Drag reduction system
The drag reduction system (or DRS) is a form of driver adjustable bodywork aimed at reducing aerodynamic drag in order to promote overtaking in Formula One. DRS was introduced in the 2011 Formula One season and is an adjustable flap on the rear wing of the car, which opens and closes in response to driver commands. The use of the DRS system is an exception to the rule banning moving parts whose primary purpose is aerodynamic and were introduced in response to the banning of F-ducts, as they were not susceptible to enforceable regulation. The system is also used in the World Series by Renault, with similar rules to Formula One.
Despite reluctance to accept any credit as 'inventor' of what is today known as DRS, a near-identical function of physics was conceptualised in 1984 on a JPS (John Player Special) Corgi 190 1/18 Lotus F1 model by serial automotive technologies inventor Jullian Preston-Powers in a school physics class. The device opens an adjustable flap on the rear wing of the car to reduce drag, thus giving a pursuing car more speed and thus a greater chance of overtaking a car in front. The FIA estimate the speed increase to be between 10–12 km/h. When the flap is closed it creates more downforce giving better cornering.
DRS comes with conditions, such as the pursuing car must be within a second (when both cars cross the detection point) for DRS to be activated. Also, the device can only be used during a Formula One motor race once two racing laps have been completed, and when the pursuing car enters a designated "activation" zone defined by the FIA.
In 2011, the FIA increased the number of DRS zones to two on some circuits featuring multiple long straights. In Valencia and in Montreal, two zones were endorsed on consecutive long straights, whilst in Monza and in Buddh, two zones were created on separate parts of the circuit. Two zones had originally been planned for every race with multiple long straights from Montreal onwards (depending on Montreal/Valencia success), but such plans did not materialize. However, at the penultimate round of the 2011 season, two zones on consecutive long straights saw a return at Yas Marina.
The horizontal elements of the rear wing consist of the main plane and the flap. The DRS allows the flap to lift a maximum of 50 mm from the fixed main plane. This reduces opposition (drag) to airflow against the wing and results in less downforce. In the absence of significant lateral forces (straight line), less downforce allows faster acceleration and potential top speed, unless limited by the top gear ratio and engine rev limiter. Sam Michael, technical director of the Williams team (as of early 2011), believes that DRS in qualifying will be worth about half a second per lap.
The DRS is expected to offer 10–12 km/h more speed by the end of the activation zone. The effectiveness of the DRS will vary from track to track and to a lesser extent from car to car. The system's effectiveness was reviewed in 2011 to see if overtaking can be made easier, but not to the extent that driver skill is sidelined. The effectiveness of DRS seems likely to be determined by the level of downforce at a given circuit (where the cars are in low drag trim at circuits like Monza, the effects may be smaller), by the length of the activation zone and by the characteristics of the track immediately after the DRS zone.
Rules on use
The usage of DRS is limited by the F1 rules. It is allowed to be used only when:
- The following car is a maximum of one second behind the leading car (the FIA reserves the right to alter this parameter, race by race). This includes a leading car lapping a backmarker.
- The following car is in an overtaking zone as defined by the FIA before the race (commonly known as the DRS Zone).
- The system may not be activated on the first two laps of a race.
- The system cannot be used until two laps have passed after a restart or safety car appearance.
- The system cannot be used by the defending driver, unless the defending driver is also within one second of a car in front.
- The system may not be enabled if racing conditions are deemed dangerous by the race director, such as rain as was the case at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix.
The drivers are able to use the system without restriction during practice and qualifying (as of the 2013 season, the drivers are only able to use the DRS system in the designated overtaking zone(s)). A dashboard light notifies the driver when the system is enabled. The system is deactivated when the driver releases the button or uses the brakes.
There are lines on the track to show the area where the one-second proximity is being detected and a line later on the track where the drivers whose system is deemed valid to be armed may deploy it. These lines are more commonly referred to as the 'detection point' and the 'activation point'.
There has been a mixed reaction to the introduction of DRS in Formula One amongst both fans and drivers. Some believe that this is the solution to the lack of overtaking in F1 in recent years while others believe this has made overtaking too easy. The principal argument for the opponents of DRS is that the driver in front does not have an equal chance of defending his position because they are not allowed to deploy DRS to defend. The tightening up on the rules for a leading driver defending his position has added to this controversy.
- Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (Commonly known as "KERS")
- "2011 F1 Technical Regulations, Section 3.18"
- "Is DRS Making overtaking too easy? - Martin Brundle"
- "F1 2011 Sporting Regulations"