Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022

Is DRS-baiting dangerous, or a legitimate tactic?

Debates and Polls

Posted on

| Written by

In the cockpit, Formula 1 drivers never typically give anything more than they absolutely need to to their rivals.

Back in 2011, the sport introduced the controversial Drag Reduction System (DRS), in an effort to encourage overtaking by providing more opportunities to pass.

Simple in both concept and execution, DRS allows drivers to open up a hydraulically operated slot in their rear wing to allow much more air through than usual and increase their potential top speed. However, drivers are only permitted to use the device along specific sections of the track and only when within a second of a rival car ahead through a special detection point located just before the activation zone.

Such is the overspeed advantage that attacking cars can have with DRS – sometimes over 15kph – defending from a car with DRS can be especially difficult for drivers. However, one particularly controversial tactic has emerged in recent years that has sparked much debate within the sport.

As having a rival behind with DRS means holding onto a position can be difficult, some drivers have occasionally backed off deliberately on the approach to a DRS detection zone to ‘bait’ their rivals into overtaking them before they cross the detection point and allowing them to gain the benefit of activating DRS along the following straight. If executed successfully, a driver who sacrifices their position for one corner can end up holding onto their position.

There were examples of this in the early races of 2022, when Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battled for the lead in both the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix. In Bahrain, Leclerc backed off at the end of the main straight to allow Verstappen behind him to reach the DRS detection line first to allow him to counter-attack on the run to turn four. The next race in Jeddah, both drivers backed off on the run to the final corner during their late fight for the lead in order to let the other through before the DRS line.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021
Verstappen and Hamilton infamously clashed in Jeddah
But this tactic has led to some concerning situations. At the last grand prix of this season in Abu Dhabi last weekend, Lewis Hamilton accused Fernando Alonso of “brake testing” him over team radio after the Aston Martin driver appeared to back off before the typical braking point on the run to turn five to try and encourage Hamilton to pass him before the DRS line.

More famously, Hamilton clashed with championship rival Verstappen at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix when he backed off before the final corner after receiving an instruction to allow Hamilton to overtake him. The Mercedes also backed off to avoid overtaking Verstappen before the DRS detection zone, with the two rivals clashing together and Verstappen earning a penalty.

So is this tactic of strategically baiting rivals into overtaking moves before DRS detection zones a dangerous one that the sport should outlaw, or is it just a part of the game?


In motorsport, all drivers can only commit to wheel-to-wheel racing with their rivals under the understanding that there are certain things they will never do. They will not weave side-to-side erratically on straights and they won’t unexpectedly hit the brakes for no reason outside of braking zones.

With DRS-baiting, that is exactly what you’re risking. By suddenly slowing in a part of the circuit where you’re usually flat on the throttle, you’re risking a serious accident that puts both drivers, other innocent rivals, marshals and even fans at risk.

Much like making multiple moves on straights while defending is prohibited by the regulations for being dangerous, the same should be the case for this ‘tactic’.


DRS may have been introduced to encourage overtaking to counter the impact of dirty air creating a disadvantage to drivers following behind their rivals. However, it has ultimately tipped the balance too far the over way, making overtakes far too easy at times.

As drivers who have a rival within DRS range behind them often have no practical way of preventing them from passing, deliberately allowing them to pass is a smart way of undercutting the inherent advantage of the system by turning it around in your favour. It is also no guarantee of keeping a position, as you then have to successfully pass in the DRS zone after sacrificing the place.

As long as you aren’t stopping directly in front of a rival, it should be considered a fair game tactic.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

I say

In an ideal world, Formula 1 would not need DRS. But even though the sport brought in ground effect aerodynamics in 2022 in a bid to try and provide a more natural solution to dirty air effect, DRS has become in many ways even more important than ever.

F1 needs to be careful of the example it sets to junior formulae
But while allowing rivals to overtake before DRS detection points so you can re-pass them down the DRS activation zone instead is indeed a very risky and cunning strategy, there is just too much risk of something going wrong that it feels a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ it triggers an accident.

Especially given that DRS has trickled down over the years to Formula 2 and F3 and even other categories beyond that, Formula 1 and the FIA need to consider the example F1 drivers are setting for younger, less experienced drivers. It’s okay for world champions like Fernando Alonso to try that tactic against fellow world champions like Lewis Hamilton, but eventually someone in F3 is going to tray and bait a rival who will not be anticipating it and whose reactions will not be as sharp and the outcome will be ugly.

