Lando Norris, McLaren, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

“Too easy” DRS passes better than “boring races”, drivers tell FIA

2023 Miami Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers have urged the FIA to reverse its efforts to shorten DRS zones this year.

The series introduced new technical regulations last season aimed at making it easier for cars to follow and overtake. After seeing some improvement, the FIA shortened DRS zones at three of the first five venues the series races at this year.

The shortening of the zones to prevent overtaking from being too easy was taken by some as a sign the new regulations had worked as planned. But some drivers have warned passing has become more difficult in the second season under the rules.

After the FIA announced it would shorten two DRS zones at the Miami International Autodrome this weekend, several drivers criticised the decision. The matter was discussed in the drivers’ meeting ahead of the grand prix.

While the FIA said the length of the DRS zones used this weekend could not be changed again at short notice, some drivers urged them not to abandon their efforts to shorten them elsewhere.

“I appreciate the FIA’s viewpoint that it’s not quite as simple as just changing something overnight and there’s other elements to take into consideration,” said George Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

“I think it’s going to be another challenging race. I think the reduction by the 75 metres is [worth] three or four metres which is one car’s length and that can be the difference of overtaking or not.”

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Russell said drivers want FIA to err on the side of making DRS zones longer. “All 20 drivers sort of came to the conclusion that we’d prefer it to be slightly too easy than slightly too difficult.

“Having it slightly too easy creates a bit more of an exciting race, slightly too difficult creates a very boring race. So better being on the safe side in that regard.”

Lando Norris said there has been a clear change in how cars behave in turbulent air this year which makes it harder to follow rivals and overtake them.

“More and more often you’re running lower downforce set-ups because that seems more like where the downforce is coming from. So you can get away with running smaller rear wings and things which makes slipstreams less, cars are way more efficient. Cars are harder to follow as well because generally the way you produce downforce makes the dirty air maybe a little bit worse.”

The FIA’s justification for shortening the zones in Miami was that passing was fairly easy in its DRS zones last year. Some drivers backed that view, but Norris disagrees.

“In my opinion there was no overtakes here last year, hardly any – three or four – and they still shorten [the zones]. I think we made our point clear: What you see [in the data] last year is a year too late. You have to see what happens in one race and not just make a guess from then on where to put things. There’s enough evidence already this year which has proved that racing is more difficult than in previous years.

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“When you go to a high-downforce track like Australia, maybe there it was a little bit easier. When you go to a lower-downforce track it seems like it’s extremely difficult. The slipstreams are minimal, dirty air is still a thing, it’s not like these cars have got rid of it and it’s easy to follow. It’s still very difficult to follow. So a number of different things.”

Like Russell, Norris is in favour of keeping DRS zones on the long side, even if that risks making passes very easy. “I just don’t see why you wouldn’t have a way longer DRS,” he said. “I don’t see the downside of having it.

“I guess you don’t want to have passes which are super-easy, but I feel like it’s better to be towards the too-long side than too short because if you’re quicker, you’ll still be able to get past them eventually and probably still beat him. But if it’s too short, you just don’t even pass in the first place and it’s boring.”

However before the weekend began Carlos Sainz Jnr said some drivers were arguing for changes to the DRS zones based on what would make their cars more competitive. Speaking after qualifying yesterday, he predicted the slight shortening of two DRS zones in Miami would not make a significant difference.

“We expressed our feelings to the FIA about the situation of the DRS. We got very specific feedback and it is something that is going to work probably differently in the next few races.

“For me, I don’t think 75 metres of DRS changes what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s probably, maybe not in the direction that this sport was going with the show and with overtaking and trying to make overtaking easier to shorten the DRS zones.

“But it is also not like 75 metres of DRS or whatever they’ve done is going to change the whole race. I don’t think it’s going to be a very different picture and overtaking like always in F1 is always a challenge. It’s always difficult and I expect it to be difficult tomorrow.”

