Formula 1 drivers have questioned whether reducing the length of DRS zones, as happened for last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix and has been implemented for Miami this weekend, is the right move given the lack of overtaking in races so far in the 2023 season.
In Azerbaijan, the DRS zone on the main straight was reduced by 100 metres. For the Miami Grand Prix, two of the three DRS zones – one on the run to Turn 11 and the other on the run to Turn 17 – have been reduced by 75 metres compared to last year.
Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director George Russell was among those to question the move given it was clear the DRS zone on the start/finish straight in Baku was not long enough. He had already suggested that the Baku change was made without F1 properly appreciating how much harder overtaking was becoming in 2023
“All of us didn’t really understand why they’ve been shortened,” said Russell. “None of us were consulted about it or asked our opinion on it.
“The race speaks for itself in Baku. I didn’t know whether we’re going to keep it the same for this weekend.
“DRS is there to aid overtaking and it’s always exciting when you’ve got these big DRS advantages and it gives you that opportunity to fight. Clearly, in Baku it was way too short.”
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc backed Russell’s position and questioned whether this was the right approach for F1.
He’s hopeful that the FIA will roll back any further plans to reduce the length of DRS zones.
“I don’t think it is the right direction,” said Leclerc.
“With the cars that we have at the moment, it’s still quite difficult to follow. It’s better than the previous generation cars but still not good enough to actually have less DRS.
“Hopefully, in the future races, we won’t shorten them.”
Leclerc’s team-mate, Carlos Sainz, also questioned the move.
But he did highlight the fact that not all cars have the same speed gain in the DRS zones and that this makes the calculation of their length more challenging.
“It’s difficult to ask the drivers because there are cars with more DRS power than others and if you go driver by driver and team by team one team will tell you better more DRS, worse more DRS,” said Sainz. “We are all a bit biased.
“But if I would forget about which team I drive for and just look into the benefit of F1, just looking at how difficult it is starting to become to follow, at least I wouldn’t shorten them.”
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll called for more dialogue between the drivers and the FIA when it comes to setting the DRS zone length.
He believes that’s necessary to ensure the racing is exciting given the tendency for races to be processional this year.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to rely on DRS to help overtaking,” said Stroll.
“I would love to see the nature of the tracks, a lot of the tracks that we go to, just give us more of an opportunity to overtake and the nature of the cars give us more of an opportunity to overtake.
“As a group of drivers and with the FIA, I think it’s important that we speak DRS zones at each track and give ourselves the best possible opportunity to race every weekend and pass and actually do something on Sunday.
“It’s very track dependent. We go to Baku and overtaking’s a lot easier than Monaco for example, and I think just having DRS in the right places and have the right length of DRS for each track to give us an exciting race on Sunday is something we all want to see.
“Remember how overtaking was here last year, but was it so bad? I don’t know why they shortened it. That’s something we need to chat about.”
Stroll’s team-mate, Fernando Alonso was more equivocal but highlighted the fact that the added difficulty of following cars this year potentially makes the DRS zones more significant.
But he also accepts that it’s car dependent, and highlighted the reasons why the FIA decided to cut two of the DRS zones in Miami.
“It [overtaking] was easiest here last year, apparently, so I think that’s why the FIA shortened the DRS,” said Alonso.
“In Baku, it was also one of the easiest last year so they shortened the DRS. I heard Lewis [Hamilton] was saying that the DRS was too short. I think for them with the high downforce it was too short. For Red Bull it was too long because at the start/finish line he overtook Leclerc and he was open to braking on the outside for Turn 1.
“So if you take one car it was too long, if you take another car it was too short. So I guess it was about the calculations that the FIA do after seeing last year’s races and Baku and Miami were on the high side in terms of overtaking and how easy it was.
“Let’s see this year. It’s difficult to predict, even if it is true that this year it seems like it’s been more difficult to follow cars. That’s 100% correct. [For] Red Bull [it] seems like the DRS zones are too long, so it depends which car you’re talking about.”