Rubens Barrichello uses the DRS on his Williams

Whitmarsh defends Drag Reduction System

2011 F1 season

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Rubens Barrichello uses the DRS on his Williams
Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Barcelona, 2011

Formula One Teams’ Association chairman Martin Whitmarsh defended the introduction of the controversial Drag Reduction System to F1 this year.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in, Whitmarsh said the teams and FIA would alter the system during the year if necessary.

Whitmarsh said: “For some time, when we have surveyed media and fans they have questioned the amount of overtaking in Formula 1. There is a view – and not everyone accepts the view – that there is not enough overtaking.

“Overtaking in Formula 1 cars is very difficult. The standard of driving and the standard of the teams is such that it’s all very competitive, close and difficult to overtake. The technical people were given a challenge to come up with a potential solution and the Drag Reduction System was conceived.

“Of course, as you know, if you have the DRS on the leading and following car then you don’t achieve very much. So you have to prioritise the drag reduction for the car behind.

“As soon as you do that it is a complication and it may well be that it’s too complicated for all fans to appreciate. And it’ll be a trade – whether the system creates lots of overtaking and that compensates for the additional complication is something we can assess.

“I think, though, there are lots of opinions. I’ve heard people say it won’t make a difference, I’ve heard people say it will make overtaking too easy.

“But the fact is that we’ve got a device now fitted to the cars we can – that is, Formula 1, the FIA and the teams – vary the authority of that to make it easier or harder to overtake and that will undoubtedly take some tuning.

“I can understand the viewpoint that ‘an additional complication, is that what the fans and spectators want?’ All you can say is it isn’t easy to find a way to increase overtaking. This is an attempt, if it doesn’t work or it’s too confusing, then you can limit the authority, you can turn them off. What you can’t do mid-season is react to poor overtaking.

“Last year I think after the abolition of refuelling and the first race in Bahrain many of us were very concerned for the season ahead. As it transpired it turned into one of the most fascinating Formula 1 championships in history. So I think we’ve got a tool, if it isn’t working, or it’s confusing, or it’s unnecessary, then you just prevent its operation. But we have to wait and see.”

Whitmarsh said he was satisfied with the safety of the system despite some drivers raising concerns: “I think the issues are: can the teams design a system which moves the wing safely? I suspect that the teams can and I think it’s manageable, though clearly every piece of complication that you put into a car arguably decreases safety.

“And I think the other issue is driver workload. Certainly our drivers don’t see an issue. I think Ferrari’s and I’m sure Mercedes’ drivers won’t have an issue.”

However he said that some teams with less efficient systems may “have more issues with reducing driver workload.”

Image ?? Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “Whitmarsh defends Drag Reduction System”

  1. But the fact is that we’ve got a device now fitted to the cars we can – that is, Formula 1, the FIA and the teams – vary the authority of that to make it easier or harder to overtake and that will undoubtedly take some tuning.

    Why on earth is there this fetish for standardising absolutely everything the FIA or FOTA can get their hands on? The presumption should be that innovation is best left to the teams, and restrictions on technology should be the exception, not the rule.

    1. Because they don’t want one team to absolutely dominate. Remember 2004? Ferrari obliterated everyone. They don’t want something like that to happen again. Sure, Jenson Button won six races from seven in 2009, but the season got interesting because Brawn ran out of money and Button had to bank as many points as he could in the second half of the season. Even then, he had to rely on his rivals being too busy taking points out of one another to mount a solid assault on his lead. If Red Bull had decided to back one of their drivers around the time of the Hungarian Grand Prix instead of letting them come to terms on their own (which I believe gave rise to the Red Bull Civil War because the Powers That Be in the team didn’t want that to happen again), Button would not have won his title.

      FOTA want more season like 2010 and less like 2004 or 2002.

      1. I pretty much agree what you say here. And doing a standard thing is bound to be cheaper than each team finding their own solution as well.

      2. What is wrong with a team dominating everyone if they are that much better? Is this motor racing or entertainment? Because motor racing is more than just sport it is a technological development race, that is its spirit. Get rid of that aspect and I might as well be watching horse racing.

        1. Because without capped budgets it’s gonna be fairly predictable…

        2. I agree with Mike. Without any sort of budget caps or technology limits, then the classic teams would utterly dominate and prevent new blood from getting involved in the sport. While I agree with your idea that F1 is about technical innovation, it is also about driver ability and talent. The more even the cars are, the better to showcase the driver skill. However, if they cars are totally equal then it takes away from the design and technical aspects that keep F1 unique from all other motorsport. I think the FIA is doing a decent job of balancing technical innovation with driver ability in order to create a well rounded motorsport experience.

        3. What is wrong with a team dominating everyone if they are that much better? Is this motor racing or entertainment?

          Well, geez – I thought you should know by now that motorsport isn’t about finding out which team is the fastest. That’s unfair to all the other teams! Things should be organized so that the outcome of the championship is entirely random.

          This results in nail biter championships every season – and everyone knows that not knowing who will win is the same thing as good racing!

          It also means that inexperienced teams with lousy drivers and no budget can compete with big teams with great drivers and a lot of money. After all, nothing can be more antithetical to the true nature of motor racing than having the fastest team and driver win all the time! How utterly pointless that would be!

  2. “Certainly our drivers don’t see an issue. I think Ferrari’s and I’m sure Mercedes’ drivers won’t have an issue”

    Slight dig at Red Bull here and maybe particularly Seb Vettel? Or am I reading too much into it?

    I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the DRS will effect the racing. So excited for this weekend.

