Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Shanghai International Circuit, 2017

Should F1 tweak DRS to make passing easier?

Debates and pollsPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Formula One could tweak the Drag Reduction System to make overtaking easier in the coming races.

The FIA said it would look into whether changes needed to be made following last week’s Chinese Grand Prix.

But while the total number of passes has fallen compared to last year, is it a good thing if overtaking has become more difficult? And is fiddling with DRS the best way to respond?

For

Although there was more overtaking in China after the almost passing-free Australian Grand Prix, much of this came about because of the variable conditions and Safety Car periods at the start of the race which put faster cars behind slower ones.

DRS helped to create several passes on the approach to the turn 14 hairpin. It also facilitated overtaking elsewhere on the track by bringing cars closer together.

However some drivers spent several laps stuck behind rivals, unable to make a pass. The increased turbulence from the 2017 cars has made it harder for them to follow each other closely.

At present DRS can only be used when one car is within a second of another. Increasing that time delay could make it work more effectively and increase overtaking.

Against

China struck a good balance: overtaking wasn’t too easy but nor was it completely impossible. So instead of rushing into further changes after just two races, F1 should take the time to see how the next rounds unfold.

The role DRS played in creating a good race on Sunday has been exaggerated. Differences between tyre compounds, and particularly the rate at which they warmed up, created plenty of action after the Safety Car period.

DRS had little to no effect on the passes at turn six, including Sebastian Vettel’s celebrated move on Daniel Ricciardo. Therefore we should continue to see good passes at later races without resorting to more DRS changes.

And DRS continues to make some overtaking moves far too easy. For teams like McLaren with their lack of horsepower, DRS turns the difficult task of keeping cars behind into an impossibility.

I say

It seems to me the new generation of rules has made overtaking more difficult in some ways. And I don’t expect that to improve at some of the circuits which are coming up soon such as the dire Sochi and the spectacular-but-procession-inducing Catalunya and Monaco.

But I’ve never thought DRS was a good solution to F1’s problems and that hasn’t changed. Nor do I like the panicky, knee-jerk rules changes which have become depressingly familiar in F1 over recent seasons.

I think the full impact of this year’s new rules still isn’t fully understood and may not be for several races. I think now is the time for patience.



Twitterers say

You say

Should F1 make changes to DRS to aid overtaking? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree F1 should tweak DRS to make overtaking easier in 2017?

  • Strongly agree (7%)
  • Slightly agree (8%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (8%)
  • Slightly disagree (18%)
  • Strongly disagree (58%)
  • No opinion (1%)

Total Voters: 226

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  • 57 comments on “Should F1 tweak DRS to make passing easier?”

        1. +1002

    1. Neither agree or disagree. I wouldn’t change anything for tracks like China or Spa.

      But for the harder tracks to pass on I would make the DRS slightly more powerful – that would be Russia, Spain, Monaco, Britain, Hungary, Singapore and Mexico.

      1. I pretty much agree with this. The problem is they never tweaked it down at tracks where it was too powerful, so with the new cars it’s probably about right.

        Of course I’d rather they did away with it completely, but that requires a redesign of the aero regulations (which hopefully Ross is working on right now), so for now it’s a necessary evil in my opinion.

        1. +1 Very well summarized.

    2. F Truth (@offdutyrockstar)
      12th April 2017, 17:05

      I think DRS becomes a crux for drivers to lean on. Why try that risky do or die manoeuvre if you can just wait a lap and sail past on the straight? What we saw in China was the beginning of a different mindset, a mindset that Max has had naturally as a byproduct of being fairly new to the sport. There’s a lot to be said for limiting beliefs and their effect upon performance! Leave it as is and work towards eliminating it altogether. DRS passes are neither skillful to execute nor exciting to watch.

      1. I agree. I rather watch a race with a lot of tense fights and maybe only 5 highly skilled overtakes than a race with 100 overtakes which are mostly fly by DRS passes.

        Apart from that: Let’s first wait and see. Only 2 races have passed including one in unusual circumstances and one on a circuit where there never have been many (quality) overtakes. If we have to, than just talk about this halfway into the season.

