Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2023

After 25 grands prix, has F1’s ground effect revolution improved racing?

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When Formula 1 proudly unveiled its radical redesign of the sport’s technical regulations for the 2021 season after years of research and development, then-CEO Chase Carey couldn’t have been clearer about the underlying purpose behind the shakeup.

“The goal has always been to improve the competition and action on the track,” Carey said. “And, at the same time, make the sport a healthier and attractive business for all.”

Coupled with the introduction of the budget cap and various other measures to try and make the sport more environmentally friendly, fans were primed to expect a revolution when the regulations were eventually introduced in 2022 – a year later than planned due to the impact of covid.

Transformed aerodynamics brought the concept of ground effect back into the sport for the first time since the early 1980s, putting the emphasis on car floors to generate downforce rather than wings and bodywork. By changing how cars created downforce, the aim was to drastically reduce the hated ‘dirty air’ effect that had long plagued the sport by robbing attack drivers of grip when running close to cars they were trying to overtake.

There have now been 25 grands prix held under F1’s new ground effect era – with three sprint races on top of that. But after 1,500 laps and 7,700 kilometres of racing under the belt of F1’s newest generation of cars, have the regulations had the desired effect of making racing better?


The immediate question of ‘do F1’s new cars allow drivers to follow closer’ appeared to be answered in pre-season testing last season, even before the first race even began. Drivers were universal in their view that, yes, they could now run closer to rivals without losing significant performance than in 2021. That appeared to translate on the track too, with metrics suggesting that overtaking did increase in 2022 compared to the previous season.

There’s also the relative closeness of the field. All ten teams have scored at least a point in the opening three rounds of the 2023 season – something never before achieved in the sport. The midfield is arguably as competitive as it has ever been, with the gap between the front and rear of the field historically close too – surely an endorsement of the major systematic changes introduced to the sport last year.


If the 2022 regulations revolutionised anything, then surely all it did was to establish Red Bull and Max Verstappen as the clear and undisputed dominant force in Formula 1, claiming 20 of the 25 wins of the era taken so far. But it’s not just how frequently Red Bull win – the margin of victory they have enjoyed has echoed that of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari at the peak of their dominance in the early 2000s.

The more concerning matter is that drivers are reporting that the various rules changes for 2023 designed to try and curb aerodynamic porpoising may be making it harder for them to follow rivals as closely as they could last season. When the regulations were introduced, F1 had floated the idea of possibly reducing the use of DRS if overtaking proved more viable – but DRS remains just as prevalent now than ever.

I say

Have F1’s ground effect regulations succeeded in improving racing in the championship? Like most issues in this complex sport, the true answer is ‘it’s complicated’.

Alex Albon, Williams, Albert Park, 2023
F1 is arguably more competitive than before
Domination by a single team and driver is always going to taint the perception of how good the racing is, especially if that team is regularly beating all others by 20-30 seconds over the course of a race distance. But if you take Red Bull out of the picture, the competition in Formula 1 has been just as exciting as it was prior to 2022 – if not more so.

Rarely do we see large lulls in races without some kind of action or battles somewhere through the field, even if DRS does tend to play an all-too-frequent role in an eventual overtake if it happens. And as most motorsport fans would likely agree, overtaking is not the be-all and end-all of what makes good racing – if it was, IndyCar oval races and Formula E would be the most popular forms of single-seater formula racing on the planet.

Instead, what makes racing truly exciting is a combination of a close competition, variety of results and how viable it is for drivers to attempt passes on the track, rather than in the pit lane. With the field undoubtedly closer due to the various changes to the sport outside of the technical regulations, arguably all F1 needs is the other nine teams to find some kind of solution to catch up to the all-conquering Red Bulls – as then most complaints around the quality of racing in the sport would likely begin to die down.

You say

Do you agree that F1's technical regulations introduced in 2022 have improved racing?

  • No opinion (0%)
  • Strongly disagree (9%)
  • Slightly disagree (9%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (5%)
  • Slightly agree (45%)
  • Strongly agree (33%)

Total Voters: 127

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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59 comments on “After 25 grands prix, has F1’s ground effect revolution improved racing?”

