The major technical regulations overhaul introduced by Formula 1 for the 2022 season is arguably the biggest the sport has ever seen in a single season.
More than anything, the radical rules changes were aimed at changing wheel-to-wheel racing by greatly reducing the ‘dirty air’ effect fans enjoyed during the race due to how aerodynamic the previous cars were.
For many years, Formula 1 drivers struggled to get close to their rivals because of how much power they lost behind other cars. In the year In 2011, F1 and the FIA introduced the new drag reduction system, which was designed to increase the chances of overtaking by allowing drivers to open their rear wing flaps and add more speed to the cars in front – but only in certain zones of the circuit when the car is within seconds of it.
In the 12 seasons that DRS has been part of Formula 1, it has had no shortage of critics. Many consider the system to be unfair, giving a driver an arbitrary advantage over their rivals in front of them that they cannot use with protection. With the added speed provided by DRS, many passing maneuvers with the device are considered too easy, such as when passing another car on the street, robbing skill from pulling off a successful pass.
By ushering in F1’s 2nd era of ground effect, many critics of DRS hope the new cars will render assistance obsolete, an unnecessary gimmick as drivers will have more opportunities to pass unaided. Before the start of the season, F1 teams discussed the option of removing DRS if the new cars were successful. But there are no signs from the FIA, Formula 1 or the ten teams that they plan to remove the controversial system.
But is it time for the sport to consider getting rid of DRS?
An important part of F1’s appeal is that its 20 grand prix drivers, in theory, have far superior driving skills than any single-seater on the planet. No one else can match their ability to drive the fastest racing cars in the world, but their racing skills and their ability to compete side by side with their opponents for every position.
Among the most spectacular winning moves in F1 history, none involve the DRS zone, as Nigel Mansell overtook Gerhard Berger at Mexico’s Peraltada, while Fernando Alonso forced Michael Schumacher back at Suzuka at 130R or more than 320km from the mark. Webber got Alonso the same treatment years later at the Eau Rouge. All drivers After agreeing that the 2022 regulations would allow other cars to follow closely behind, there has never been a better time since DRS was launched to see what racing would be like without the system.
There is also the proliferation of so-called ‘DRS trains’, which have caused a lot of complaints this season – when all the cars are ahead in one second, each driver with DRS is behind the rival, as well as the car at the head of the train with DRS on the car in front. This helps to drop packages to the cars, spread the order and increase the gaps in the field. F1 could be better without this trains deciding the race.
With less than a full season under the new rules, it’s still too early to call for DRS to be scrapped altogether. With so many different tracks remaining in the final six rounds, it’s worth waiting until the end of the year to judge whether or not DRS will step up the competition.
There is also the argument that drivers are not overly reliant on DRS and that the system is already improving racing during Grands Prix. With Max Verstappen’s three wins from the middle of the pack at Budapest, Spa and Monza, the world champion made a total of 26 passes on his way to victory. Ten of these were done with DRS active, 15 without DRS when teammate Sergio Perez passed one over.
Activating DRS is by no means a guaranteed pass as seen many times in 2022. Consider the countless laps in which Alexander Albon led the driver train at Spa to take the final points in tenth, with the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll finding their way past the Williams despite several laps in DRS territory. Given that highly skilled drivers are almost infallible, it’s inevitable that sometimes drivers just can’t pass – and that’s true with or without DRS.
Some lifelong Formula 1 fans may scoff at the idea, but the last few years of Formula 1 have seen some of the best racing the sport has ever seen.
The passing frequency has increased in 2022. While the quality of passes is important, it is true that DRS has played a role in increasing that figure. Some might argue that Verstappen’s passing orders were less impressive due to flipping the rear wing and getting a speed bump on some of his rivals, but he and the speed of Red. Bull has shown in recent rounds that Verstappen was always likely to go in with or without DRS.
DRS trains are also a unique phenomenon, as they are possible without the use of a special rear wing. In the year Anyone who followed the sport in the mid-2000s will remember the dreaded ‘Trulli Trains’ that ran regularly on Sundays, which themselves helped inspire the creation of the system in the first place. If cars are stuck in small packs that all have DRS and can’t pass each other, there’s no reason to think that any of them will have another chance to pass if none of them make it.
There’s also the fact that almost all the on-track battles and memorable advances between Verstappen and Charles Leclerc this season – at Bahrain, Jeddah, Miami, the Red Bull Ring and Paul Ricard – have all involved passes or attempts for the lead. Use of DRS. And yet, all these moments still rank among the most exciting of the year.
It is also a mistake to think that DRS makes passing too easy. Look at the difficulties Carlos Sainz had to pass Verstappen for victory in Montreal in June, despite 13 consecutive laps in DRS territory at the end of the race. Albon and Nick de Vries caught more laps than their rivals Verstappen – DRS did not make their precious points undefendable in any way.
Historically, the first year of any new regulations amendment is less competitive. This is true in 2022 as only two teams have taken home runs in this new era. Although it may be a pleasant sight to see F1 ditch DRS because it is no longer needed, it still seems too early to completely remove the device.
Now, it would be wise to allow these new rules to continue to make the competition more competitive and allow the teams to naturally come together over time before the sport considers eliminating DRS. Instead of rushing, allow Ross Brawn’s bold new vision for Formula 1 before making drastic changes to the regulations that have so far succeeded.
Will F1 do away with DRS now or should it be more tolerant? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.
Do you agree that F1 should stop using drag reduction systems in races?
Total voters: 86
A RaceFans account is required to vote. If you don’t have one, sign up for an account here or read more about signing up here. When this poll closes, the results will be displayed instead of the voting form.
Debates and choices
Explore all the arguments and choices