      2. Exactly this @offdutyrockstar. We could see how the drivers started to find their way around others already, I am sure that other drivers will try and find ways too. And if not, the classic “staying in their mirrors until they make a mistake” to pass seems to be a viable strategy as well, and it feels a lot more satisfying than just breezing past.

    3. Neil (@neilosjames)
      12th April 2017, 17:09

      I still don’t think we’ve seen enough to make a decision on this, so I went for neither agree nor disagree.

      Melbourne was… well, Melbourne. It did seem even worse than usual for following closely, but overtaking is always difficult there and it’s a bit of an atypical, weird circuit… so it’s not a race I’d ever read too much into.

      China, on the other hand, was a race made for passing – damp start, cars out of position due to qualifying/strategy, highly favourable Sector 1 layout that provided decent opportunities for brave drivers into a non-DRS corner (Turn 6). Again, not a race I’d use for making a decision.

      We haven’t had a straightforward, garden variety grand prix yet, so I hope the powers that be wait until (at least) after Sochi before deciding on whether anything needs changing.

      1. I totally agree with this comment. To early to tell.

    4. Here’s a tweak: get rid of it

    5. I would say that DRS is finally working as intended. I don’t think those who run the sport ever intended for it to be Turkey 2011 style motorway overtaking. It was meant to keep fights alive. The short straight before the back straight in China was always where I thought they should have put DRS also just before the hairpin in Canada. These shorter straights before long ones means overtaking is realistic and genuine. All good overtakes into T4 on Sunday were the result of DRS on the straight followed by a tight corner. I hate DRS but with the current cars it’s necessary and working. Give it time.

    6. The guy who said “F1 fans wanted less DRS passes, more proper overtaking, they get that, and STILL moan. Strewth. Never, ever happy” on Twitter took the words out of my mouth. Some people are never happy, so should we always be trying to appease them? A few cases in point:

      People want “real racing” and less DRS flybys. The rules are changed in 2017, resulting in the drivers having to work harder than they have had to in recent years to make a pass. People complain there aren’t enough overtakes.

      People hate the “designed to degrade” Pirelli’s. F1 asks Pirelli to make more durable tyres. People complain that there aren’t enough pitstops.

      People want midfield teams and drivers to be able to win races and for there to be multiple winners. 2012 gives us 7 winners in the first 7 races. People complain that F1 is artificial and that results are too random.

      1. The flyby’s were always because of the tyres. Never because of DRS.

      2. @geemac Ever considered the possibility that it wasn’t the same fan complaining?

        For example, a lot of people were complaining that the tyres degraded too quickly during previous seasons. I wasn’t one of them because I enjoyed the strategy battles and tyre management skills of drivers like Perez and Verstappen last year.
        When F1 announced the 2017 tyres would be harder and more durable I personally feared that races would become 1 stop processions. Then Australia happened and I ‘complained’.

        So yeah in both situations fans complained, but they weren’t the same people and didn’t agree on the specific topic to begin with.

      3. @geemac
        At least all the people you mention are complaining about legitimate f1 subjects. You are complaining just as badly…. and your subject? People on twitter…

        Be the change you seek… and let’s all stop complaining.

        1. I do try to “be the change”, which is why I rarely complain and I am sure you can look at my posts on this forum over the years to prove that. My annoyance is at people who call themselves fans and who just complain for the sake of complaining. I have no social media presence because I refuse to engage with people like that. This community is fantastic and is full of passionate fans who discuss issues in a reasoned and measured way, that’s why I comment here.

          I am old enough and ugly enough to have seen this sport change several times over the decades I have followed it, in good ways and in bad, so I rarely complain and I always see the glass as half full. I love this sport above all else and stick with it regardless of the rule changes. I just wish others would too.

    7. I feel DRS should be delayed for cars behind by around 7 seconds. However they should not be allowed to pass if they use DRS in that lap.

