(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; Lando Norris, McLaren; Imola, 2022

‘Longer-term we’d very much like to phase out DRS if we can’

2022 F1 season

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Formula 1 may be able to eliminate the Drag Reduction System from future regulations if it can continue the progress it has made in encouraging cars to run together more closely.

That’s the view of the FIA’s head of aerodynamics Jason Somerville. He joined the sport’s governing body earlier this year, having spent five years at Formula 1 where he developed the new technical rules which were introduced this year.

DRS was introduced to F1 in 2011 to help drivers make overtaking moves. The new rules developed for this season were also designed to address that problem, but Somerville said it became clear during their development that F1 wouldn’t be able to do away with DRS immediately after their introduction.

“During the initial research, because we reduced the size of the ‘hole’ that sits behind the car, we reduced the downforce lost [by a following car] but we also reduced the tow,” he explained in an interview with Peter Windsor. “So we were a bit mindful that we probably weren’t going to be able to just park DRS and remove it from the regulations.”

However he indicated F1’s reliance on DRS to aid passes could be reduced and eventually removed. “I think DRS, for us, is a very tune-able feature,” he said. “It’s very circuit-dependent and it can be dialled in and out.

“I think most of us feel, longer-term, we’d very much like to try and phase DRS out if we can. But we didn’t think that was necessarily going to be the right thing to do overnight for these regulations.”

Formula 1 will introduce its next major revision of the technical regulations in four years’ time. “For the 2026 car, we’re looking at different solutions,” said Somerville. “And it may be that DRS doesn’t have to have such an important role in the concept of those cars.”

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During and after the last race at Imola, several drivers claimed DRS should have been activated earlier than it was to aid overtaking. However Somerville pointed out passes were made without DRS before then and few were afterwards.

“I thought it was quite interesting that because we had this drying track, we had almost half the racing with no DRS. And I think it was interesting to see that there were a few overtakes that happened before the DRS got switched on but then the DRS was cancelling each other out.”

Somerville believes F1’s four grands prix so far this year have shown the new rules have helped drivers race more closely. This will inform F1’s thinking on “how we prioritise DRS at the various events” in future.

“At the start we couldn’t be 100% sure that the teams wouldn’t have undone half of the work that we’d spent the last four years doing,” he said. “Now it looks like we’ve managed to keep a lot of it so that has meant the teams can visibly run a lot closer through the corners and onto the next straight.

“So we do get something that we haven’t seen for a while, actually, an overtake happens but you look over your shoulder and he’s still there and he comes back at you. That’s something that has been quite refreshing for the first few races at various points and it’s not purely been DRS. There’s been DRS ‘cat and mouse’ but I think we’ve been quite pleased that the downforce retention is there.

“We just need to be careful that we don’t ignore the fact that naturally means the tow is a bit smaller. So you kind of need the tow effect, the big hole in the air behind you, to give you a little bit of a boost if you haven’t got DRS.”

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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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55 comments on “‘Longer-term we’d very much like to phase out DRS if we can’”

  1. This sounds very promising to me but i think it’s very important that the cars getting smaller (how much is a important but difficult to decide)

    1. @macleod – I would dearly love to see a limit on the maximum length and width being reduced to something like 5mx1.8m – there may even be a reduction in weight at last if that happened too.

      1. Honestly I think 5 metres is still too long for an F1 car. Or any single-seater for that matter.
        In the mid-1990s F1 cars were all around 4.5m x 2m, not coincidentally approx the same dimensions of a standard European road car.

        I look forward to the end of DRS.

      2. @ahxshades – I hope more on 1.9m width and 4.5m long which indirect the weight will reduce.

        1. Would it really make a significant difference when much of the weight increase has been due to the use of heavier standardised parts (e.g. the heavier wheel rims and the new wheel covers), whilst many non-standardised parts have had their minimum weight significantly increased?

