Unlocking the potential of DRS

This weekend’s Italian Grand Prix once again demonstrated the power of F1’s Drag Reduction System (DRS) on aiding overtaking during the race, creating a number of exciting late lunges into Turn 1.

With future regulations focusing on how to make F1 cars faster and a greater driving spectacle, could a more free use of DRS in races provide a low-cost solution and a greater spectacle for fans?

Relaxing the rules

Current regulations only allow the use of DRS within the permitted zones, which lie on the two main straights of the circuit. But what if the rules were relaxed to allow drivers to use DRS anywhere on the track?

While the loss of downforce would necessitate that the DRS flap remains closed through many corners, the intelligent use of the system could mean that DRS could be implemented on shorter straights and even some turns with lower g-forces.

Sam Michaels estimates that the system is worth around 0.5s per lap over the two deployment zones, offering a speed boost of between 10-12kph.

With the system already implemented across the whole field, no additional costs would be incurred but lap times would invariably fall. 50.4% of fans also commented in the 2015 F1 Fan Survey that DRS should continue to be used, so perhaps now is time to maximize its potential.

Separating the men from the boys

The official F1 website describes DRS to new fans as “an innovation that makes the driver’s task slightly easier”.

This definition clearly demonstrates why many fans do not like the concept of DRS – they are turned off by the artifice of the system, as well as believing that it takes the skill and challenge away from the drivers.

Opening up the rules would place greater emphasis on driver skill, exposing their driving prowess and connection with their car. The opportunity to use DRS in corners would also place greater importance on mechanical grip, which creates the conditions in which drivers can shine, gaining ground on their less skilled rivals.

Safety vs Progress

Of course safety must be considered, and is of high importance when it comes to the introduction of any new regulations.

However, DRS has clearly demonstrated that movable parts can be implemented safely in Formula 1 – as was also made clear through the use of the F-duct, although to a lesser extent.

In recent years F1 has been far too conservative in its use of new technologies. The blown diffuser, the F-duct, double DRS and the FRIC suspension have all been implemented and subsequently banned in recent years.

Each has been outlawed under the guise that they provide unfair advantage, but as we have seen with nearly every major innovation in motorsport, others quickly catch up or find their own novel solution to get them in front.

These technologies all have the potential to make F1 cars faster – perhaps it is time to review their regulation and reintroduce those that would benefit the show and the safety of the sport, starting with fulfilling the potential of DRS.

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