      1. That’s just ridiculous. It’s really bizarre how this site keeps people dumb on what DRS does.

        DRS is to help cars get those few meters closer to overcome the loss of downforce and hence speed when a following car gets close enough to attempt an overtake. Back in the days cars needed to be well over 2 seconds up to 3 seconds a lap faster to even be able to try an overtake. DRS was designed to lower that threshold.

        It’s completely pointless to do that when the attacking car is 7 seconds back since they are faster already. Otherwise they wouldn’t be up for an overtake anyway.

        Closing up is not the issue. It’s just that they can’t get closer than around a second. So they will never be able to overtake.

        The ideae behind it is similar to the slipstreaming we had F1 in the seventies or eighties. That was at times actually a much bigger effect. Cars would get such a massive advantage from the slipstream that cars would be swapping positions over a few laps time and time again. The lead car just couldn’t get away.

        1. I want close racing, DRS pass rule must go.

    8. Too early to tell. Melbourne is not a passing circuit. In china we had cars out of positions because of the early mixed track conditions. Two races is not enough data to make any kind of decision and personally I’d like to see at least 4 dry races before even thinking about making any changes. Not all tracks are very good for overtaking which needs to be kept in mind.

      Ideally I think a pass is a process that lasts several laps and doesn’t always lead into successful overtaking. It is more about building up to it. Can he do it, can he defend, will he attempt more harsher move or will he ever get into position where he can try making a move. It is about those battles on track where one driver is able to succesfully defend and get back his position. It is all those things that we are missing from drs passes where one driver simply presses a button and moves ahead before the next braking zone. What could have been a great battle was simply a boring anti-climax instead of possible great ballet of overtaking and defensive driving.

      In china the overtaking was excellent. It was truly a sport where the position change was really earned on merit. Not given on silver platter. But it remains to be seen whether it was the environmental conditions that created those overtakings or whether melbourne in reality was more descriptive of the difficult of overtaking.

      But no matter what happens the way it was in china is the way it should be.

    9. DRS doesn’t need adjusting – it needs to be killed, as do all other measures designed to “improve” the show. F1 was watchable long before television and Ecclestone decided to make money from it and it remains slightly watchable even after so many years of tinkering by idiots.

    10. Absolutely not at all.

      Seeing highway style passes doesn’t make a bad track a better one suddenly. I get zero joy out of it.

      When it was first introduced, it was quite the novelty seeing cars passing left and right, but the teams know too much now, and that always ruins things. Plus, the designed to degrade tyres didn’t exactly help in the defending driver attempting to, well, defend.

      But I’ve loved seeing DRS almost nullified in the past 2 races (it was never any good in Melbourne, anyway). It feels like proper F1 again. The cars are mean, and I want to see drivers following (which they seem to be able to, to a certain degree) and calculating how to make the move, if they’ve got the bottle to!

    11. It’s definitely worth saying that the new durable tyres have had as big an impact on overtaking as anything. With the old designed-to-degrade formula there were huge performance differences at any given time in a race, making overtaking far more likely. A more powerful DRS won’t change that at all.

      For me, I’ve always said that the best races are always circumstantial. When I look at the top 10 Rate the Race scores, 9 of them were affected by variable weather, the championship situation, a well-timed safety car, or frontrunners suffering some sort of misfortune. Those things can’t (and shouldn’t!) be engineered into a race.

      As for DRS, we clearly don’t need it. I don’t think it adds very much, it just takes away some of the satisfaction when overtakes do happen. I’m for quality over quantity any day.

    12. Ferrari, Seb fan
      12th April 2017, 18:00

      Simple answer. NO

    13. I could live with it either way. But I do fully expect a good portion of those who are voting “strongly disagree” on this poll here to give low ratings throughout the season, as the majority of tracks are harder to overtake on than the Shanghai-circuit, Verstappen won’t allways start from the back and the track won’t be wet at that many starts. Also the teams will get their heads around the tyres and strategies, so we’re in for a couple of races of nearly nothing happening after lap 1 other than a short pit-stop-phase. That’s ok if you’re ok with watching F1 being a soothing experience at times, but the rate-the-race-scores will go down. Those often don’t match with the comments, e.g. the jump up when introducing DRS/tyre-deg in 2011 and the enourmously high ratings for races like China 2011, which look average when watched now but were just so much more action than what people were used to back then. Whether we want it or not (I could certainly live without), but I don’t see the slightest chance of F1 not tinkering with DRS for the next 2-3 years, before any bigger solutions can come in.