          Add to that the weight increase due to components such as the Halo, along with other new safety components, and there are quite a few elements adding weight which wouldn’t change even if the cars were any shorter or narrower.

          1. @anon I think your right creating smaller cars would reduce car weight not so much (more like 1%-2%) due the safety features and the rimms (the covers are very light) weight will be still there. But fysical smaller means there is more room on track and in corners which helps overtaking. But i hear a smaller battery pack would reduce weight a lot and give more poweroutput those will be aviable in 2024-2025 lets hope they restrict the amount of batteries to a standard weight.

          2. Smaller cars would be lighter, and lighter cars would in turn allow cars to be lighter because as weight increases many components need to be built stronger which typically means more material and more mass. The opposite is true as well.

          3. @macleod there are areas where that technology already exists, but has been capped intentionally as part of cost saving measures – the battery systems are an example, where the current batteries have both a fixed minimum weight and a fixed maximum weight that are designed to limit development on those systems.

            The Dolphins, the point is that the wider regulatory environment often has a far more significant impact on the cars than the dimensions of the car has been doing in recent years. The 2022 regulation package is a demonstration of that – the 2022 cars are regulated to be shorter than the 2021 specification cars they replaced, but the weight of new standardised 18 inch rims and changes to the safety regulations, along with the standardised parts, resulted in a significant increase in weight compared to the 2021 cars.

    2. @macleod Smaller cars will be easier to overtake, but I doubt it will make much difference. Assume the cars are 1 meter longer than they ‘should be’. Rule of thumb is that a clean overtake requires that you are at least halfway alongside your opponent, so in this case an extra 0.5 meters more to overtake than ‘should be’. In a world where it is difficult to stay within 1 second, I doubt that the extra 50 centimeters you need to overcome will be a big extra hurdle.

      1. @matthijs – It’s the room to the corner which makes overtakes easier but if the cars get lighter you can get more meters by braking late. But following is already much beter which adds up. And it’s ofcourse 2 x 50cm your car and target car if everything gets roomier overtaking gets easier.

        1. @macleod You are right about the 2x 50 cm, I forgot about that.
          However, I don’t agree with your assessment about lighter cars and braking late. Lighter cars will have a shorter braking distance, which makes it even harder to brake later than your opponent. At least that’s what sounds logical to me.

  2. DRS needs to go.

  3. Actually the DRS impact on races has changed this year. In previous seasons, drivers were struggling to get within this 1 sec window then were getting a easy/free pass thanks to DRS at some tracks before disappearing in the distance as passed car struggled in dirty air and dropped back.

    Now, with weaker tow, it feels like DRS doesn’t quite create same delta in speed making it more even than straightforward pass like before but more importantly, passed car is not struggling so much in dirty air and has the chance to hang in there to respond and attack back. I really enjoy this dynamic of racing.

    DRS or not, we will always have big deltas in speed and easy overtakes, and cars struggling to overtake due to low delta on top speed. Last GP showed clearly that DRS was not changing much, and if any thing was slightly better without already. While I would prefer to drop DRS completely, it bothers me less than before.

    1. @jeanrien Good assessment.

    2. Yes @jeanrien, I noticed this as well. It does seem that the passed car, if it’s fairly evenly matched, can stay with the passing car for a longer period. Or even come back at it later.

    3. @jeanrien I agree. As much as I fundamentally dislike DRS as the wrong fix for a problem, I feel that in some cases DRS adds to the exitement, as long as the defending driver is not helpless.

      1. Yeah I can go along with this fairly well too, although I do think when they can do the cat-and-mouse thing and are actually braking ahead of a DRS line in order to ensure they trail behind a car, that is when the zone needs tweaking. I get that it can just be part of the game at some tracks, part of ‘strategizing’ but I can’t wrap my head around drivers slowing and braking in order to purposely trail another driver.

        I also think tweaking needs done when, as CL pointed out a handful of weeks ago, the delta is so great that the DRS pass takes place well before a braking zone…just a mere highway pass on a straight happening well before a corner with the leading car utterly defenceless such is the delta (which pretty much defines DRS reality, however needn’t be so extreme).

