The Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix became huge spectacles because the drivers were good at overtaking. With the new cars it seems to be much easier to stay close to the car in front. Do we still need the DRS folding wing at all?
Surveys among Formula 1 fans have shown that all gimmicks that artificially create action are not well received. When it comes to change requests, the abolition of the DRS is regularly high on the list. Many spectators find it unfair that a driver gets the top speed advantage from less drag and the opponent can't defend themselves at all.
In the US IndyCar series, you go a different way. Here the cars have a so-called "push-to-pass" system on board. Extra power is released at the push of a button on the steering wheel, which can be used for both attack and defense. The additional power is available to all pilots for the same amount of time.
F1 sport director Ross Brawn had stated before the season that the abolition of the DRS is one of the long-term goals of the premier class. The new cars are a first step in this direction. They produce less air turbulence behind the rear, making it easier for pursuers to keep up. In the past, you lost a lot of downforce in the "dirty air". The drivers lost grip in the corners, especially on the front axle, and ruined their tyres.
The concept of the new cars works
The first two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have shown that the concept seems to be working: "The balance when driving behind is much more predictable. You can now stay closer in the corners," reports Carlos Sainz. Statisticians counted significantly more overtaking maneuvers than at the same Grand Prix last year.
The duels between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in particular tore the fans from their seats. However, in both Bahrain and Jeddah, the DRS helped a lot with the lead changing back and forth several times. One would have liked to see how the duels would have ended without the overtaking aid and whether one could not already do without the folding wing completely.
Leclerc has a clear opinion on this: "The DRS has to remain, otherwise the races would be very boring. Of course it's positive for us drivers and for the sport that the cars can now follow each other better, but that's not enough for that that we can completely do without the DRS. It will remain part of Formula 1."
Acid test in Melbourne and Imola
Bahrain and Jeddah were two circuits with long straights where overtaking maneuvers were not uncommon in the past. Now, with Melbourne and Imola, there are two courses on the program where it will be much more difficult to attack. Without DRS, these races would probably degenerate into a procession.
However, the acceptance of the folding wing among pilots has increased, which is mainly due to the fact that pilots can counter more easily with the new cars. "I overtook Esteban Ocon on the penultimate lap with DRS," reports Lando Norris. "In the past, I would have quickly shaken him off in my turbulence. But with the new cars, he was able to keep up and overtake me on the last lap."
The chance to counterattack makes the overtaking a bit fairer. Leclerc even sees an appeal in using the folding wing strategically. The drivers now have to drive more intelligently: "I really enjoy it. Every driver has to come up with a strategy for attacking and defending. It's become part of how racing is done these days."
Shrink DRS zones?
However, Sainz complains that the folding wing worked too well in Jeddah. "I also think that we still need DRS. The new cars don't provide as much slipstreaming. That's why we can't do it without help. But we should make sure that the advantage of DRS isn't too great and that overtaking becomes too easy." At this point you have to protect the FIA. There are no empirical values with the new cars. Only with more data can the lengths of the DRS zones be better adjusted.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner also suggested moving the DRS measuring point for the distance between two cars. Because the line in Jeddah was before the last corner, there was a cat-and-mouse game between Leclerc and Verstappen that had little to do with traditional racing. "You could see that the drivers braked in front of the line and then accelerated again up to the corner. So you should look again at where the DRS measuring point is for the next few years. You should definitely avoid such situations," like Horner.
Mercedes colleague Toto Wolff didn't want to share this opinion: "I have to say that I liked it. The cars delivered what was hoped for. Of course the DRS is a big advantage, but it also ensures for a good show. I found it very entertaining as a viewer."