    14. I’m totally against DRS at all.

      I voted strongly disagree because I don’t want the influence of DRS getting bigger. And I don’t like rule changes mid season.

    15. Fabien Heitz
      12th April 2017, 18:17

      I agree with a response above the DRS should not be changed at all tracks; only at the ones where it is already very difficult to pass. There could even be clever ways to use it outside of the typical zones, so whenever a car is within 1 second at any point on the track. This would work because the car behind would not be able to stay in that zone permanently anyway (overheating, destroying tires), but it could help the chasing car get closer to the leading car in other areas. And then, immediately the passed car would have DRS to attempt a pass back.

      My main reasons for wanting easier (read: more feasible) passing are twofold:
      1) It makes for better racing
      2) It compensates for the increased variability that has been brought to the starts

      On point #2 above, I would have no issue with the increased start variability if passing were feasible in the race. However, because it is not, it essentially takes the reward of a well-deserved qualifying position into a lottery, from which it’s difficult to recover. One only needs to look at last year at the battles between Lewis and Nico, where the winner was often the one who got the better start. Well, the winner of a race should not be dictated by a start.

    16. It seemed to me the teams had learnt a lot from the Melbourne GP, so cars were better at following at Shanghai than they were in Melbourne. I think that when the new aerodynamic packages start to arrive then we will find the cars will be racing much closer than they are now, although not as close as they were with the previous generation of cars.
      I voted “Neither agree or disagree” simply because I think it is too early to be changing things when we aren’t sure of the outcome of the current rules.

    17. No!
      Passes like Vettel on Ricciardo are worth 100 DRS passes each.

      1. DRS helped vettel get close enough to be able to make that move…

    18. DRS isn’t the overtaking we want to see. I don’t care what the statistics are at the end of a race for passes. I don’t want to watch a faster car be able to breeze past a slower one. I’d sooner sit and watch a bunch of laps with a car jostling behind another, having a sneaky peak at passing but not managing it until eventually we either see the outcome of a skilled passing manoeuvre or some skilled defensive driving.

      That’s what DRS robs us of, we just see a car blitz past on the straight, I might as well stand on a motorway gantry cheering the heroes of the fast lane. With DRS when it’s effective we miss all the defensive driving, all the lining an overtake up carefully, all the canny driving of either keeping a position or gaining one. It turns it into ‘my cars faster in a straight line, seeya!’. I’d sooner see no overtaking than that.

    19. I don’t know if it’ll make it easier or not, but I think the drivers should be able to use DRS anywhere even if they aren’t behind anyone.
      I feel like this will encourage risk-taking drivers into driving as fast as possible.

      1. I wonder how much this would impact fuel economy? I mean the powers that be bleat on about road relevance. Active aero is road relevant and I bet it would save a chunk of fuel over driving in full drag mode the entire race.

    20. Limit the amount of times they can use it in a race, like IndyCar … but they can use it anywhere, so it becomes more tactical.

      Also, get rid of the barge boards and T-wings, limit the number of decks and aero elements allowed in the front wing, and open the development of the ‘s’ ducts.

      Done.

    21. Yes.
      Tweak it to the point where pushing the DRS button does absolutely nothing. But don’t tell the drivers.

    22. I think, F1 should tweak DRS – just get rid of it. Chinese race showed us that DRS is not_needed. This dozen of passes by Seb, Max and Perez was way more exsiting than last year’s “181 passes”. And there was also much more action – look for Magnussen’s first lap on Youtube for example – which didn’t make it on the screens for some reason. And this is actually the real problem, old same problem. “Poor and boring F1 showing” is not because of the cars, or rules, or aero. Poor showing is literally because of poor showing – bad camera placement (zooming camera facing the straights ise the most stupid), bad TV editing and directing, which lefts plenty of action unseen.
      And I always thought that the tracks are also quite a reason. Good tracks provide oporrtunities for overtaking, and it shouldn’t be just plain outbraking or passes on straights only (and DRS provides only these).

