Here's Why We Still Need DRS in Formula One

Illustration for article titled Here's Why We Still Need DRS in Formula One
Photo: Luca Bruno (AP)

Fans of Formula One have been complaining about the sport’s lack of overtaking for years. Real racing—exciting racing—is the result of tons of passing and constant battles for the lead. But that passing, crucially, should be done naturally, as the result of each car’s aerodynamic prowess and not any fancy-schmancy technology. Like, say, F1's Drag Reduction System.

The argument against DRS is one that racing fans have heard every time a new component is added to a car. It’s artificial. It’s dependent on who has the best technology, not who’s the best racer. It encourages drivers to sit back and wait until they settle into a pre-defined DRS zone instead of making those risky passes in unexpected corners that keep fans perched on the edge of their seat.

And, with former-F1-turned-current-IndyCar driver Marcus Ericsson pointing out the flaws with the DRS system to, it’s seemed like there was an easy answer to the DRS problem. Just get rid of it, plain and simple.


I have bad news for you, anti-DRS race fans. Your argument is, well, kinda bullshit. At least in F1's current state.

Chain Bear F1 on YouTube has laid out exactly why scrapping DRS wouldn’t work in a great video. At its most basic, DRS is the solution to the problem of dirty air that disturbs the downforce of the following car in a battle so much that, by the time the battle hits the front straight, the lead car is so far ahead that the following car can’t catch up.

The main thing that this video makes clear is that DRS is an F1-specific complaint because it was the answer to a very F1-specific problem. DRS wouldn’t work in place of IndyCar’s Push to Pass system because Push to Pass was designed for IndyCar’s spec chassis, while DRS is designed for F1's aerodynamic refinement. Push to Pass and DRS are both artificial ways to aid overtaking, but they’re also addressing two completely distinct problems resulting from completely different series. Comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges: they’re both fruit, but you can’t just substitute one for the other.

We can’t get rid of artificial overtaking systems like DRS—not until F1 completely revamps the way it encourages car development. As long as F1 allows for unlimited development, we’re going to need DRS to make the racing work.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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Why can’t we compare DRS to P2P? They exist for the exact same reason, and are applied to similar style cars. They attack the same problem, but from different angles.

I’m not a fan of either system, but I must say that the racing might just be a bit more boring without them. DRS seems to be the more natural solution, but it’s only available at certain parts of the track, and the lead car really has no way to defend. P2P is more artificial as the system actually gives the car more power, but becomes a little more interesting because the lead car also can use their P2P to defend, and it can be used anywhere on the track.

It would be interesting to see the two concepts merge: keep DRS, but allow anyone to use it at any time. The nature of DRS will naturally promote people to use it on longer straights. Limit each driver to 20 DRS activations. It could be interesting, and add a little more cunning and strategy to the race.