  4. So we are stuck with this until until 2026? We’ve been lied to again

    1. @markwebber Not necessarily.

    2. And the best news of all is that as the cars develop year-on-year, the racing will get worse again.

    3. Coventry Climax
      1st May 2022, 0:58

      Well, the promise here is, that the new regulations for 2026 intend to ‘phase out’ DRS: “And it may be that DRS doesn’t have to have such an important role in the concept of those cars.”
      So, if it may be, it may also not be.
      It’s the same thing we’ve been promised before. Also phasing out and ‘maybe’ is not the same as doing away with it immediately. And then guess what: During the development of the 2026 rules, they will come to the conclusion they cannot immediately do away with DRS – again.
      Same wine, new jars. They just found someone ‘new’ to do the lying.

      1. Nobody has ever promised to get rid of DRS.
        The only lies are those of people lying to themselves about it.

        1. Coventry Climax
          1st May 2022, 14:01

          Read again, S. Where exactly do I say that getting rid of it was the promise? Maybe make that a habit, reading twice, before making acusations?

          1. Well, the promise here is, that the new regulations for 2026 intend to ‘phase out’ DRS

            It’s the same thing we’ve been promised before.

            And lies?

            They just found someone ‘new’ to do the lying.

            It’s impossible to lie about a promise that nobody ever even made.
            They’ve said they’d like to phase it out – not that they actually will.
            They’ve said that they’d like to not have it in future – not that they will actually take the necessary steps to not have it in the future.
            They’ve said ideally it will be unnecessary in the future – not that it will definitely be unnecessary in the future.

            Maybe chill out a bit and remember that I might not just be replying to you, but also other comments further up in the thread while I’m at it.

  5. Without DRS, overtakes between cars of similar pace (i.e. 2/3/4 tenths apart) would be impossible. In Imola, the track was damp so it’s not a representative.

    1. And what’s wrong about that? Many drivers have forged their legend by being able to either put constant pressure in the leading driver until he makes a mistake, or by being able to withhold that pressure from a faster driver behind.

      That memorable 2005 battle between Schumacher and Alonso would’ve lasted 3-4 laps with DRS.

      1. 1- Back in those years, most of the battles were ‘hopeless’, i.e. the driver behind would follow closely the car for 10/20/30 laps without any single overtaking attempt or error by the driver in front. We saw this between Hamilton and Gasly.

        2- That battle is overvalued. Schumacher had a 2-sec faster car but it was simply impossible to pass in Imola. Schumacher actually overtook Button but only thanks to backmarkers.

        1. It wasn’t backmarkers that created that overtake. Button actually made an unseen error into the 2nd part of Acque Minerale, just touched the dirt which caused him to miss the apex slightly and give Schumacher a run.

        2. @albo94 But the drivers who were in front are there on merit so its only right they should be able to remain there unless the driver in a faster is able to perform an overtake. It is also against the spirit of racing for them to not want to defend their position, which is the case with DRS as racing in a slower with DRS allowed is pointless.

          1. Can’t see how DRS can go if cars stay the same as now. This will create dull races with no overtakes unless your advantage window is more than 0.8s per lap. I really hope DRS stays until it doesn’t make any sense. We’ve seen what happened just last week in Imola, despite the presence of DRS.

        3. Coventry Climax
          1st May 2022, 1:02

          Haha, ‘back in those years – Hamilton/Gasly’. Are you serious?

  6. petebaldwin (@)
    29th April 2022, 9:49

    That’s great but Sky clearly love DRS as do many of the promoters. Getting someone who loves F1 to say that they want to phase DRS out is one thing. Getting someone who only cares about money to agree is quite another!

