Mid Season Thought: DRS – Not Worth It?

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    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about DRS. I visited the FOTA Fans Forum (met you there Keith, in case you are reading) and over there it struck me how FOTA and FIA were insistant over DRS and how fans were mostly against it or unsure.

    2011 has given us overtaking but now that the stats are out, it works out that DRS overtakes were only about 30% and I think people are now realising tyres play a much more crucial role than DRS.

    Personally, I think it has reduced the “value” or “spectacle” of an overtake. If it’s ok, I’ll link to my post here where I explain what I mean in a lot more detail but I will obviously, be answering comments on this forum.


    I don’t want to simply write up everything again and repeat myself. Can’t posts the links backing my opinion on it under the forum either. The main gist of the article is that DRS overtakes happen mostly in places where overtaking will happen anyways and it takes away from the spectacle of memorable great overtakes. Even current drivers don’t enjoy overtakes as much, as Webber, Heidfeld, Button and Petrov have said so.

    DRS is here to stay. Is it just me who is not happy with this?


    I disagree with you here. I am a fan of the DRS, so allow me to explain my point of view.

    2011 has given us overtaking but now that the stats are out, it works out that DRS overtakes were only about 30% and I think people are now realising tyres play a much more crucial role than DRS.

    I like the DRS and I believe that this is a good thing. In my opinion, having the majority of overtaking moves in the sport being DRS related would be a terrible thing. That’s not what it’s designed for. As you don’t need me to remind you, the DRS was born out of the desire to counter the ‘dirty air’ effect. How many times have we seen genuinely faster cars or drivers close up to a slower rival and then struggle to find any way passed as soon as they get within 1-2 seconds behind? The disturbance to the aero balance of the cars would make it just too difficult for even the best drivers in the world to actually get into a position to make a move in the first place. The idea of the DRS is not to produce easy ‘slam-dunk’ overtaking opportunities but to allow drivers to get into positions to overtake where they have usually been unfairly disadvantaged by dirty air. I hear a lot about how DRS gives the attacking driver an unfair advantage but I disagree. DRS is an equaliser. It helps to take away the disadvantage of dirty air and give drivers a chance to pass.

    The main gist of the article is that DRS overtakes happen mostly in places where overtaking will happen anyways and it takes away from the spectacle of memorable great overtakes.

    I challenge that argument. First of all, the majority of the spectacular passes I can remember this season have taken place outside of DRS zones. I think I can remember more passes into Turn 1 at the Nurburgring last month than into the Chicane at the end of the DRS zone. Like I said earlier though, this is a good thing. It also means that the art of race craft and overtaking ability is no less important in the DRS era than it was before it, which I agree is an important thing for the pinnacle of motorsport. “But Geoffrey, what about Istanbul? DRS it WAY too easy to overtake at the end of the straight!” Yes. I agree. I can’t argue against you there. However, DRS is a unique and completely brand new concept. It’s bound to take a bit of time for the FIA to tweak it and to discover where it does and where it doesn’t work so effectively. I agree to an extent that it’s unnecessary to place DRS zones on long straights where lots of overtaking has always tended to occur. I’m also not convinced about the idea of double DRS zones. But it’s good that the FIA are clearly learning about what’s working and what isn’t and are adjusting the use of DRS accordingly.

    Ultimately, I’m very much for the retention of DRS. I believe it can be an effective tool for equalising the playing filed like I outlined earlier. I also disagree that it’s ‘destroyed the art of defensive driving’. I’ve watched every race this season and the majority of DRS ‘attempts’ I’ve seen throughout the season have not resulted in overtakes. You still have to be in a good position to make the maximum use of it and get passed. Button didn’t simply drive around Massa in Melbourne did he? And on the other hand, if it wasn’t for DRS, I doubt Alonso would’ve ever made that move on Webber in Valencia. So to say that it’s spoiling F1 racing or whatever is just bizarre to me.

    I also think the DRS factor adds a whole new unique element to racing. Remember when Hamilton was chasing down Vettel in Barcelona towards the end of the race? I remember everyone saying that as soon as Lewis was within 1 second, it was on like Donkey Kong. I think it’s both cool and exciting when you see a car get within 1 second of a rival and you see that DRS graphic start flashing. It’s like it’s the F1 equivalent of a fighter pilot getting a lock-on on a target. You think “oh my, here we go!” and you just know that something dramatic is about to occur. I also like the fact it’s an element that’s unique to F1. It helps to differentiate Formula 1 racing from the other single-seater series as well as illustrating just how important the physics of downforce and aerodynamics are to F1 cars.