So until Formula 1 contemplates ways of equalising DRS – such as making it time-based like IndyCar’s ‘push-to-pass’ rather than proximity based, the safest way to handle it is to prohibit drivers from unexpectedly slowing down at the end of fast straights.

You say

What do you think? Have your say in our poll below.

Do you agree that 'DRS-baiting' is a dangerous tactic that should be prohibited in Formula 1?

  • No opinion (2%)
  • Strongly disagree (39%)
  • Slightly disagree (13%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (6%)
  • Slightly agree (16%)
  • Strongly agree (24%)

Total Voters: 111

Loading ... Loading ...

A RaceFans account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed instead of the voting form.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Debates and polls

Browse all debates and polls

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

53 comments on “Is DRS-baiting dangerous, or a legitimate tactic?”

  1. I voted slightly disagree. It’s a legitimate tactic with DRS (although unfortunate we’re in this situation) and should be allowed if the driver thinks it’s worth trying.

    I would prefer it’s allowed than constant arguments over whether they slowed down too much and trying to judge what that is. Obviously there’s a risk if someone brakes in front of you but that risk is the same for them so I can’t see it being a regular problem as it hasn’t been so far.

    1. Robert Henning
      3rd December 2023, 15:31

      Agree with this assessment.

      1. “All in the game yo, all in the game.” …

    2. I agree. Though I’ll add – if circuits also reduced the length of DRS zones, there would be less incentive for it to happen.

    3. Argee with this. It’s clearly only an issue when the DRS zone is too long / powerful.
      I remember Alex Albon gaining plaudits for similar tactics at Spa in 2019, (not relinquishing the place that time), but slowing out of Turn 1, instead of overtaking Perez, in order to have DRS down the Kemmel.

  2. Robert Henning
    3rd December 2023, 15:30

    In three cases of DRS baiting, the only issue has come from one driver who once didn’t want to pass a slowing down car and in the other case claimed brake testing while the car in front actually went off track.

    To me it’s clear that Verstappen, Leclerc and Alonso can play these games while Hamilton cannot.

    So a more appropriate question is to ask is if Hamilton should also be clever with these incidents and not fall for the bait and instead think about these baits before making a move.

    It could just be the new way young drivers like Alonso go racing.

    1. Coventry Climax
      3rd December 2023, 15:46


      I’m sure the FiA will come up with some silly rule regarding this, where just banning DRS in the first place would solve it all and for good.
      That, and prohibiting or at least filtering out the tell tale onboard messages that particularly the Mercedes boys seem to have a patent on, would be my preference. These messages are, by nature, degrading to Race Control and F1, as it suggests they are unaware of what’s going on anywhere anytime. With the fact that that is actually true, being a completely different matter.

      1. Coventry Climax
        3rd December 2023, 15:48

        In fact, there’s a hugely popular other sport where they introduced red cards for harassing the referee.

      2. where just banning DRS in the first place would solve it all and for good

        This here is the correct response, we need to solve the root cause of the problem.

    2. As most people missed out, vertappen although he slowed did not make it clear by going to one complete side of the track. That plus you can clearly see his car didn’t accurately follow the trajectory of that long curve down the straight, in other words he was lightly swerving to ensure Lewis would be unsure or Atleast have to lift a little. He did not make it clear. Not to mention he then decided to brake check Lewis because Lewis wouldn’t play his games.

      He was desperate that race and it showed. In the most recent race Alonso didn’t move clearly offline before slowing, and Lewis was therefore directly behind. A look a the wheel at the wrong moment and they would have crashed. Not to mention Alonso nearly crashed all on his own in the process.

    3. @Robert Henning
      Hamilton didn’t fall for the bait, that was the problem. He stayed directly behind Verstappen in Saudi, so he couldn’t slam on the brakes before the DRS line, Verstappen did it anyway. Again in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton stayed behind Alonso and got the DRS. Alonso passed him on a different part of the track, nothing to do with that DRS zone. It was Verstappen that fell for Leclerc’s bait twice in Saudi before doing the same back to him as I recall. Peoples biases really show like no other when discussing Hamilton, Verstappen or Alonso. Whatever you think about these drivers, try and a least be honest.

  3. Personally i hate DRS, it takes much of the drama, excitement, suspense out of overtaking. Not only that but it doesnt allow the defending car and opportunity to defend or fight back. It also means that when faster cars have a poor qualifying or an issue early in the race they can just fly back up the pack which might be great for them but for us fans it robs a lot of drama and intrigue.

    1. Indeed, DRS has no place in racing. I’d much rather see a 10 lap battle without an overtake than a fly-by.

      That they’re now using this in spec-series is just silly. They have full control over making proper raceable cars, and still take this easy out. Poor form.