    Despite what he says, DRS is going nowhere. My hope is that they change the rules around it… Have it like push to pass in Indycar where you have a limited amount of uses and all of the unfairness around DRS disappears. You’re free to use DRS anywhere you like on the track but once you touch the brakes, it deactivates and that’s one usage gone. Perhaps put the activation on a 3 second delay so defending drivers have to choose when to use it and can’t simply react to the driver behind every time they activate theirs.

    You could use it to get past cars in front, you could use it for in/out laps, you could use it to set the fastest lap late into the race, you could use it to catch up to someone or to try and create a gap… You could also ban team to driver comms regarding DRS usage so it’s left to the drivers to decide when they should activate it.

    1. @petebaldwin Anywhere indeed was the case in 2011 & ’12, but usage got limited to designated zones for a reason, so going back would be unworthy.
      Available for every race & Sprint lap (bar the first two, first two post-SC, & when relevant mini-sectors have yellow) within activation zones like in QLF, practice, & testing would be okay.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        29th April 2022, 14:29

        @jerejj Yeah I wasn’t clear with what I meant – keep the DRS zones but you can only activate DRS x amounts of times. That could be in all 3 zones on a single lap (3 activations) or you could do it on just 1 zone (1 activation).

        1. @petebaldwin I disagree with your notion about ‘only caring about money’ but even if that was the case, that doesn’t mean DRS is here to stay. I have no doubt that as long as the racing is good, and I do believe they will get there without needing DRS, then that will bring the audience. Of course Sky wants viewership to be as high as possible, as does Liberty of course, but that certainly does not mean the only way for them to get those maximum numbers is via DRS.

  7. 1- Back in those years, most of the battles were ‘hopeless’, i.e. the driver behind would follow closely the car for 10/20/30 laps without any single overtaking attempt or error by the driver in front. We saw this between Hamilton and Gasly.

    2- That battle is overvalued. Schumacher had a 2-sec faster car but it was simply impossible to pass in Imola. Schumacher actually overtook Button but only thanks to backmarkers.

  8. Get rid off it NOW, it would also rid the sport off the Tik Tok fanbase it seems desperate to attract. The whole point it was to make it easier to follow other cars in dirty air, that seems to be resolved so there’s no need to keep it. It has ruined racing, let drivers figure out how to overtake each other like they used to, otherwise its pointless comparing these set of drivers to others in the past. Imagine how many more races the likes of Schumacher, Senna, Prost etc could have won if they had the DRS button which could see them breeze past every driver in front of them in a slower car?

  9. I’m not a fan of DRS but it’s probably the best of the bad alternatives. Another option would be to reduce aero and increase the hole in the air the front running car makes allowing the following car to pass. But we’ve been there and some fans thought it not ‘exciting’ enough, and look where we are now.

  10. Perhaps this is not a fair analogy, but could F1 replace DRS with an IndyCar-like push-to-pass system? I get that the hybrid PUs make that more challenging and they already have energy deployment buttons, but what I really like about push-to-pass is that they only get a certain amount per race so have to use it strategically. And they can use it to defend too so it’s not as automatic as DRS.

  11. The answer is a reduction in braking ability – simply to make the braking zones longer. This gives more chance to outbrake another car. These chances will either get you past, or get you in the slipstream for next time. We don’t need DRS, we just need more raceable cars. A 200m stopping distance from 200mph makes a lot more opportunity than a 60m one.
    Opportunities for mistakes and also for outbraking maneouvres.

    This was mentioned on Skys coverage at Imola – its almost impossible to outbrake a modern car with a competent driver by enough to get by without a mad Max lunge.

    1. I should add that this will also allow the lost art of defence – a slow car would actually be able to fight with a faster one if it finds itself ahead.

    2. I agree – however there’s a major problem, @sham.
      Increasing braking distance requires some other means that affects the cars in other ways.
      Reducing car performance such that braking distances are substantially lengthened would upset so many people that it will never be allowed to happen.
      Cars would need to be far heavier than they currently are, downforce/drag would need to be a fraction of what it is now, and/or tyres would need to be massively smaller/less grippy than they are now.
      All result in longer braking distances, but they also have other major effects in all other areas of driving performance – some subjectively good, some not so.

