F1 2011 and DRS (Drag Reduction System)

I’m a big F1 fan. Every year the rules of F1 get tweaked and changed, usually with the aim of “making racing better” or encouraging more passing. This year is no different as the Drag Reduction System (DRS) was rolled out. DRS grew out of the F ducts and blown rear wings of last year, allowing a reduction in the drag (and also downforce) created by the rear wing down a straight. Don’t underestimate it’s effectiveness, aerodynamic forces get big when you approach 200 MPH. DRS has definitely created more passing.

The passing is almost too easy when using the DRS. I’ve been skeptical about it’s use. During a race a car trailing another car by 1 sec or less can use the DRS, the car ahead can not. My gut reaction is that this is a gimmick, that it takes away from the purity of racing and reduces the amount of skill required to pull off a racing pass. Martin Brundle recently wrote something that put DRS into perspective.

I’m consoling myself like this: technology through tyre development and aerodynamic knowledge has created a massive problem, such that well driven high performance single-seaters can’t follow each other closely and overtake. The engineers and designers cannot forget what they have learned, so technology has been used to fix the problem, and it’s called DRS.

I totally agree that engineers have created the lack of passing problem and also the tendency for one team to dominate for long periods of time via aerodynamics. And it’s hard to go backwards and drop all that knowledge and progress we have made. So DRS is an antidote to problem that we became so effective at using the air flowing around a racecar. I can accept it better from that perspective.

In that same article Martin also reminds us that in the 1980’s F1 cars had a turbo overboost button. Just as recently as a few years go Indy cars were using push to pass, maybe they are still using it. So gimmicks to encourage passing aren’t new though DRS is certainly a fresh way of approaching the problem. I think with a little tweaking it may be something that catches on.