  1. Sort of.

    On the one hand, the idea was to reduce the dirty air effect and while it hasn’t done that quite as much as hoped, it is clearly a considerable improvement on the old cars. So in this case, yes.

    However, Formula 1 has not made the obvious decision to scrap DRS, meaning overtaking is now simply too easy. Lewis Hamilton had absolutely no chance of defending against Verstappen in Albert Park and the Red Bull just breezed around the outside. There was no battle for the lead. That is not racing, and it is boring. We often talk about Liberty prioritising show over sport, but DRS is a weird anomaly in that it is terrible both for the show and for the sport, but inexplicably hasn’t been scrapped. So in this case the ground effect cars have made things worse, but that is because they are racing with DRS designed for the old cars, on new cars that don’t need it. But the fact that it has now made it so easy for FOM to make one small rule change and improve F1 by an enormous amount means I will vote slightly agree. But they still have to actually do it.

    I also think the cars are a little less spectacular to watch than the old ones. They seem to slide less because they are heavier and have more oversteer. But this downside would certainly be worth it if they were to scrap DRS and make the racing infinitely better.

    One thing I have been wondering is if banning wings would improve Formula 1. Obviously the cars would be a lot slower and we would be missing some of the excitement of the speed, but the cars would look spectacular as they would slide and be more difficult to drive, and also this would solve the dirty air problem. I don’t know if this would be a positive or negative major change.

    1. Coventry Climax
      23rd April 2023, 12:17

      Absolutely agree.
      The articles’ questions is similar to asking whether the new running shoes are better, while the athletes are all still bound by the ankles.

    2. The first BTCC race in Donington just minutes ago was a perfect example of a brilliant race. Jake Hill led for BMW with Dan Cammish right behind in a Ford. Cammish was slightly faster and spent lap after lap attempting to pass because he could follow closely and there was minimal dirty air effect, often pulling alongside but with Hill defending in the right places. Eventually Cammish managed to make the move by going around the outside at the Craner Curves, because when overtaking is hard, it has to be a great one when it comes off. Meanwhile, Josh Cook made a mistake at the start and then charged back to ninth from the back as there was plenty of overtaking and battling in the midfield. And all this in the one race of the season with absolutely zero performance balancing.

      This is the sort of great racing that we could get in Formula 1 if DRS is scrapped and there is slightly more done to reduce the dirty air effect.

      1. BTCC cars are incredibly slow compared to F1 so it’s not really a fair comparison. You’re never going to get that kind of racing in F1.

        1. Coventry Climax
          23rd April 2023, 12:51

          So, because F1 is (well, used to be) unique, we’re not allowed to compare it to anything? Hmm.
          Where ‘speed’ and ‘racing’ are directly related and the only relation too, is with drag races.
          For other formula’s, there’s much more involved. That ‘much more’ is supposed to reach it’s peak in F1; the Pinnacle of Motorsports. Sadly, that’s less and less true these days.
          I think @f1frog ‘s comment is a very valid one.
          Your’s, Alan Dove, is -unjustly- one in the category ‘Can’t be done’, whereas F1 should be about ‘We’ll get it done, somehow.’
          Unfortunately though, the FIA is going about it in the wrong way.

        2. I don’t really think the speed matters much. If you stripped F1 cars of all down force you would have the same racing as BTCC, but at higher speeds.

          1. I think that’s wishful thinking. Faster lap times generally infer shorter braking distances. F1 is open wheel which amplifies contact risk exponentially. The races are longer in F1 which calms things down a little.

            Also, again there’s a habit for people to compare F1 to other vastly less popular motorsports. I have my issues with F1 don’t get me wrong, but I don’t get why they’d want to emulate series which get a fraction of the attention F1 gets.

          2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            24th April 2023, 10:15

            Absolutely agree.

            Alan Dove’s comment

            Faster lap times generally infer shorter braking distances

            doesn’t take into account the much higher top speeds. Braking distances could be similar and certainly much longer than now which would aid overtaking significantly.

            I don’t think F1 without wings would ever happen and that’s a shame because it would be a spectacle.

