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Formula 1

Should F1 bin DRS? Our verdicts – and yours

by Matt Beer
10 min read

Earlier this week we asked The Race’s YouTube audience for their thoughts on Formula 1’s always-contentious Drag Reduction System.

Should it be scrapped immediately, kept for now but scrapped when the new rules arrive for 2022, or kept indefinitely?

Given the vitriol often directed at the DRS concept, the results of our poll came as a surprise.

Poll Results Latest Drs

With nearly 60,000 votes on the board, the ‘scrap it now’ opinion was firmly in the minority, and a surprising percentage had no problem with it.

We put those results to our writers to get their thoughts on DRS and its future, which you can read below along with a selection of the top comments from our YouTube community. And you can keep the debate going in the comments section at the bottom of this article too.

Mark Hughes

Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo DRS pass

I think we’re all agreed that in an ideal world we’d not need DRS and that hopefully the 2022 generation of cars, designed specifically with aerodynamics that should help make ‘natural’ overtaking more feasible, will give us that opportunity.

But until then, it’s a necessary evil in neutralising the inherent advantage of the car ahead over the car behind, travelling in the dirty air and therefore unable to stay close enough in the preceding corner.

Several of our readers make the very valid point that getting the length of the DRS zone right is crucial in not making the passes too easy. A car with a 20km/h advantage breezing past another well before the braking zone isn’t really an overtake. It only works satisfactorily when it puts the overtaking driver in a position to fight the corner out in the braking zone.

But getting that distance right is no simple matter. Because this is not solely an aerodynamic problem. Mugello and, particularly, Portimao have shown us – just as did Silverstone 2019 – that it is also a tyre temperature issue.

The ideal length of the DRS zone is not a constant thing. When the tyres are running below their ideal operating temperature – as they were at each of those three races – they do not overheat when tight behind another car. At all of those races we saw that cars could sit right behind another despite the aero effect.

As ever in F1, it’s a complex inter-related question with a complex set of answers that need to be properly integrated.

Comments from our YouTube audience

Get rid of DRS when the cars become capable of regularly overtaking each other and don’t need the assistance. If that happens tomorrow, in 2022, or at any random point in the future, then do it. Otherwise keep it, better than having every race turn into Monaco.

zodiac z
They should figure out for each track how to use it well, how long the zone should be and how many zones they should have. For example, Portimao was a disaster, people were ahead halfway down the straight, just like Austria, and Mugello also was an overkill. If they do it right, you still have to outbrake the other driver, not just fly past them. If the zone in Mugello and Portimao would’ve been 50-150m shorter let’s say, the faster drivers would’ve still got ahead, but with a bigger challenge.

I’d rather they keep it and just allow them to use it every lap.

Matt Beer

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Portuguese Grand Prix Race Day Portimao, Portugal

I’m firmly with zodiac z here. Unless F1 can find a magic formula of aerodynamic and mechanical rules that allow for more overtaking and then freezes them in a way that they can’t be corrupted by teams’ efforts to make their cars faster, DRS is an acceptable way of rebalancing the problems modern aerodynamics cause for close racing.

But equally, I’m really not keen on what The Race’s Gary Anderson calls ‘drive-by passes’, and if a faster car is catching a slower one I want there to be a degree of tension of whether it can get past or not. Not for the answer to be ‘no, obviously not, it’ll have to happen in the pitstops’ or ‘yes, of course, easy with DRS’ and little in between.

So by all means keep DRS, but make sure the length and choices of DRS zones are chosen as scientifically as possible with the aim of letting drivers get closer to each other and get runs at each other, then leaving it up to their skill under braking to get a move completed.

Comments from our YouTube audience

DRS works, too well. Give the drivers a set number of uses during a race. It’s then up to them when and where. They can then use it to catch another car.

Oscar Shen
I will take easy overtaking over no overtaking.

Drivers don’t even defend in most cases cause the guy behind them goes 20km/h faster than them. No point. That’s not fighting, that’s passing.

Jack Benyon

DRS 2020

Maybe it’s time for F1 to try an IndyCar style push-to-pass system? That’s basically what PickledBeetroot2u raises in the YouTube comments above.

In IndyCar, the drivers are left to manage their overtaking device themselves and have 200 seconds of 40bhp boost to use wherever they want on the track. Compare that to Formula 1, where drivers chill out avoiding dirty air and then zoom in just before the DRS window for an easy overtake. In IndyCar the drivers can strike with it pretty much anywhere.

The IndyCar system opens the opportunity to set up unusual overtakes, and also gives drivers that have been overtaken an opportunity to fight back. It can’t be used for long periods in fast corners as it would melt the tyres, but it still allows greater flexibility and variance than a DRS zone.

It also creates interesting strategy for when and where drivers use it during the race, which gives commentators something to talk about in a quiet moment. That could spice things up, especially with some funky graphics.

While Lewis Hamilton’s three-wheeled win at Silverstone was cool, imagine Max Verstappen was chasing him down with 200 seconds of push to pass as well! How to make an exciting scenario even better, right?!

F1 has also done a woeful job of advertising how good its hybrid power units really are. From 2023 the IndyCars will have 900bhp and a chunk of that will come from a push-to-pass generated through the hybrid system.

A half decent marketing/PR person can spin that as renewable energy powering the most exciting aspect of motorsport – overtaking. Sounds like good publicity to me.