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2023 Miami Grand Prix

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20 comments on ““Too easy” DRS passes better than “boring races”, drivers tell FIA”

  1. The drivers will always want passing to be at easy as possible. Their perspective is totally different to the fans’ perspective. From my point of view, too easy is worse than too difficult – if you shake a bag of sand, the big bits fall to the bottom; it’s dull if this happens too easily.

    What we really need is for it happen “organically” – drivers just need to be able to follow closer. If you need a gimmicky overtaking aid, then the problem is not the aid itself. The issue is tyres, silly aero and poor track design. This has been the case for decades.

    There was an idea a few years ago which was that there should be a mandated maximum level of downforce, the idea being that the onus is then on designing an aero efficient car, which would necessarily have a smoother wake. The current approach seems to be very restrictive and it hasn’t really worked in terms of making the cars less turbulent. Designers simply find ways to reintroduce aero parts that create a turbulent wake.

    Different tyres would obviously help a lot, nicer tracks too, but ultimately we need to turn the whole approach to designing these cars upside down.

    1. The drivers will always want passing to be at easy as possible. Their perspective is totally different to the fans’ perspective.

      Totally agree. The drivers want overtaking to be easy, because if they’re able to overtake it means they’ve put their car in a lower position in the race than where it should be. For them, that’s not good. For fans, it is – because it leads to racing. If the race consisted of the fastest cars up front and the slowest cars in the back there’d be zero overtaking.

      Norris claims easy DRS zones are good because “if you’re quicker, you’ll still be able to get past them eventually”. Right analysis, wrong conclusion! Fans indeed want to see drivers get past their competitors eventually. In other words, for drivers to make it a battle, make it exciting to watch.

      There was an idea a few years ago which was that there should be a mandated maximum level of downforce, the idea being that the onus is then on designing an aero efficient car, which would necessarily have a smoother wake.

      This is done in sportscars LMH/LMDh although the reasoning are not limited to that reason (it may have played a part, I don’t know).

    2. Yeah, we definitely want to go back to the parade on Sunday, with the finishing order determined on Saturday.

      Watching races where the finishing order was accurately predicted before the flag dropped was not exciting.

  2. Too many changes in isolation. They can’t look at just DRS, or tyres or car size or aero or track.
    They need someone smart enough to foresee unintended consequences, of a change to one or more areas or changes cancelling each other out, and then be strong enough to see them through.

    1. Yellow Baron
      7th May 2023, 18:23

      This is why drs is flawed. It should change so that the drs shuts automatically when cars get side by side or when they go nose to tail or something like that.
      That would stop drive by overtakes on straights and give a chance to defend as well as a chance to over take

  3. om my, no…. then they just sit and wait for a good DRS opportunity instead of fighting for a place. Rather see lap after lap after lap fighting for a place, wheel to wheel trial and error to pass, EVEN if that results in no overtake at all. That is then multiple laps that are WAY more enjoyable then just 10+ corners of waiting for DRS and then overtake by driving by.

    1. So much +1!

    2. 100% agree. Have you seen GP san marino 2005? Schumacher on Alonso’s back for the last 15 or so laps of the race, pure racing, pushing, trying and eventually no overtake but amazing defending.

      Nowadays that would be fly-past overtake for Schumi with DRS.

  4. I wholly share Russell’s & Norris’ views.
    Fortunately, the overpowered/easy-looking thing isn’t/has never been a problem on most circuits or activation zones.

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    7th May 2023, 14:47

    Probably an unpopular opinion but I agree with them. If the DRS is ok at least cars can get past and there’s a chance for the one behind to fight back, it promotes movement through the field. Without it we get processions where nobody can get close enough and wait (or hope) for one or two actual passes. I get that we’d prefer all of the passes were without DRS but at the moment I think I’d rather have a handful of them aided by DRS than 40-50 laps where we at best get one, maybe two and end up with races with no incidents being total snoozefests. An incident should no more be responsible for a good race than DRS, and at the moment we seem to be relying on both.

    Though has to be said this clearly marks the end of ‘making the cars easier to follow’ as that directive has evidently failed. DRS should be a supplement for overtaking, not the tool. It just seems to be a perpetual necessary evil.