      2. That’s the kind of racing F1 will never have – because it is F1. It’s got little to do with DRS, but everything to do with pretty much everything that makes an F1 car an F1 car.

        There are a few small changes F1 could make to achieve similar on-track results – but they never will. The outcry from those who have a strong opinion of what F1 is and should be will always make their loud and overbearing voices heard over and over again.
        And then there are the big teams…. Why would they (the teams with the most influence) support changes that result in them being relatively weaker? They only do it now when they get something even worse in return… Politics…

      3. @f1frog For an even better example, hopefully you caught the F4 race later in the day. In tricky conditions (which would almost certainly have been red-flagged in F1) the drivers put on a great spectacle, with side-by-side racing up and down the field.

        I was at Donington yesterday. So I got wet. But it was worth it.

    3. Coventry Climax
      23rd April 2023, 12:20

      made a typo in my emailaddress, so trying again:

      Absolutely agree.
      The articles’ questions is similar to asking whether the new running shoes are better, while the athletes are all still bound by the ankles.

      1. Your previous comment went through btw, so probably it was a matter of waiting for it to be approved (since unregistered acc) and the email typo wasn’t a problem.

        It’s a good example and I would like to see at least some start, such as reducing drs by 20%, see how it goes, if it’s still too strong try 40-50 etc. till removing it if it doesn’t kill overtaking ability.

    4. Lewis Hamilton had absolutely no chance of defending against Verstappen in Albert Park and the Red Bull just breezed around the outside. There was no battle for the lead. That is not racing, and it is boring.

      You forgot to add: and that reminded us of what kind of races we have just had for over a decade.

      1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
        24th April 2023, 9:54

        Do you remember in Imola, when they didn’t enabled DRS even when the track was dry? It was awful. F1 is not yet ready to get rid of that gimmick.

        1. Raymond Pang
          24th April 2023, 12:43

          Different, and unusual, circumstances. The track was wet off-line (and staying wet), which is why it was ‘awful’. Yet it also led to the spectacle of Hamilton making a mistake trying to lap Russell on the wet line and going off, and the Russell/Bottas crash.

  2. I don’t think the regulation change can be blamed for Red Bull’s domination. We had Mercedes domination for the period before the regulation change after all.

    We did have one competitive year inbetween in 2021 true, but without the oncoming 2022 regulations would that have even happened? We’ll never know. But certainly the period before that, from 2014 to 2020 was, for the most part, a period of sustained domination by one team (and for a lot of it, one driver).

    If anything can be blamed for the current domination by Red Bull, its Mercedes (and to a lesser extent Ferrari) dropping the ball so spectacularly and their stubborn refusal to abandon their development path at the beginning of last season (as Aston Martin did).

    I don’t think these regulations are perfect though. The cars are too long and cumbersome, the tyres still too temperature sensitive. And they need to give off a greater tow if we’re ever going to see the back of DRS. But these were all problems under the previous aerodynamic regulations as well. The 2022 regs therefore are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

  3. petebaldwin (@)
    23rd April 2023, 11:52

    No. That doesn’t mean that the new cars aren’t better for racing because they are but DRS already made passing too easy. The new cars with DRS have made “racing” a pointless exercise. Just wait for the straight, press the button and move ahead – much less risk involved.

    1. Sounds exactly like what I have been watching for the last decade.

  4. Yes, it has allowed following to be easier. However, the car behind will still get the heat from the car in front, which means the car behind will overheat the parts of the car and the tyres. Therefore, the car behind does not really have all the time to be extremely close to the car in front, unless with a significant pace advantage. What needs to be done, if we want more closer racing, is find a way to reduce the overheating of the car behind because additionally, the tyres will still overheat if you stay too close to the car in front which means that the car behind will get more tyre degradation.

    1. The raising of the floor did reduce following but the heat is till a problem if you are not overtake fast everything would overheat in your car.

  5. The thing that I’ve noticed is we’ve seen the return of the DRS train and I’m not really sure that’s a positive.

    Sure the midfield is tight but most of the time once things settle after the first few laps the midfield runs in a line with no-one really able to make a pass even under DRS because most of them are close enough to get drs from the car in front.