      Changing brake system design/materials has no positive effect that doesn’t make them dangerous without still requiring the other changes above, so that’s a no-go by itself.

      Sadly, the importance many people place on F1 being the fastest, and the ‘pinnacle’ (whatever that means) precludes braking distances from lengthening far enough to have any positive effect.

      1. A less effective braking system doesn’t make cars more dangerous. It simply means the drivers have to brake earlier. The same way I have to brake earlier in my estate car than someone in a Lamborghini road car would. In a crash situation, with the car spinning or otherwise out of control – the brakes are the least likely part of car safety to make a significant difference to the outcome.

        The only way to make more overtaking is to make the drivers more of a factor, the cars can essentially remain as they are now – now that following in corners is possible, we simply need to allow the drivers to fight, both in attack and defence. Corner entry is where racing drivers fight. Extend the braking distance and let them fight.

        1. I don’t think you fully understand the physics going on when braking…
          Assuming both cars were the same mass – the Lamborghini has much larger (and most likely softer) tyres, it has a lower centre of gravity, it has stiffer springs and dampers that control weight transfer differently and the larger brake package will operate in a higher and wider temperature window minimising brake fade, just to name a few differences. You can put more brake pressure into the Lambo before the wheels lock because the tyres have plenty of traction, whereas it’s very easy to lock the wheels in your estate car because it has relatively little traction with the road. It isn’t designed to stop as aggressively, and the comfort/quiet tyres you bought for it are designed to last 20x as long.

          When you say ‘less effective braking system’ – How exactly do you mean, @sham?
          I’m interested in some examples of how to lengthen braking distances without substantially changing the cars and without making the brake package dangerously ineffective or pushing it beyond its technical limitations.

          I, too ,want the drivers to be a bigger factor in performance – but the cars simply need to change (a lot) to make that happen.

          1. To make a less effective braking system, you simply need different materials in the disks and pads. Less efficiency means longer braking distance. You don’t need less grip, or more weight. Just slightly worse brakes.

          2. That’s exactly what I thought you’d say.
            Pity it falls into the dangerously ineffective or pushing it beyond its technical limitations categories noted above.

        2. Coventry Climax
          1st May 2022, 1:31

          “A less effective braking system … not unsafe … “. Or, have them run 0.8 litre ICE’s! Then they won’t reach that same topspeed anymore, which makes it more critical to get on the throttle at the earliest possible moment. Wow, that’s the safest thing I can think of, short of not racing at all.

          OK, fine. Your explanation then: “… just brake earlier …”. But then why not get rid of all (yes, ALL) rules around DRS and let the drivers decide for themselves. That wouldn’t make driving more dangerous either, as it’s just a matter of applying DRS when and where you can, and don’t when you can’t, right? Put your foot on the throttle where you can, and brake where you should, right? Sounds like racing to me.
          That however, the racing, has no relation to the length of the braking distance, it has to do with assessment and ability, talent, on the part of the drivers. It will not create a bigger chance of overtaking for those with a slower mind, or with less talent.
          It is F1 we’re talking about, and deliberately making cars slower around a track sounds rather silly to me. Oh yes, it’s happened before, with groved tyres and such, but I never approved of those either.
          We need to get rid of all artificial tricks and get racing back to what it should be, an art, in the hands of the most talented drivers. Lengthening the brake distance without changing anything else won’t change a thing – except adding to the amount of boredom we currently already have.

          1. If there were never any rules to keep the cars’ speeds in check, they’d be going fast enough that a human driver couldn’t keep up or couldn’t physically remain in control, @Coventry Climax.
            Unless you want to see the driver removed altogether, there will always need to be rules to slow the cars down.
            Even if you don’t think that’s what the rules are for, that’s exactly what many of them do.