    2. I agree 100%. I don’t understand how, with all of the ridiculous gimmicky antics that F1 have tried over the past years, they haven’t thought of trialing a ‘no drs’ race.

      1. Yes. I’d love to see one. I don’t think DRS is all bad, but I’d love to see some races without it. Teams like RBR though would rightfully claim they’ve designed their car around the DRS rules.

  4. Changing the speed of your car is a legitimate tactic. Naturally you shouldn’t do so when a car is right behind you in a way that provokes a crash – that would be foolish – but moving right off the side of the track as Alonso did in Abu Dhabi is a simple way to fix that.

    If slowing down early in the approach to a corner were banned, it would also impact lift & coast strategies, and be very challenging to assess… we’d spend even more time waiting for verdicts from stewards.

    I say let drivers continue to decide how they drive wherever possible.

    At the same time: the rule changes really have made overtaking easier in the last two years. The “super strong” DRS we needed in its first decade is no longer necessary today; races where DRS is weaker have often been exciting. Why not reduce the length of DRS zones across the board so they make overtaking possible rather than inevitable? That would improve racing, still assist overtaking, and reduce the incentive for slowing down ahead of the line without asking the stewards to rule on yet another part of driving.

  5. I agree this is a problem but I very much disagree with the solution. As Alex has alluded to, if DRS baiting happens, it means that it pays to be behind, which means the DRS zone is too long / too much of an advantage and should be reduced, no discussion, no excuses. That way, you have some sort of natural selection operating on the length of DRS zones. Which is infinitely better than an umpteenth additional rule with all the grey zones / unforeseen exploits that usually come with it.

  6. It is dangerous, and neither erratic driving nor unnecessarily slow is allowed under the Code. Also, requiring drivers to consider a ‘DRS bait’ is not of use to anyone.

    But as mentioned above, this only happens near a few specific zones. So the problem is with the zones. They are either too long, or coupled, or the timing line is in the wrong place. Fix the hardware, and let the drivers handle the driving.

    1. The specific detection point location has been the only issue, if anything.

  7. DRS should just be banned. It does allow some overtaking, but it is mainly used to allow slower drivers to keep up with the car in front and create DRS trains.

  8. I completely disagree. These tactics have been used extensively by dozens of drivers in the past few years, never heard any complains. Now it happens to Hamilton and all of a sudden there is talk of changing the rules. You would open up another subjective discussion on what should be penalised and what not. If people think this stuff is too dangerous, quit laying out drs zones in a way that makes these tactics helpful.

    1. “Now it happens to Hamilton and all of a sudden there is talk of changing the rules.”

      My guy didn’t watch F1 back in 2013.

  9. Race drivers are competitive. They will use every trick that the rules allow to gain an advantage. DRS baiting is a natural consequence of the rule that only allows the driver behind to use it.
    We’re not asking the correct question. The question should be: Should DRS be used to artificially aid specifically the car behind, making cars with temporarily unequal specifications race each other?
    Hereby I also propose an answer to the question: It shouldn’t. The DRS rule as it is makes no sense. There is nothing wrong with the DRS device itself. Even the idea of having a temporary performance boost is fine as long as it is balanced and implemented in a fair way. Why not go for example for something akin to IndyCar’s push to pass instead? Limit the number of DRS uses per race and let drivers and teams use it strategically.

  10. It should be legitimate but not all drivers are smart enough to understand it.

  11. The stupid brake testee in Jeddah 21 deserved a black flag ofc. In general braking on a straight for no other reason is erratic driving and needs to be penalized.

    1. tester ofc. lol

      1. i thought testee was the singular of testicles, so your comment still made sense to me.

      2. In Jeddah ’22 I didn’t see any black flags getting handed out. Max and Charles were both switched on and aware of the game being played so is that ok? Or is it only if someone runs into the back of another car that the flag should come out?

      3. The stupid brake testee in Jeddah 21 deserved a black flag

        Testee is the one being tested, so I agree with that. Except in that it was not really a braketest.

        Also the blatant lie on the radio in Abu Dhabi by the same testee, while it is not a direct message for the stewards it is obviously aimed at them, so a stern measure was warranted

  12. I chose ‘strongly disagree’ because I haven’t found those occasional tactics before some detection points particularly risky.
    Ultimately, that thing has happened only rarely anyway.

  13. Whisper it quietly but this year’s Dutch GP showed that drivers will overtake the old fashioned way if DRS isn’t available.