I hope future F1 cars don’t need any overtaking help, but if they do, push-to-pass should be considered.

Comments from our YouTube audience

Sean Hallissey
No overtake is better than drive by. It simulates action because other faculties can’t deliver. Hopefully 2022 will be a cure.

Franco Viejo
I’m pretty sure the 2022 regulations are going to get rid of it eventually. For now, it’s the best we’ve got.

There should have been a fourth option – “let’s see how 2022 turns out first”

Edd Straw

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying Day Barcelona, Spain

Formula 1 should definitely get rid of DRS, but the problem is that the DRS is a symptom, not the cause, of a problem.

This means it cannot simply be wished away without a negative effect and, short of F1 races being held in a vacuum – a technical challenge even beyond the excellence of grand prix teams – turbulence will always be a problem for any object moving through the air.

This is doubly true given F1 cars should be the fastest cars over a lap around a lap on a conventional circuit and therefore do require high downforce levels.

The hope is that the 2022 regulations will reduce the reliance on the DRS but the fact the architects of the rules only have an aspiration to remove it down the line or ease its impact proves the level of confidence that it will no longer be necessary is not high.

An increased reliance on the venturis in the sidepods to create downforce should be a positive step, but perhaps not enough to mean the DRS is no longer needed.

So the real question is can F1 get rid of the DRS? Right now, no, and you can’t even say with confidence it should in 2022.

But there is merit in working on ways to improve the tuning of it to increase the chances of contested braking zones instead of facilitating drive-by passes.

For now and at least the immediate future, DRS is a very necessary evil.

Comments from our YouTube audience

Ken Chen
We can never get rid of dirty air, and DRS is one of the best tools in keeping a battle close, instead of the driver in front just slowly make the following driver overheat the tires and cook the engine. It will even help keep an ever so slightly slower car within striking distance and makes greater entertainment. Plus it’s just cool to see the flap open and close.

Steve Chandler
Personally, I would like to see fully active aerodynamics computer-controlled. Push the envelope.

David S
Either get rid or massively reduce the advantage. I’d have it close as soon as the car is two thirds alongside then the rest of the overtake is down to the driver.

Scott Mitchell

Esteban Ocon Renault DRS pass

F1 should bin the DRS if it doesn’t need it. But the fact it’s in the rules suggests F1 doesn’t have complete faith in its changes. And that means F1’s probably better off keeping it out of disappointing necessity.

If that comes to pass then there must be a review of how it’s utilised. It boggles my mind that the rulemakers have never bothered to properly evaluate the length of the DRS zones. Presumably it’s out of fear that drive-by passes would be replaced by nobody being able to overtake at all!

But if they move it too far in that direction then keep adjusting the zones until you get them right…

F1’s had enough time to adopt a trial and error approach and make this viable. If F1 must keep it, there’s no excuse not to make it a more palatable overtaking aid.

Comments from our YouTube audience

The Gator
DRS is great, I don’t see any reason to get rid of it, maybe even change the rules to allow it to be used more.

Shahul Usman
I think you need everything you can for overtaking and being able to follow closer, push to pass and DRS should all be there for the spectacle. I’d increase it to 1.5 seconds for the window.

Callum Lambkin
I guess there should be like a “maybe in 2023” option. I’m hopeful the new rules will help make things more exciting but it’s hard to know, so removing DRS before we get to see the new rules in action might be premature

Freddy Chale
This is the THIRD TIME since the early 2000s that F1 promises the cars will be designed for better overtaking… Has it happened? Nope! I rather have “artificial” overtakes than F1 parades any day.

Glenn Freeman

Lando Norris McLaren Monza 2020 DRS open

When we launched this poll I expected a much more negative reaction towards DRS. But the overall result and the majority of the comments from those who voted shows F1 has a lot of fans who are realistic and pragmatic when it comes to an issue like this.

Perhaps it’s also because DRS has been around for 10 seasons now, so people have either got used to it, or only know an F1 where DRS is part of the action.

But just because fans are willing to accept why we need DRS at the moment, doesn’t mean F1 should take that as a free pass to continue to rely long-term on what was only ever meant to be a temporary solution to the problem of limited overtaking.

I’m not expecting 2022’s major rule changes to solve the problem. I hope I’m wrong.

Comments from our YouTube audience

MJ to the A
DRS needs to exist for the moment. Want to get rid of something to make the race more exciting? Get rid of data accumulation. Make going as fast as possible all about skill instead of just following a computer screen.

DOE Motorsports
Remove virtually the only way these cars can overtake? Great idea

Should focus on making the cars able to handle good in dirty air. Until then I’d rather the gimmicky DRS over no overtaking at all.

Kees Vermeer
DRS takes away one very important skill in motor racing… defending. I hate all these passes on the straights, less skill involved.

Julius Engels
The Turkish GP was going so well without it.

If they keep it they should add defensive DRS which you can use like 10 times in a race or something.

Carlos Geli
DRS was never the problem, it was the fact F1 could never seem to get the DRS zones right. It would always be too many or too little, too long or too short. If the new regulations work then there should be more overtaking and less dirty air which is when they should remove it.

Keep it even in 2022, maybe have a few races where it isn’t allowed to determine if it should be kept or not

If you want to be part of these polls in the future, head over to the YouTube channel and subscribe to ensure they appear in your subscription feed.

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