    I’m just not convinced things are actually any better at all. I do believe though that eventually, with budget caps, things might converge but quite possibly no faster than they did pre-cap under the old regulations.

    1. Ban everything and bring back banned solutions from the past ( like refueling etc.) Slightly redesign it. If people still complain repeat the cycle.

    2. Sorry @dbradock, it wasn’t for you

    3. Ban DRS and bring back Trulli. :-)

    4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      24th April 2023, 11:18

      The answer to the DRS train, if you agree DRS is still needed, is to limit the drivers to a certain number of DRS activations per race.

      However, its important that it could only be activated at one of the activation points, else the driver in front could react the to driver behind activating DRS.

  6. The fact this question has to be asked tells you the answer

    1. Absolutely. If it had, it’d be blindingly obvious.

      Instead, F1 is still addicted to DRS, keeps tripping over itself coming up with new weekend formats, new tyre rules … anything to get some variety and action in the sport. Not that it’ll make a difference, because it’s the cars that are the problem.

  7. Coventry Climax
    23rd April 2023, 12:37

    This is a weird article, or at least, a weird question with weird answers.
    The title suggests it is about ground effect only, but the final question is about the 2022 rules changes.
    The ‘For’ states:

    metrics suggesting that overtaking did increase in 2022 compared to the previous season

    Well, did it or did it not, but merely ‘suggests’? But anyway, the relation between improved racing and more overtakes is debatable, to say the least. Same holds good for the entire filed being closer vs improved racing, as there’s not necessarily a relation between the two.
    The ‘Against’ states it’s brought one teams domination. This time, it’s a 100% certain there’s no relation between the two. But weirdest of all, is that the new regulations for 2023 – to curb the porpoising of certain teams that seem to suffer from it, which the FIA deems hampers the show – are brought up, while saying elsewhere the regulations are some 25 races old. That’s apples and pears in it’s clearest form.

    The ‘I say’ says it’s complicated. No it’s not. It has been made complicated by tweaking the rules before giving it a chance to settle – making it impossible to assess the true effect.
    But that’s just FIA standard practice, I would say.

  8. I voted yes, don’t really see that 1.5 second gap that cars can’t close any more, they need to get rid of DRS to be sure. Annoys me that they will “experiment” with sprint races and qualifying, but not getting rid of DRS for a few races in the year.

    1. Yes, or at least start by reducing the effect by a decent %, if it’s still too powerful reduce it by more till potentially removing it, it’s annoying they aren’t considering this.

    2. I think if they got rid of DRS the races would have the least amount of overtaking in F1 history. The cars are a little better than 2021 like-for-like but still heavily reliant upon clean air. I dislike DRS immensely, but I am just one individual. I think for everyone else though will be screaming for DRS to come back in pretty sharpish if it was ever removed for a race.

      1. Agreed, I don’t think they can get rid of DRS (as an overtaking aid) yet.

        That said, I don’t think it needs to be nearly as powerful as it used to. The main change of make is to reduce the activation interval, so they need to be within, say, 0.5s* to use it. The new regulations have made it much easier to get within a second, which (along with the generally closer field) had led to a massive increase in DRS trains. Reducing the activation interval, maybe with a limit on consecutive uses**, could solve the issues we see now.

        * Roughly, and possibly lower. 0.4s, or even 0.3s, had looked more like the sweet spot to me at times.

        ** So, say, if you’ve used DRS on the last 3 laps, you have to wait until the following lap to use it again, or something like that.

  9. Unfortunately it seems that what they are doing with one hand, they are undoing with the other.
    Yes, the technical regulation improved racing.
    But it is compensated by other factors: racing regulation application to increase show is killing the racing, DRS should be adapted if not suppressed at some races, new domination with a bit of extra spending,…
    So many factors where the mark was missed that make it difficult to appreciate the regulation for what they’ve provided.

  10. Yes. Of course YES. The cars are easier to follow and can overtake better. There all there is to the answer.

    Conflating this topic with the fact that Red Bull has gone to dominate makes no sense. Mercedes had dominated before 2022, so if you give negative points for Red Bull’s domination, you should also give positive points for the elimination of Mercedes’ domination. Either makes no sense really.