    1. It’s just that the RBR boys are busily bending all sorts of wingly appendages of their cars with their minds. :D

    2. Or is it because he expects Red Bull to be in front and ultimately on the downside of the coin of the DRS?

      1. I’d say it has more to do with Vettel’s comments that the drivers might go on strike and refuse to race because they have too many buttons and functions to deal with. Although legend has it that the last time the drivers threatened a strike, Bernie Ecclestone walked down the grid and started pointing out drivers, saying “You’re driving. You’re driving. You’re driving.” … and they all raced.

        If Vettel doesn’t like the number of buttons, he can always not use them.

        1. “If Vettel doesn’t like the number of buttons, he can always not use them.”

          Exactly, a strike would never happen because it’s not something they need to use.If you can’t handle it, don’t. We saw Petrov not using hiis F-duct last year because he couldn’t cope

        2. I agree, I think if Vettel can’t deal with them then he is in the wrong sport. How would he have coped with a manual stick shift gearbox?

          1. You have got to be kidding. I think most of todays drivers would easily handle a manual gearbox compared to all the buttons they now have to monitor and press in the correct sequence.

        3. I would recon Vettel being one of the guys who can manage a few extra buttons better than most guys on the grid. Young and obviously very intelligent and being an F1-driver, very skilled in general regarding pushing buttons! Guys like Rubens might have problems though seeing he can’t even leave right foot braking behind..
          But I think it’s a very dumb notion that he might not be able to do just because he says something about it. Fact is they A LOT of buttons to push all the time. It’s no secret. They can manage, but they shouldn’t have to be in this position.

  3. I really don’t understand the safety issue in this particular case, had we not have had the F-duct last year then perhaps it would be a solid concern but if anything, surely it’s safer than the F-duct, to operate at least.

    Regarding Whitmarsh’s comments, this does sound like the most sensible thing moving forward.

    1. The f-duct had no moving parts so it was far safer in operation, though having the driver as an integral part was cause for concern.

      Should the DRS fail and not return to its default state the car will be left with a significant reduction in downforce that the driver has no means to rectify.

      1. Should the DRS fail and not return to its default state the car will be left with a significant reduction in downforce that the driver has no means to rectify.

        It should be acknowledged that the rules are designed to guard against that and as far as I’m aware no driver has had such a problem in testing.

        Given the way the wing operates it seems to me the biggest risk would be if something got jammed in it. That’s certainly possible but not very likely and there are plenty of other things on the cars that could be damaged in the same way (not least the driver).

        I think they’ve been pretty safety-conscious in how this has been implemented.

        1. So I guess it would have something as sophisticated as a spring to take it back to a ‘relaxed’ state?

          1. It seems to work like this – the airflow over the wing is always forcing it to its closed (safe) state. When activated, hydraulics move the wing into its open state, continuously pushing against the airflow. So, if there is any failure in the hydraulic system at all, the wing should push itself back to normal. It should be impossible for it to fail-open, unless (as keith said) something lodges itself into the gap.

          2. DeadManWoking
            21st March 2011, 19:03

            Unless there is a failure of the valve or switch that turn the hydraulics off.

          3. Keith and Rob are indeed correct, a post I made in another article also touched on this:

            The rear wing pivots about its trailing edge so the flap actually ‘raises’ when activated. This mechanism is what permits the return to maximum downforce upon failure.

  4. There’s the talk about F1 being too aero depending nowadays, and they are still bringing more and more aero devices..
    The fact is in the end you have a device (the car)that uses power (engine)to go around the track, against the resistance of the tarmac (thru tyres) and the air mass.

    With the engine freeze, same tyres suppliers, standard weigh distribution, mandatory pitstop, no refuelling…
    No wonder why aero became so important as is one of the few things that marks the difference!

    1. ^^^^ This ^^^^
      Also, don’t forget that they have been limiting all kinds of materials and structural shapes for at least a decade not because of cost now, but because it cost too much way back when or was deemed not reliable enough to be safe once upon a time. Could you imagine racing if they did that back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s? They would still be using aluminum sheet metal, steel wheels, and metallic brakes, and F1 would NOT be the fastest race series or the pinnacle of the sport.

  5. Offtopic, but the Williams on the photo to this article, from this angle looks so much like its famous Rothmans-branded predecessor! Add the Black and Green Lotuses and the silver arrow Merc and we’re in for the season of Classic Liveries :-) How cool :-)

  6. I think MW is so pro DRS because he realises that overall his driver lineup combined will be take the most advantage from it. I’m not saying that other drivers will suffer so much as Lewis and Jenson will probably get more from it for the team. Mclaren have a history of getting innovations working quickly and effectivley (KERS, F-Duct recently) MW will welcome this as a leveller of the field, especially as McLaren by his own admission have been so far off the pace.

  7. if im not wrong i have read reports saying that RBR cars able to use their DRS system earlier than all others. so i dont think they have a problem, even that they may have an advantage over others.

    But in general DRS is really a buffoonery idea for a top class racing league like F1.

  8. Should the DRS fail and not return to its default state the car will be left with a significant reduction in downforce that the driver has no means to rectify.

    Which also holds true for any other part on the car that might fail. In recent seasons we’ve seen rear wings collapse, front wings break, wheels fail, and both front wheels simultaneously flying off a car. Even the worst case scenario with the rear wing (reduced rear downforce) is fairly tame compared to other failures which we take for granted.

    1. The difference being of course that this is a new avenue for failure. The ones you mention however are inherent to open wheel racing cars in general.

  9. no good thing should need tweaking, the only reason this gimmick does is because its not a good thing. the fact fota are having to constantly defend it shows its not a good thing.

    im hoping that f1 sees sence and bans this atrocity as soon as possible!

  10. It will be interesting to see what if as many drivers said that the system opens but fails to comeback to normal,what effect does it have on the braking of the car?

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