    So, yeah. I’m a fan of DRS and while I agree it’s not yet been ‘perfected’ I hope the sport doesn’t discard the idea too quickly because it’s played a significant role in shaping the truly exceptional action we’ve seen so far this season.


    Ned Flanders

    You make a good argument Magnificent. I particularly like your fighter jet analogy! I can’t be bothered to write a big analysis, but here is my opinion in brief:

    DRS is great for circuits where passing is difficult, like Monaco, Catalunya and the Hungaroring. It is unnecessary for circuits with long straights, where passing is relatively easily. Therefore, I think it should be either abandoned or toned down for certain races, and kept for others



    I agrees with Ned. It might not have been necessary to have 1 and it certainly wasn’t necessary to have 2 zones at Canada- also, 2 zones meant if somebody passed in the first zone they could continue pulling away in the second. If there isn’t a second activation point then it is just lazy (I fail to believe it isn’t incredibly simple for the best minds in the world to prepare a second trigger) and there shouldn’t be a second DRS zone at all.



    Geof pretty much says everything I would want to say on this.


    Prisoner Monkeys

    I think the DRS works simply because the main concern – that it would make overtaking too easy – has not happened. When it was first annouced, everyone assumed drivers would just sail past one another. But as we’ve seen time and time again, the DRS only really allows an attacking driver to get into a positon where a pass is possible, but by no means guaranteed. In the instances where we’ve seen drivers blast past someone as if they were standing still, the relative speeds of the two cars meant that the pass would have happened with or without DRS.



    Thanks for the great long conmment Geoff. That was like the complete anti argument to the one I was making.

    Whist I agree DRS has added something to F1 this is, the question I pose is… Was it worth it?

    I agree with Ned that DRS is good for flat flats with no undulation and elevation. I understand the problems with that since then applying DRS was sort of admitting the track is not good for overtaking.

    I agree Geoff that most of the good passing has been outside the DRS zone. Infact, I don’t think there will ever be a “good” DRS overtake.

    The problem I have with DRS is it setting the precedent for overtaking. I agree that Lewis chasing Vettel in Barcelona was great and close. But my friend who was also watching it with me, for him it was unfair. Lewis’s closing speed was insane (agree exaggerated by the McLaren straight line speed difference). He thought Vettel was disadvantaged and as if put out for slaughter. He felt he letterbox kind of system was artificial and actually laughed at it.

    I agree that people who are in terms with F1 will realise it is perhaps a way of negating the ‘dirty air’ effect but the casual viewer does not know that. That’s exactly the problem. New viewers are key, not the “old fans” like us. Most “new fans” I feel will like overtaking to be artificial.



    It’s lazy thinking to look at DRS, point out how one-sided it is and then deride it for it. For over a decade we’ve had easier defending because of the dirty air problem, but because it’s not something that happens at the flick of a switch people don’t think about it. Thus some people say, look at all this overtaking, it’s so cheap but fail to see that the car ahead keeping its place because of dirty air is just as illegitimate. Some might say that’s what makes overtaking in F1 a skill, but I disagree. The skill is even keeping the car close enough once you’re in the dirty air. It’s like a calculator exam in maths; you may have a machine to help you, but the questions themselves are more difficult in the first place.

    I always point this out when explaining DRS to people and so far none of them have stuck to thinking one situation is illegitimate but the other okay. Some do say that the situation shouldn’t be like that in the first place though, which I fully agree with.



    My take on DRS is, that it was brought in as a temporary fix to a complicated problem that should have been adressed in the new aero rules (shifting downforce to the underbody, giving less wake). Instead its now become an integral part of the rules and here to stay.

    I really hate the principle of it is to give an advantage to the chasing driver, which was highlighted by how it was presented, as a push to pass overtaking help (same goes for KERS presentation).

    On the other hand, I do believe (as seems most who have commented on it here) it did help give more tight racing in Monaco, Barcelona and indeed in Valencia. The double zone with 2 detection points might be “needed” in the latter.
    We can only hope the FIA and teams learn how to optimise use of DRS to do just that, give better opportunities to pass elsewhere on track (by choosing none, one or two zones and defining each zone’s lenght) from next year onward on each track.

    I will still feel DRS is not the right way to go (as grooved tyres were a dead end), but I guess we will have to live with it.



    Scrap DRS; and let’s go to the initial offerings of a new set of regulations based on underfloor development and ground effect



    I really hate the principle of it is to give an advantage to the chasing driver, which was highlighted by how it was presented, as a push to pass overtaking help (same goes for KERS presentation).

    In my opinion, I feel you’re incorrect here. I don’t believe it point of DRS is to give an advantage to the chasing driver, it’s actually to even up an already unfair playing field.

