nobody saw any need to save tyres in qualifying… …because they knew that it was possible to make good progress without resorting to such extremes. Now they do, because they know they’ll be stuck in battles for the same position because of the DRS. The tyres being the most reliable method of breaking off the battle. Allowing tyre changes doesn’t help because the wear the tyres take is such that it’s become a decisive factor. DRS is completely relevant because it takes away the other methods of improving position.
Paul wouldn’t have needed to “let” Sebastien Buemi through in the race in 2010 because there would have been a point in protecting the position. Either he would have successfully defended the position and prevented an overtake, or Sebastien would have passed him once and had done with it. There would have therefore been 0 or 1 overtaking moves total, while this weekend there were 2 per lap from him for several laps, purely because of DRS generating pointless overtakes.