The man in charge of managing the F1 Grands Prix on the circuit, Charlie Whiting, has said that the Drag Reduction System (DRS) has been a boost to F1 and is here to stay.
Giving the Watkins Memorial lecture at Autosport International show in Birmingham, Whiting said that he had listed to some of the criticism from fans, who felt that DRS has made overtaking too easy at many events and downgraded the skill of the driver. But he is still of the opinion that it requires great skill to use the system properly. DRS is a switch that drivers can operate when under a second behind the car in front in prescribed locations on the circuit, which cuts drag by lifting the top element of the rear wing and giving a speed boost of around 12km/h for a few hundred metres.
“Some people are opposed to it and really think it is not pure enough. I completely disagree with that view, “he said. “It still requires extreme skill from the driver. It is not as if it’s turn on, overtake, go, done.
“If the cars are at an equal speed, a driver will have to be within 0.3s of the car in front which is no mean feat in itself.
“But if they are at the same speed at the beginning of the DRS zone, they will be alongside at the braking point. That’s the whole theory of the DRS.”
Both DRS and Pirelli have certainly had a mixed reception from fans, particularly as the combination has contributed to a feeling that the drivers’ skill at driving on the limit is not being tested a thoroughly as in the past.
Back in 2011, the first year of DRS, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh reacted to some early criticism of the system by saying,
“FOTA (F1 Teams Association) did the most extensive fan survey and .. the fans wanted more overtaking and if you have done the survey and the fans tell you that is what they want, then I think you are fairly arrogant if you ignore it. So we responded.”
DRS was developed by a working group comprising some of the leading engineers in the F1 teams and refined in conjunction with the FIA. Analysis by the Mercedes F1 team that first year concluded that DRS had significantly improved the amount of overtaking but that in overall percentage terms, DRS-assisted passes accounted for 45% of all overtakes throughout that season. The number of clean overtakes was significantly higher than the 2010 season due to the arrival of the fast degrading Pirelli tyres compared with the ultra-conservative Bridgestones.