      1. @hoshino Wow, you just made a huge contradiction in the first sentence. Tweak it, but also get rid of it. Or did you mean “shouldn’t tweak”?

        While I agree with you that almost every pass in China was exciting to watch, I don’t agree that the 181 passes in 2016 were any less exciting. Well, not all of them of course, but there were lots of great overtaking manoeuvres in 2016, I can name 11 very special overtakes in Brazil for instance. ;-)

    23. I think drivers should be free to use DRS everywhere at any time. And while we’re at it active suspensions for all. It would be fun to see people get it wrong and lose the rear because they’re a fraction late hitting the button to open/close the slats.

      1. Active suspension will only make the car more grounded and sticky. Not snappier when getting it wrong.

        1. I think he’s referring to the DRS everywhere in terms of people getting it wrong, and i agree. except that it should still be required for you to be within a certain time of the car ahead, else it won’t be negating the time lost in dirty air, and the races will be just as processional as they would be without DRS.

    24. i went for slightly disagree because i think they should change DRS to aid overtaking…by reducing it. one of the twitter comments hit the nail on the head: quality over quantity. at tracks like spa the quality of the passing (or indeed the battles generally) WILL be better with a vastly reduced DRS zone.

    25. I strongly disagree by the sole fact that Hamilton and Verstappen proved and acknowledged the point in China. As Hamilton stated during the podium interview, “this guy” seemed to have found a way to overtake, it’s up to him and Vettel for instance to do follow suit.

      In my own words: yes, it might be (slightly) more difficult, but it’s F1! It’s not go-karting where each corner poses another overtaking threat. Let them fight for it, I see it as the perfect balance between some talented blokes who are able to overtake and make it look easy (Verstappen on Bottas in China is a prime example) and guys who seem to have traded their overtaking talent for moaning during the years, such as Kimi behind Ricciardo in China.

    26. No, DRS should be banned! The sooner the better!

    27. DRS is a necessity resulting from the highly aero dependent formula that is todays F1. Unless they change the cars to allow them to better follow each other, there needs to be some mechanism to allow the cars to makeup for time lost in dirty air. As that time lost has increased since last year, the time gained should also go up somehow.

      One enhancement I think would make DRS more effective, and also produce better overtakes would be to remove the DRS zones, and allow it to be used at any time you are following another car, including the instant that a car passes you. This would reduce the number of pure DRS passes, as the driver being overtaken can fight back, and make the passing car more likely to have to take the position under braking. it would also allow the drivers to take more risks opening DRS and could make for some interesting situations.

    28. NO

      The less DRS the better.

    29. J9z (@jor93ort1z)
      13th April 2017, 0:17

      I understand that the DRS is an exception to the rule banning mobile aerodynamic devices in the car body. Something that comes from the years of 1960. Without the appropriate technology, the wings were very dangerous. But this has now become obsolete. It is quite possible to control flows and vortices. So, my dear friends, using DRS would be no different from using ERS or KERS. How should this be done? Opening the discussion and enabling the use of all boosters at the appropriate time so that the car behind is rewarded for getting “dirty” air from the car in front of it. That simple. (Translated from Portuguese/Brazil by Google Translate)

    30. Well, DRS is needed, like it or not. Passes like Vettel on Ricciardo were fantastic but for Vettel to get closer, DRS was a factor and quite a big one. If there was no DRS, dirty air and slow engines would mean the straights would be an area of deficit for Honda engined cars and Renault engined cars and even Ferrari on Mercedes. DRS seems to be necessary to see quality passing.

      Just let it be.