    1. DRS should be a supplement for overtaking, not the tool.

      @rocketpanda I agree but the problem with DRS is that as we have seen over the past 12 years it’s impossible to get the balance right on a consistent basis which is why I still think it’s the wrong solution.

      The right way to go is & always was a P2P style system as thats easier to fine tune & far better at producing good racing rather than simply a lot of passing.

      I like how P2P is fairer as everyone starts with the same amount & I also like how it’s more tactical & more down to drivers given how it can be used everywhere at any time to either attack or defend. It just introduces an extra element of strategy & interest that benefits the racing rather than detracting from it as DRS all too often does when it makes passing far too easy.

      1. This is an important point. Back in 2011 when they were selling DRS to a sceptic audience, there was a lot of talk about the evolution DRS would go through to dial it in just right.

        In reality, it’s been way overpowered from day one. Now that the FIA is at long last making tiny adjustments the drivers of all people (!) are complaining. At least 18 people on the grid aren’t going to be world champion anyway, probably 19. So… race! Make it exciting for yourself and the fans. Don’t ask for more DRS.

  6. I’m completely the opposite.

    Overtaking should be hard & defending should be possible because that is what creates the great battles that stand the test of time and are remembered for decades & it’s also those situations that make drivers think & often result in the brilliant overtakes that are again remembered fondly for decades. It’s also what makes the great racers stand out as the great racers will find ways to make overtaking happen even when it’s difficult.

    When passing is too easy with DRS sure it bumps up the passing stats but it robs us of the great fights, the great overtakes & the memorable moments. It’s passing for the sake of passing, Quantity over quality.

    There needs to be a balance & going too far the other way with DRS does nothing but kill racing battles & render overtaking uninteresting, unexciting & utterly meaningless.

  7. So, the best drivers in the world prefer not having to race…

    1. This is a niggling issue I have with a lot of these driver comments, whether it’s their conduct or topics like this. It seems many aren’t actually interested in racing, but would rather shove others out of the way or breeze past with DRS just so they can do a 50 lap time trial to best match some ideal computer simulated race program.

      I imagine driving an F1 car is probably quite exciting in an of itself, but it just seems such a limited take on motorsport. Some of these guys talk about racing as though they’d rather do wear tests at the Michelin Laurens Proving Grounds.

  8. One real overtake is better than 100 fake DRS drive by’s.
    A push to pass button would be a better solution imho, similar to Indycar, so it becomes a strategic tool that drivers can use for a limited time in a race.

  9. Well, the drivers are the same generation like most new fans, so it maybe makes more sense that they want similar things; at least sometimes. I’d rather sit next to a motorway and watch such overtakes for free, in unlimited quantity; and they even allow me to participate. When watching F1, I prefer to see some skill and drivers working for it. If the defending driver wins the duel, that’s as entertaining as seeing a successful overtake; if it took skill and we saw a fine battle.
    Seeing someone driving a Red Bull overtaking someone driving a Haas on a two km long straight with the help of DRS is like watching a paint dry. DRS never helps drivers in slower cars, it actually destroys any underdog’s hopes. The best someone driving a weaker car can hope for from DRS is to try to follow a faster car for half a lap or more and gain some time or save some fuel. That’s what I call FUN.

  10. Totally disagree. Hope the FIA stays strong. We had several French GP’s where there were a dozens of drs highway passes. That’s way more boring then what we saw in Baku.

  11. Unfortunately, I find DRS itself makes for boring races. At that point, there’s no either/or; the apparent choice is boring races without DRS or even more boring ones with DRS, if a non-DRS race would be boring.

    1. (Specifically, DRS – even in small doses – will tend to concentrate the strategies of savvy drivers towards doing their overtakes using the DRS, or else in the first 2 laps before it’s turned on. Anything else is relying on luck or deliberately making their job harder and less likely to be successful. By reducing the range of plausible passes, DRS renders most passing predictable. The kicker was seeing the double-pass Verstappen did in the early stages of the race coming two laps in advance and then having to endure the commentators either being surprised at something incredibly obvious or pretending to be surprised by it).

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