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F1: Bahrain 2019 demonstrates the need for rule changes for DRS.

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

I should say up front that I am not a fan of DRS but I concede that, sometimes, it's helped spice up what was an otherwise processional race. But in F1 this year, there seems to be a plan to have more DRS zones. Last night's race in Bahrain had three. When DRS was introduced, tracks had one. And, last night, DRS made an extremely positive contribution to the race but its contribution was limited and artificial. What if the DRS rules were changed to remove the limitation and artificiality?

The Drag Reduction System is a complex technical piece of kit that is simple to explain: it turns the back wing of the car into a venetian blind: open air passes through, closed it dams the air. On the straights, where that damn slows the car down, opening the flap lets air through and increases speed. People talk about the "power" of the DRS system because its effect on straight line performance is like adding a chunk of horsepower that's on a binary switch not a progressive throttle. But in truth, it's not power at all: it's just preventing the aerodynamically vital back wing holding the car back because, at high speed, air isn't soft.

So, that's the essential techy bit - purists will argue long into the night about how it does what it does but that doesn't matter in this discussion.

DRS is limited as to when it can be used. Around the track, there are pairs of lines. Of those, the first is the DRS timing line and the second is the DRS activation line. DRS can only be activated by a car that is following another car by a difference of less than one second. So there is a cat and mouse game to get into, or prevent the following car getting it, "DRS range." If that condition is satisfied, then once the car is authorised to activate DRS, it does so on passing the DRS activation line, even if it has, by then, passed the car that it was following when at the DRS timing line. DRS stays open until the driver closes it which, most often, is when he taps the brake pedal. Then it closes with the instant deceleration that matches the instant acceleration when it was opened.

The system is said to encourage overtaking because it gives an advantage to the following car. It is argued that it is, at least in part, it overcomes the challenges caused by dirty air and allows the following car to get closer.

OK, but this year changes in design of aero packages are supposed to have reduced the effect of dirty air. For sure, cars in the first two races are closer to each other both on straights as in Bahrain and in bends as in Melbourne. So something is working.

If that's the case, why not keep the DRS technology and get rid of the rules that try to manipulate racing? The DRS rules don't apply in qualifying: drivers can activate it whenever they like. This proves that there isn't a safety concern of cars flying off all over the place. The first car in a queue still has to punch a hole in the air and those following benefit through slipstreaming. With DRS for the first car, the hole will be smaller, the air passing through disrupted less and therefore cleaner for the following cars and everyone goes faster until they hit the brakes when a combination of DRS off and the power pack harvesting for the batteries will act together to produce dramatic deceleration.

So, from a DRS sceptic, I can see myself being a DRS supporter: if the rules are changed and everyone can use it on every straight.

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