    Perhaps they should consider only allowing its use ~20 times in a race or whatever? Then this silly problem of activation points is probably solved anyway.

  14. Went for the middle option, because I do quite like seeing this particular tactic… but at the same time, if it’s done badly it could have serious consequences.

    I guess maybe doing it badly already is banned in a way, by some kind of erratic driving rule.

  15. I don’t understand why the DRS detection point has to be so far before the DRS activation line as that not only encourages these kinds of games on occasions but also has led to a car getting an overtake done & then using DRS to pull away which goes against it’s intention.

    Put the DRS detection line just before the activation line & it removes both problems.

    TBH though the fact we see such games just shows how ridiculous DRS can be. An artificial gimmick that can encourage drivers to intentionally slow down to try & let a rival car past so they can try to get the push of a button highway pass as well as the occasions where we have seen drivers backing out of overtaking moves in order to be behind at the detection line to get the easier DRS highway pass always looks just as ridiculous as the boringly easy push of a button highway passes.

    F1 has become a laughing stock with such ridiculous artificial gimmicks that ‘overtakes’ often end up looking like the car ahead simply moved over & waved the one behind past.

  16. I’ve no idea if it is dangerous or not, since I’ve never actually driven an F1 car, with or without DRS. However, I really don’t like the idea that drivers can gain an advantage by deliberately giving up the lead. I even disike it when midfield cars let the favourites whiz past because, according to the commentator, “they’ve got their own race to run”.

    When DRS was first introduced, the argument was that the cars could not follow closely enough to slipstream any more, so DRS was sold as a synthetic slipstream. But it isn’t. You get the full effect from a full one second back, it continues long after you’ve pulled alongside the car in front, and as Lynn pointed out above, sometimes a driver completes the pass before they’ve even reached the activation zone and then just sails off into the distance with a free DRS.

    Do we still need DRS? I like the suggestions above to try some races without DRS at all. I thought by now they could have developed some sort of standard sensor to detect the distance to the car in front and the air speed to give a DRS response which better matches slipstreaming, and which could be used anywhere rather than just the designated overtaking for the TV zone.

  17. Why start with this “controversial” comment? Only fans find it controversial, drivers not so much.

    My view is that is is part of F1 and one of many items a driver can use to gain an advantage. By itself it is not dangerous as long as the slow-down is done in a “safe” way. A break-check action should not be allowed if thes are directly behind each other, but if side by side it is perfectly OK. And the rule about unsafe break check is already there, it only has to be applied correctly. Not based on whining drivers, but data about distance between cars and speed differentials. All available to the stewards.
    Drivers know at what DRS sense points it could happen and can decide by themselves to play it safe or not. Follow closely behind, force the driver in front not to break check (he would get a penalty if he would do so), or stay further behind or side by side if you don’t want to take a risk.

  18. Driving dangerously, as pointed out, is already prohibited by the rules, but the problem lies in the interpretation and precedence of these rules. The current system lacks a mechanism for reviewing and correcting decisions, and protests are judged by the same body (FIA) that made the initial decision. This issue was highlighted in the ’21 debacle, and there has been no change since then.

    Some commentators who advocate for fewer rules and just “letting them race” contribute to the problem. However, having a comprehensive set of rules is essential for stewards to make fair and safe decisions in the numerous situations that can arise during a race.

    Utilizing modern technology, such as AI, can assist stewards in determining the specific situation drivers are in and which rules apply based on incoming data, telemetry, vision, etc. This technology should complement the human element in decision-making, providing clearer insights into the situation without removing the human judgment aspect.

  19. TheDan666 (@)
    4th December 2023, 3:42

    To me this is clearly a an example of The Law of Unintended Consequences. F1 institutes an artificial role with a the goal of producing more passing. Fine, we would like that outcome even though a lot of people find that fake and contrary to the concept of the sport. However, in implementing this artificial rule it creates additional side effects that the F1 did not anticipate and use how DRS is implemented to their advantage. So to sit here and then criticize the drivers for adapting seems crazy to me.

  20. Simple answer – ban DRS and replace it with a push to pass style power boost like they have in Indy car.

    No more ‘trains’ where everyone has the same advantage every lap
    No more getting advantage because you’re approaching a back marker
    No more qualifying advantage because one DRS system is better than another
    No more baiting
    No more DRS zone being too weak or too powerful
    Drivers are in control of when and how much to use, adding a level of skill

    1. @oweng

      Simple answer – ban DRS

      Couldn’t agree more.