  12. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
    29th April 2022, 12:04

    I disliked DRS from the start, as I enjoy racing for it’s own challenges, not just the overtaking. Overtakes in F1 are a testament of speed and ability, a means of inter-driver communication, sometimes saying “my car is faster than yours”, and sometimes saying “I am a faster driver than you”.
    Overtakes in F1, especially between two equal cars/drivers should be lauded as a heroic effort. The DRS devalues all I’ve mentioned above, and dilutes F1 into a “press to pass” entertainment spectacle. You don’t need the best drivers in the world in the fastest cars in the world for that, there are many racing sports where overtakes are abundant and cheap, we don’t need F1 becoming one of them.
    Unfortunately, with DRS, now that they can follow each other so closely, the DRS is unstoppable (unless the track is wet outside the racing line). That’s the main issue, in my opinion.
    The “defending” driver has absolutely no chance to defend from DRS. It’s tantamount to cheating.

    1. Coventry Climax
      1st May 2022, 1:33

      You’re not mistaken at all, sounds quite spot on to me.

  13. “I think DRS, for us, is a very tune-able feature,”

    They have been saying that for 11 years now & yet have still not managed to get it right consistently as it still produces overtaking that is far too easy far too often & is still far more of a factor in overtaking than it should be.

    The easier drive-by passes that are completed due to DRS well before the braking zone is one thing but the element of DRS that is often ignored is that in many situations even the moves that are finished in the braking zone are made too easy thanks to DRS because when you have the sort of overspeed you tend to get with DRS you have so much more momentum with the closing speed that it’s next to impossible for the car ahead to defend which isn’t how it should be.

    A slipstream will give you a drag reduction while your behind another car but as soon as you pull out into the airflow you start to lose that speed so your pulled upto the back of/alongside a car ahead but as the speed starts to come off we get some good wheel to wheel racing with the overtake (Or defence) down to the skill of the drivers on the brakes. With DRS you get to the activation line, Hit the button to open the wing to get the drag reduction & you have that reduced drag/speed boost right up until you lift off the throttle or hit the brakes so you don’t get that same sort of competitive wheel to wheel battle down to the braking zone.

    It just comes across as artificial with the 1 second gaps, detection lines, activation lines & what are basically FIA designated overtaking zones that takes the focus away from the rest of the track & remove the need for drivers to be smart, study there opponents & then look for places to overtake. You saw at Imola that in the period without DRS drivers were darting about & looking for alternative places to have a go (With some attempts & successful overtakes happening away from the DRS zone), Then as soon as DRS got switched on it was back to waiting for the DRS zone & looking for that easy pass & that isn’t what racing should be for me.

    I just don’t enjoy the sort of racing DRS creates & i’ve said many times over the years that it’s ruined my enjoyment of far more races than it’s helped & that remains true this year.

  14. There is a whole new generation of fans who have never known anything other than DRS in F1 so it’s going to be real hard to go ‘backwards’ (which is actually forwards, but that’s life). I am not sure people will be able to cope with ‘normal’ passing with the extra regulatory interference with overtaking as well.

  15. DRS just needs watered down a bit. Ideally we just need it to replicate a standard slipstream which was lost with ground effect cars. I don’t see how we can have cars following closely along with a natural slipstream so one is going to give unfortunately. They need to test it with 2 identical cars and match the closing speed form pre 22 cars while slipstreaming on a straight. It would however be interesting to have a race on a track know for lots of overtaking and have no DRS at all.

  16. The problem most of us have with DRS is that it leads to boring motorway-style passes because it increases straight line speed. Rather than removing drag down the straights, would it be feasible to instead add to front and rear downforce through various corners to help generate more interesting overtakes? That wouldn’t need to be disabled due to safety issues such as wet conditions either since it adds to downforce rather than removing it.

    I wonder if that combined with slightly less good braking performance would help create more fighting through the corners and less of the mindless straight line passing.

  17. decrease the DRS flap size until it no longer exists. If the racing suffers increase the flap size.

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