    31. Just for a laugh, how about reversing the DRS (let’s call it the Drag Increase System). So the wing pops ‘up’ if your car has another less than 1 sec behind during the straights. Teams will have to make their cars as slippery as possible to enable/retain a competitive top speed and then after the ‘DIS’ zone, the cars now have to get around corners with much less downforce due to the reduction in ‘aerobits’. Combined with the current less degrading tyre it may add some excitement.

      Note: this comment started with ‘Just for a laugh’ (I wonder how many of the current rules & regs started the same way ?)

    32. DRS is the lesser evil when compared to a super rich manufacturer that can dominate for three years. DRS is just a bit more throttle that has to be earned through good driving. It’s not free but available to all no matter their resources. Boom.

    33. Back to the basics: a race is nothing else than an attempt to cover a certain distance in the shortest time possible. The fastest [car+driver] finishes first, the slowest [car+driver] last. The race starts from the grid, of which the order is determined by qualifying. The current qualifying format promotes quicker [car+driver] to the front of the grid and slower [car+driver] to the back.
      So, in a perfect world a race would see the quickest [car+driver] start from pole and ease away from the 2nd quickest [car+driver], who eases away from the 3rd quickest [car+driver], etc, up to the slowest runner. This might be the optimum race in performance terms, as a spectator sport it has very little to offer.

      So how can the perfect race be made more attractive for those who want to watch it? Well, the obvious answer is that in sports the spectators enjoy the battle between opponents and are most engaged when the outcome of the battle is uncertain or unpredictable.

      To have a battle between [cars+drivers] in F1, there is a pre-condition: the performance level of the different [car+drivers] must be close enough. If this is not the case, the performance level of a certain [car+driver] may vary, but still not lead to a battle with the next [car+driver] in line.
      For 2017 there some rather important changes to the technical rules and, as we know from history, this has led to increase of the difference in performance level between the teams. The field is still reasonably close, but certainly further stretched out than in previous years.

      Now the only way to have a battle is to have performance variance for a certain [car+driver] during a race(-weekend). If every [car+driver] would always perform to their optimum, then there would be no battles. A quicker [car+driver] would always pull away from a slower [car+driver], be it by 1.2 seconds/lap or by 0.001 seconds/lap.
      Teams have invested in analytical en predictive tools and are now able to simulate the race rather accurately while it happens. This means that the performance variance on the car/team side has been decreased greatly in the last years. Also the new 2017 tyres have been designed to deliver a more constant, long-lasting performance. Again a decrease in performance variance. And on the driver side, they are all well-prepared and very fit, and there are many systems, safe guards, etc, on the car all designed to minimise the performance variance of the driver.

      So what we have today, is a racing series well on its way to achieve that ‘perfect race’ (all cars going around with ever increasing gaps between them). The changes for 2017 have strongly contributed to reducing the performance variance. Teams and drivers have always been trying to do that, but now have the tools to actually achieve it.

      If the spectator wants to see a battle of which the outcome is uncertain, then any measure that increases the performance variance of a [car+driver] during the race should be welcomed. So the manual clutch at the start, without preset bitepoints, that’s a good thing. However gearchanges are protected by software, engine settings dictated by an engineer, brake points optimized by a computer program on the fly. So little can go wrong.
      So thank god for a very small, very local, very temporary performance variance for a [car+driver] in a very specific situation: a thing called DRS. It really is one of the very few tools that might sometimes deliver what the spectator wants: an interesting battle.

    34. A DRS sailby/flyby is a total turn-off on entertainment. The level of DRS we have seen lately seems to be right – it must not prevent the leading driver from being able to defend his position, because the entertainment in F1 isn’t equal the # of passes, but in the fight and lead up to an attack and the tension: Will the attacker succeed with his overtaking maneuver or not.
      Easy successful overtakes are completely uninteresting, then rather processional races where the only overtaking is by undercut through the pitstop – then at least we have the tension if that succeeds or not.
      Therefore my vote is: Keep DRS at the level as we have seen lately, but keep adjusting it when necessary, to keep this level.

    35. Urgh, absolutely not! Just when I was starting to enjoy the racing again…

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