    Whatever you think of aerodynamics and like it or not, the dirty air effect has a significant impact on modern F1 cars and means that anyone who is close behind a competitor is automatically disadvantaged because of it. How is it fair that a driver, who could be genuinely much faster than the rival he is chasing, is given such a penalty purely through being right behind them? If you’re a defending driver, the fact that you’re even ahead to begin with gives YOU an advantage that the other driver does not have. That is equally as unfair in my opinion but the crucial difference is that this inequality does not improve racing, it only harms it.

    DRS, therefore, is just one simple, cheap, interesting way to give some advantage back to the attacking driver. It’s not about giving the attacker an unstoppable super-weapon, it’s about cancelling out the unfair disadvantage of dirty air to even up the playing field and thus create actually fair racing opportunities. The only issue with this is that the effectiveness of DRS depends a lot on the activation zone positioning on each circuit. In places like Melbourne, Nurburgring and Suzuka, I think it worked perfectly. It increased the chances of being able to attempt a pass without making it too easy. In places like Istanbul or Spa, it was put in the wrong place as it made the speed difference too great in my opinion. There’s no need to put a DRS zone in an area where overtaking is commonplace without it.

    As I keep saying, it’s all still very much a learning experience. The DRS zone choice in Japan showed me that the FIA are getting the point about where it works well and where it doesn’t and I hope we don’t discard this element of F1 too hastily as I really genuinely think that DRS adds something unique, something exciting and something rather awesome to the modern Formula.



    Yes that’s right Geoff. The key is if you’re able to tune the DRS zone to such a level of perfection that it equals the dirty air disadvantage minus the slipstream advantage over a lap. Given different cars produce different levels of wake; and different cars are affected to different levels by wake; not an easy task.

    What I absolutely despise is their separation of DRS detection versus activation. Ideally, in my view; they should make the DRS activation the detection as well. i.e. Car A is chasing Car B. Car B crosses the DRS line into the activation zone. Just have a timing beam right there that has a countdown timer of 1second to be reset after any car has crossed. If another car crosses the line before the 1s is up; then let him have DRS.

    I hate how the detection is nowadays. I hate it when people can use DRS when others are pitting; and even if they have already overtaken before the zone starts. Also the detection line takes away a potential overtaking spot in most places. For example the hairpin at Canada used to be alright for overtaking; now you can’t; as if you did overtake into the hairpin you’d get canned by DRS on the way out



    In my opinion, I feel you’re incorrect here. I don’t believe it point of DRS is to give an advantage to the chasing driver, it’s actually to even up an already unfair playing field.

    Read my comment again closely @magnificent-geoffrey

    to give an advantage to the chasing driver, which was highlighted by how it was presented, as a push to pass overtaking help (same goes for KERS presentation)

    In what is that incorrect?

    Both the FIA and the teams presented DRS to the public as a tool to overtake (they did the same with KERS), and this was strongly highlighted in any discussion right from the first desicion to allow it. This created the expectation of DRS being a push to pass thing, and indeed it has been at many races and even the commentators have often hailed it as such during the early season, even when it was really easy to pass.
    Just look at how people were saying it did not work in Melbourne as we did not see much passing when having the DRS open (I think DRS did just about what it should there, by the way).
    I actually agree with you, that DRS, when used to counter the fact cars cannot currently follow closely without losing their speed is doing what its supposed to do and does help make better races (I still do not like it, but thats a personal taste). And it should be further optimised to work that way on all tracks next year.



    There is also another more interesting side to DRS which no-one seems to have mentioned which is that a driver in the lead of the race cannot now just cruise to victory if the 2nd place man is catching him at a reasonable pace. As we saw in Canada and even to an extent in Japan it can make the end of a race as exciting as the start as drivers push to keep the chasing driver over a second behind.

    If we didn’t have DRS would Jenson have passed Vettel on that last lap, probably not as Seb wouldn’t have been pushing as hard and probably wouldn’t have slithered off the track in the damp.

    Ultimately what I am trying to say I suppose is that we have stopped seeing drivers ‘settle’ for 2nd or even the lower places as there is now the opportunity to pass where before there was none (or rarely one).



    That’s a good point @asanator and Jenson definitely tried to keep Alonso more than 1s behind so he couldn’t use the DRS.

    One issue is that it means that Vettel has just been making sure to drive off at the start and get outside of 1s from those following until the DRS is activated two laps into the race; that bit make it a bit more artificial, now they don’t try to get a pitstop like gap, so it looks closer, but in effect, it is a bit of an illusion, bc. he could probably have gone faster for a bit longer until the gap was a bigger buffer. Maybe not for the entire race (fuel, tyres etc.), but still for several laps more, and that would have put more pressure on him and his car.

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