The F1 DRS. Overtaking game changer


Imagine a world where Formula 1 cars couldn’t overtake with grace and ease; that’s a world without the F1 DRS.

Born from the minds of racing’s brightest engineers, the Drag Reduction System has revolutionized the thrill of the chase on the track. It’s more than just a fancy gadget; it’s a game-changer that’s altered the dynamics of the sport.

Dive into the mechanics, the history, and the inventive spirit behind this groundbreaking technology that keeps us on the edge of our seats every race day.

What is DRS in Formula 1?

DRS stands for Drag Reduction System. Think of it as F1’s secret speed button. It’s a fancy way to say we adjust the car’s rear wing to make it slice through the air faster.

Flatten the wing, reduce the drag, and boom – the car gets a quick speed boost.

History of DRS

Did you know the idea behind DRS could’ve hit the tracks 43 years earlier? Lets rewind.

In 1968, Lotus introduced the first wings in F1. Everyone jumped on board. Teams got creative, sometimes a little too wild, with movable wings and eccentric designs.

The FIA had to step in and ban any form of movable wings or designs that weren’t safe.

Among the innovations, two stand out: Jackie Stewart’s Matra-Tyrrell which had a wing adjusting while braking.

Then there is Ferrari. At the 1968 Monza Grand Prix, they unveiled a more advanced version. Oil pressure activates three switches that control the wing angle and pistons.

The car pushed speeds from 190 Km/h to a stunning 231 Km/h! Sadly, a little mix-up with the controls cost Ferrari the race.

Fast forward: Adjustable wings took a nap due to new FIA rules. That is until 2010 when McLaren introduced the F-Duct, a precursor to DRS. It lets the driver “stall” the rear wing, reducing drag. But for safety’s sake, it was banned in 2011, making way for DRS.


Why was DRS introduced?

Remember the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? Alonso was stuck behind Petrov for ages, which led to Vettel snagging the title. That race showed a big problem in F1 – modern cars created so much dirty air that following closely was a nightmare.

Introduced in 2011, DRS is basically a speed booster. If you’re within one second of the car ahead, you can open a slot on your rear wing, reducing drag and zipping past.

How does DRS work?

Think of DRS as a flip switch on the rear wing of an F1 car that boosts its speed. Normally, this flap helps the car stick to the ground, but with a button tap on the steering wheel, the flap opens up. This magic move cuts drag and makes the car zoom faster on straight paths.

Now, a bit of wing wisdom: race car wings are the opposite of airplane wings. Instead of helping cars fly, these wings push them down for better grip during those sharp turns.

Here’s how: the curved rear wing speeds up the air below and makes it lighter in pressure compared to the top. The result? Air shoots upwards over the wing, and the car gets a nice push downwards. But there’s a trade-off – this also slows the car down a tad because of drag.

Enter DRS. It’s the best of both – in tight corners, the flap adds that crucial downforce. On open straights, it opens up, letting air pass freely and giving the car a speed boost.

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Why Do Racers Care About DRS Strategy?

DRS is more than just a speed booster; it’s a game-changer in races. If drivers stay within a second of the car in front, they can use DRS in specific zones to overtake.

But it’s all about timing! Use it too soon, and you might get overtaken back. Use it too late, and you could miss your shot. Teams also plan around DRS during qualifying rounds to get the most out of it.

📈 Check this out: In 2010, races had an average of 23.8 overtakes. With DRS in 2011? That jumped to 43.2!

When and where can drivers use DRS?

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Lap restrictions: No DRS in the first two laps of a race or the first two laps following a safety car or restart
  • One-second rule: The car has to be within one second of the car ahead.
  • Zone Restrictions: On F1 tracks, officials mark specific straightaways as “DRS zones.” It’s only in these zones drivers can activate DRS.
  • Track/Weather Restrictions: If the track’s dicey, race directors can hit pause on DRS.

Drivers can use DRS as many times as they want in a race, just as long as they meet the set criteria.

Now, imagine a bunch of cars, all within a second of each other but not the leader, zooming down a straight track. That’s a “DRS train” – all using DRS to leapfrog each other. One of the best examples is Alonso’s train during 2022 Monaco GP.

How do drivers know when to use it? They get a heads-up from sensors near track bends. Once they’re good to go, it’s a button press away. But, once they hit the brakes at a DRS zone’s end, the wing snaps back to its normal position.

DRS debate

Ever since DRS hit the tracks, F1 racing hasn’t been the same. More overtakes, fiercer duels, and fans glued to their screens, waiting for the DRS zones.

Why? Because that’s when magic (or disaster) happens, and sometimes, it’s what determines who takes the trophy home.

Not everyone’s on board with DRS, though. Some die-hard fans feel it messes with the true spirit of racing. They say it’s more about raw speed on straights and less about a driver’s finesse around curves.

Also, using the DRS at the wrong time can make the car hard to handle and might even cause crashes.

Even the current champion thinks we’re better off without it.

I would prefer to race without DRS, but it’s not possible. When there is a difference of one or two tenths, when you’re in the DRS train, there’s no chance of overtaking. The heaviness of the cars and the shorter DRS zones, the rigid cars: that’s why you can’t pass, with this increased load it’s difficult to follow those ahead.

Max Verstappen

So, while it’s added drama, the debate rages on: is DRS a game-changer or just a game-player?

The future of DRS

Formula 1 is changing, and there’s an ongoing debate about the future of the Drag Reduction System. Some folks want to tweak the rules, while others are looking into new tech to boost overtaking without ruining the game.

If Formula 1 keeps getting better at making cars race closely, we might say goodbye to the F1 DRS. That’s what Jason Somerville, the FIA’s top aerodynamics guy, thinks. By the way, he joined the FIA this year after crafting new F1 rules for five years.

Nikolas Tombazis, the single-seat director, believes ditching DRS could be dicey, even though some people aren’t fans of it.

In an ideal world it is conceivable to remove DRS, but in the short term it will not happen because otherwise overtaking would be very difficult. We are no longer in the ’80s, when simulations were not so advanced and the differences between one car and the next were great. With the current level of technology, of science, removing the DRS would be a risk for the sport.

The FIA has already shortened DRS zones in some races. Like at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. And there was a bit of an uproar about that.

Now, word on the street is they’re even thinking about axing DRS from Qualifying.


The DRS system showcases how tech has revamped Formula 1 racing over time. Whether it’s the shift to carbon fiber or the birth of hybrid powertrains, Formula 1 has consistently led in tech advancements.

Some might feel this tech evolution dilutes the sport’s essence, but on the other side, it injects fresh excitement and challenge that keeps fans hooked year after year.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Formula 1 DRS

What does DRS stand for in Formula 1?

In the high-intensity world of Formula 1 racing, DRS stands for ‘Drag Reduction System’. This is a mechanism integrated into Formula 1 cars to aid overtaking by reducing aerodynamic drag. It works by altering the angle of the car’s rear wing, thereby reducing the amount of ‘drag’ or air resistance the car experiences and enabling it to move faster.

Which tracks have DRS zones?

All Formula 1 tracks have DRS zones. Depending on their layout or length they have between one and three DRS zone.

Every official Formula 1 track has at least one DRS zone. Some circuits, due to their layout or length, might have two or even three DRS zones. The decision of the number and placement of these zones lies with the FIA, the governing body of Formula 1.

How much faster does DRS make a car?

DRS accelerates a car by reducing its drag, increasing its top speed by approximately 10-12 km/h under optimal conditions. There have been cases where the increase in speed was even 20km/h.