This weekend at Spa we will be hearing a lot about DRS and Double DRS. That is because Spa offers one of the largest boosts in lap time from the Drag Reduction System of any F1 circuit at 1.2 seconds per lap.
But beyond that, there is a gain to be had from “amplifying” the DRS effect by a secondary system such as the front wing system on the Mercedes or the rear wing system on the Lotus, which should be used in qualifying for the first time in Spa. Given the nature of the Spa circuit with its many medium and high speed corners, this could give an additional lap time gain of around 0.3s, enough to make a significant difference to grid position.
To recap, the Drag Reduction System was brought in for 2011 to help with overtaking, by allowing drivers to shed drag on the straight by opening the rear flap on the top of the wing, cutting downforce and drag and giving a top speed boost of 10 to 15 km/h, to encourage a driver to attempt an overtaking move. It is controlled by a hydraulic actuator, which raises the top flap to allow air to pass through the gap, shedding drag.
The move this year has been towards seeking ways to amplify that, by having a secondary device to shed more drag and “amplify” the effect.
Mercedes built a system into their car this year, which takes air from the rear wing when the DRS is opened and channels it through the chassis to exit via two cuts on the underside of the front wing, stalling the front wing and cutting drag on a straight or high speed corner. This will not be permitted next season.
However it seems that the Lotus system might be; all eyes will be on Lotus’ system this weekend to see what effect it has on the qualifying performance of the Lotus cars. Technical Director James Allison stopped short of confirming that they would qualify and race it, but said the team had “been focusing on ensuring that we have the capability to run the new device in Spa should we be confident enough to do so.” The confidence would come from a successful test with the device during Friday practice. They have already evaluated it in Germany and Hungary, but the Spa wing will be a different downforce level, more like a Montreal wing. Sadly the poor weather on Friday in Spa meant that they didn’t get that confidence and technical director James Allison said,
“Today’s rain prevented us from seeing how the ‘Device’ would perform in the expected race conditions. With discretion being the better part of valour we will conduct P3 tomorrow with a conventional aero package rather than attempting to squeeze Friday’s intended evaluation into the precious final practice session.”
It is important for Lotus to improve their qualifying performance consistently. Lotus’ average grid slot this season has been 6th on the grid for Grosjean, (with a best of 2nd) while Raikkonen has averaged 8th (with a best grid slot of 4th).
Unlike the Mercedes system, this innovation it does not channel air from the rear to the front wing to cut drag, instead it provides a double drag reduction on the rear wing, by chanelling air taken in from the side of the engine air intake through a channel to the top element of the rear wing, exiting via slots in the top element of the rear wing, giving a “DRS boost”.
Rivals teams think they understand how it works and in terms of legality, it could be working when the cars pass through Eau Rouge, where DRS use is banned. But as it would make the car go light through at the crest, whether you would want that effect is another matter.
McLaren technical chief Paddy Lowe said this afternoon in Spa that McLaren has been studying the Lotus idea and did not rule out McLaren using their own version “but not in the next two races,” he said.