    2. Coventry Climax
      4th December 2023, 12:27

      Completely agree on ditching DRS; been saying that from the moment of it’s inception.
      Disagree on the power boost button though:

      – No more ‘trains’ where everyone has the same advantage every lap
      That’s in contrast of you saying some DRS systems are more powerful than others
      – No more getting advantage because you’re approaching a back marker
      That has no relation to a power boost button
      – No more qualifying advantage because one DRS system is better than another
      Car design is part of the game. They are intended to be of different quality, as far as I’m concerned.
      But still, ditching DRS completely would have my preference.
      – No more baiting
      No relation to a power boost button again
      – No more DRS zone being too weak or too powerful
      No relation to a power boost button again
      – Drivers are in control of when and how much to use, adding a level of skill
      No relation to a power boost button again, as that’s also perfectly possible and exactly the same with drivers
      given full controll over DRS, on when and where to use it. Just ditch the activation zones.

      Bottom line: power button instead of DRS is just exchanging one gimmick for another.

  21. I think most people envisioned this problem after Turkey 2011. As soon as there is an advantage to being second into a DRS zone, drivers will employ every tactic they can. The hard truth is that DRS relies on too many variables to be what we all want it to be – an aid. Wind speed/direction, engine power/freshness, drag, tyre compound/life, tyre of corner preceding and following the zone and obviously the zone length itself. To apply an arbitrary zone length, which we haven’t tinkered with as much as we should have in my eyes, is always going to lead to unduly easy or difficult passes – both of which are to the sports detriment.

    I put slightly agree as I think that there are cases when these tactics become borderline dangerous, Jeddah the most clear example. My solution would be to limit DRS to a fixed number of uses per race, I’d say 20% of the total laps. So in 58 laps of Sakir you can use it 12 times all race. I would remove the 1 second rule and allow it for defence too. If a driver wants to use it twice (still in DRS zones) on his in lap or outlap that’s at their discretion, if they’d like to save them up for a late race SC likewise.

    I feel the tactical element should be moved away from “how can I beat the zone?” To “when is best to use this tool?”

  22. Voted neither agree nor disagree. As long as there’s such a system as drs you cannot expect the drivers not to use every trick to make advantage of it, it’s all part of the game. On the other hand, what Alonso did was plain dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed. it should be judged on a case by case basis and if done dangerously should be prosecuted under the erratic and dangerous driving umbrella. The rule book is fat enough we don’t need any more specific rules. Use common sense and what’s already there.

    1. what Alonso did was plain dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed

      Really? Alonso lifted a bit while being almost totally off track allowing all the width of the track for an overtake. Seriously, no danger was involved. And nobody would have given a thought to it without the calumnious slander that came on the radio afterwards. That kind of messages should not be allowed.

      1. At least the radio doesnt need to be beeped, like the ones from the spoiled brat, when things dont run to his liking.

        1. Seriously, have you ever posted a message without personally insulting someone?

      2. What a ridiculous comment. everyone with eyes could see it was super dangerous. Everyone apart from the perpetrator’s fan boys. It could’ve been a plane crash braking there in the middle of the straight. I have nothing against Alonso he’s only playing by the rules as they are now. From 2024 it must be made clear to all the drivers that it’s their responsibility, should they decide to play drs tricks, to perform them safely

  23. Driving erratically is a violation of the sporting regulations.

    Full stop.

  24. DRS is the problem, not drivers exploiting a way around the rules. This will happen forever.
    With DRS passing occurs by the middle of the straight usually with the leading car offering little or no resistance at all. If that´s entertainment then i know nothing about motorsports…

  25. Is DRS-baiting dangerous, or a legitimate tactic?


    1. Totally agree, but it is not really dangerous when well executed and the driver behind can drive, something you cannot always take for granted.

      Even if the the danger is minimized, it is not pretty to watch racing drivers competing for being overtaken, and this is a good reason to get rid of DRS, beyond those ridiculously easy highway overtakes which discourage racing.

      Anyhow, even without DRS, when there is a strong tow effect racing drivers may be motivated to cede a position and then overtake at the end of the straight, this has rarely been seen in F1 but is more common in other driving competitions, especially in motorbikes. So getting rid od DRS might not totally solve the problem. But it would be a major step forward

  26. The problem is not DRS baiting, but DRS itself! If we must have DRS at all, then at least let the drivers have the option to add it to their strategic toolbox, and give us fans an extra element to provide some excitement and maybe even drama.

  27. If they won’t ban DRS, then move the detection point into the/a braking zone (beyond the braking point).


Comments are closed.