    1. Mercedes dominated before 2021 actually, the last 2 years of domination were 2019 and 2020.

    2. It is perhaps indeed a bit of a disappointment driven article rather than a true reflective one.

  11. The ground effect aerodynamics has certainly made the cars more pleasant to look at. But I dont think it has yet achieved the effect where the fight for the lead of the race can continue from the first to last lap.

    1. That has nothing to do with the new rules, but the degrading tyres. One of the reasons Michelin doesn’t want to enter F1, because it doesn’t want to make these kind of tyres.

  12. Slightly agree.

  13. They never even tried a sprint race without DRS or degrading tires so I had to vote no. I assumed they would at least see what happened even though the data pointing to Brawn’s working group failure must have told them it wasn’t worth the bother.

  14. It did appear early on that it did have some effect. I don’t like how the cars move now though. They seem to understeer a ton and drivers don’t really seem to need to hit the apex. Which leads to less ability to pass. This was true in the first ground effects era, but seems worse now with the heavy cars.

  15. Slightly. The big improvement is the reduction in damage done to the tyres and engine of anyone racing close behind another car. But the addiction to DRS is harming actual racing and making it easier for Red Bull to dominate. Teams are closer. Save one. Although their success is mostly attributable to their technical design team, Red Bull also overspent the year that the new regulations were introduced and locked in their advantage in the new era for relatively little penalty cost. I don’t expect them to be seriously challenged until 2025. That would be easier to take if they weren’t a one-driver team – as even their second driver has pointed out this season.

    1. Their second driver has said that they went from a one car team to a two car team.
      Which they always were. The ‘second’ drivers were just not fast enough.

      1. @silfen They’re not fast enough for a reason, though, to ensure Verstappen doesn’t come under pressure. Perez’s observation was correct for the reason you give, not for this reason he insinuated – that team decisions favoured one driver. A remark that also clearly didn’t go down well at Red Bull. I don’t see the problem in pointing out it’s a deliberate strategy. Would Red Bull sign, say, Leclerc. Russell, Hamilton or Alonso? No because they’d risk destabilizing Verstappen. And perhaps for the team that is, actually, the best strategy.

        1. Yes, they would only sign the best drivers of the tier below those you mentioned, I think they also wouldn’t sign norris as I also consider him at that level, and perez is not bad in relation to the others.

        2. I do do not get the point here? This is business as usual. Or are you going to state Bottas was not in Perez’ role at Mercedes?

          1. No, Bottas was indeed in the Perez role and I constantly called for him to be replaced. Russell isn’t.
            Rosberg wasn’t either – in fact he was there as Mercedes lead driver, in effect, until Hamilton arrived (just one of the sources of conflict between them obviously).

    2. Red Bull also overspent the year that the new regulations were introduced and locked in their advantage

      Maybe this argument has had its best time. 0.8% overspend leading to the current advantage is something that will then need to be looked at by the other teams since it is quite an additional advantage for a mere 1,1 million spent. Seems rather a priority problem on what they spend their money on at other teams. Furthermore one might question how things unfolded, and how deserved achievements were, before the introduction of the cap when the differences between what teams spent was massive.

      1. Personally, I don’t think their overspend really had much effect on their current car. They’ve done a brilliant technical job and produced a solution which is far above the rest of the grids, but I think they’d have done the same no matter what. Where it was more likely to have had an effect was in 2021, where even such a small overspend could have brought one or two in season upgrades, which could have been pivotal in such a close run season.

        Before the hybrid era, F1 had become an aero-dominated series. Engine development was highly restricted and the engines were all roughly on a level, so the only thing which really mattered was aero. This is an area RBR excel at, which showed in Vettel’s championship-winning seasons.

        Then along came the hybrid engines. This tilted the balance over into engine-dominance, and Mercedes excelled. However, as Ferrari and Honda caught up, the balance became fairly even: engine and aero were of similar importance by this point.

