GadgetSyrup Pit Pass: What is DRS?

GadgetSyrup Pit Pass: What is DRS?

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Welcome to the first post in a new series called "GadgetSyrup Pit Pass". 

I am a huge Formula 1 racing fan. I simply cannot get enough of the sport. From early-March when the F1 circus descends upon the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain for winter testing right to the end of the final end of season testing at Yas Marina in Abu Dhubai I do not miss a lap. I even watch all practice sessions, qualification, and postrace shows. I also listen to no less than 7 different F1 or Motorsport related podcasts. You would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated fan, this side of the pond.

With all that said, I wanted to start sharing more of my passion for F1 with others, so what better place than here!

I plan to cover a variety of things with Pit Pass, but you can expect a lot of pieces focusing on different tech that is used on F1 cars as well as opinion pieces relating to the latest happenings from the F1 world.

I hope you enjoy it. F1 is the pinnacle of Motorsport and is truly fascinating sport to follow!

First up, DRS or Drag Reduction System.


What is the Drag Reduction System?

Explaining what DRS is and why it is used requires a bit of basic formula car info first. F1 cars are almost like an inverted airplane. The aero-design of an aircraft pushes it up into the air, the faster it goes. An F1 car and its aero-design push it down onto to the ground the faster it goes. The harder a car pushes onto the ground, the more drag and traction the car has. If your car has excessive drag, it inevitably goes slower.

A major component of an F1 car that creates the drag or push is the rear wing, which is angled in a way to push the rear of the car harder onto the track surface.

Still with me? Good! Back to DRS.

DRS was implemented by F1 and the FIA in 2011. It can only be activated in certain approved parts of the track. See below for an example of where DRS can be used.


Photo: Autosport.com/YouTube

Photo: Autosport.com/YouTube


The rules for DRS are rather simple. Most tracks have 2-3 DRS zones, depending on the track layout. If a driver is trailing a car by 1 second or less at the point of DRS detection, they can activate the mode with the press of a button and keep it enabled until the end of the activation zone, which is at the end of a straight, entering a braking zone.

How Does DRS Work?

As I mentioned above, F1 cars use an excessive amount of drag to help them stick to the ground, and despite the fact they can travel at speeds of up to 350 km, the drag from all of that downforce can slow them down considerably. When DRS is enabled, the rear wing of the car pivots to be parallel with the track surface. When this happens, the amount of drag is reduced considerably, enabling the car to accelerate faster and reach a higher speed.

On average DRS allows a car to increase its speed by 10 mph when enabled.

Why Not Leave DRS as Always On?

Drag = traction. With less drag, a car will not stick when going through a corner at high speed and the rear end will step-out on the driver, causing them to spin. There was a case last year where Renault driver, Nico Hulkenberg, was forced to retire early from the Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka because his DRS became jammed in an open position, not closing while cornering. He was able to keep control and retire from the race accident-free. However,  had Hulkenberg not taken care to slow the car, the lack of downforce in the rear of the car would likely have ended with him being parked in the sand or against the wall.

Controversy with DRS?

Many F1 traditionalists view DRS as a tool that creates for fake racing because a DRS-assisted overtake does not necessarily require one driver to beat another. They are using a temporary mechanical modification to increase their cars speed to create the overtake. 

Another controversy that comes along with the DRS discussion is the FIA rules on mechanical modifications to the car. It is against the rules for teams to use mechanical or user-controlled modifications to gain an advantage. However, since the FIA and F1 wanted to increase overtaking, due to a declining trend, they were able to permit the use of DRS because it suited their agenda, this time.

Personally, for myself, I do not mind DRS. There is a clear pecking order for the teams with Mercedes, Ferrari and, sometimes, Red Bull having no problems outpacing the rest of the field. Mid-field and backmarker teams like Force India, Toro Rosso, Haas, and Renault now have a chance to stick with the big guys, especially on tracks that have several long straights.

You can learn more about DRS and other F1 related rules and regulations right HERE.

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