        Two things have happened since then which have both tilted the scales back towards aero-dominance. The first is the new regulations, which is understandable: a new, significantly different set of aero regulations will always make aero more important for a few seasons. However, the other is the engine freeze, which stops anyone from making significant changes to their engine. That, I disagree with, because the combined effect is to effectively make F1 an aero-only series again…

        However, it’s fairly obvious that a massive shift towards aero dominance will benefit the team best at aero, ie RBR.

  16. The original intent of the new rules was also to get rid of DRS in 2024. In stead, now they have an even bigger DRS and more DRS zones.

    The rule changes last year were a step in the right direction, but unfortunately the kneejerk changes to the rules this year were a step back.

    Go back to the simpler floor (like last year) with ground effect, better tyres and no DRS and racing will improve imho.
    And make those cars smaller and lighter.

    1. Spot on, @silfen! Lighter and more nimble, please.

    2. I don’t think this could be said enough. The original intention was to remove DRS – – and as you state we have more DRS not less.

      I fear however that the audience, a large portion at least, is used to overtaking aids. BTCC has their hybrid rubbish, IndyCar has their overtake button and F1 has DRS. I think if they removed DRS I am not sure it’d be welcomed by the majority of the audience because overtaking would dramatically reduce in frequency. And the overtaking that would occur would generate a ton of argument online because it’d require a more forceful approach from the attacking driver.

    3. The drs thing is not because it is technically needed, but because Liberty & FIA are addicted. Overtakes = money. Circus elements are mixed with technical directives here.

    4. Absolutely. The project has been a failure because it hasn’t achieved its stated goal.

      DRS is just a relic of the FIA/FOTA conflict in which McLaren played a leading role. When McLaren introduced their “F-duct” that could stall the rear wing at the drivers convenience in 2010 it prompted complaints from teams who hadn’t been clever enough to come up with it. Citing costs and safety concerns, the FIA, which didn’t need much reason to rule against McLaren, swiftly banned it. But, with the 2009 regulation overhaul another failure (teams were already back to 2008 downforce levels, not least because of the badly written diffuser regulations) the F1 world was desperate for an “overtaking fix” and jumped on the concept McLaren had come up with. DRS has all the hallmarks of that era; overregulated contrivances that put all power in the hands of the FIA.

  17. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    23rd April 2023, 22:09

    A big step in the right direction for sure and the best they could do with the hand they were dealt, the cars however are just too big and heavy to promote the organic racing we want to see.

  18. Steve Holmes
    24th April 2023, 1:37

    This generation of F1cars are more dangerous than the cars they replaced.
    The bouncing issue is embarrassing and Formula One fans wonder what the heck is going on.

  19. Ditch DRS. Fit real tyres that don’t overheat when following in (now reduced) turbulent zone. Problem solved.

    Remove Pirelli. Add…. um… any normal tyre manufacturer.


  20. All of these comments and not even one acknowledging that F1’s primary problems in creating decent racing are its unhealthy fascination with maximum aerodynamics and minimum lap time.
    The best on-track racing comes from series with far heavier cars with less power than F1….. What they lack, obviously, is downforce and ultimate lap speed. How does this most basic of facts seem to escape everyone?
    Why do so many seem to want speed when it comes at the direct expense of racing quality? You simply can’t have both.
    F1’s ‘problems’ with tyres come from the same source. Too much downforce and speed, combined with the ever increasing car mass.
    Remember that last time somebody other than Pirelli made a tyre for F1, the cars weighed just 605kg, produced ~750hp and had far simpler aero (which created a lot more drag – no need for DRS).

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      25th April 2023, 9:10

      How does this most basic of facts seem to escape everyone?

      It doesn’t escape me. I’ve been saying the same thing for years and I just get shouted down. The future for F1 and motorsport in general should be very low downforce, perhaps wingless cars. Sure they will all go quite a bit slower, but the racing will be better and the tracks safer. The aero nerds and F1 “go no slower” speed police need to take a load off for once. Aero will still be a big thing.

      Lower car mass would be a mixed blessing. Yes helps tyres and lap time. Not so sure about the affect on safety and braking distances.

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