Street Fight
Monte Carlo 2018
Monaco Grand Prix
The FOTA take on the adjustable rear wing debate
The FOTA take on the adjustable rear wing debate
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Mar 2011   |  3:14 pm GMT  |  180 comments

Following on from the FIA take on the Drag Reduction System, ahead of its racing introduction next week and the point of view of the fans, FOTA have been looking with interest at the debate here on the site over the last 24 hours. One source within FOTA made the following point to me this morning, which I wanted to post as part of the ongoing discussion,

“The introduction of the moveable rear wing (Drag Reduction System – DRS) should be at least given a chance. Using an extreme logic, everything on a car could be considered to be “artificial”.

“The effort that resulted in the introduction of the DRS followed requests from a very wide audience to increase overtaking opportunities, however it is meant not to make overtaking “too easy” since it still requires the skills of the drivers to be close to the car in front at the right time/place and it doesn’t alter dramatically the balance (cars performance factors, tyres, KERS and pure racing abilities will continue to play a relevant role as well).

“The Teams, together with the FIA, have an “experimental” approach to this technology. If it works well, fine; if it doesn’t it, will be easy to adjust or to reconsider its usage.”

This last line gives an indication that the teams are quite open minded on DRS. If it doesn’t work or is massively unpopular, then it sounds like they won’t necessarily cling to it. As I understand it, DRS isn’t yet a firm part of the 2013 rules package.

Thanks to all the fans for such an interesting discussion. We will find out more how the system works over the first few races.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

One concern I have with DRS which I don’t think has been debated in great depth- what will happen if DRS fails and a car goes into a sweeping curve (still at full speed) after a long straight? Are there any rules in the design to make the rear wings safe in case the DRS fails? Somehow the solution they had last year sound safer to me…


In my view DRS and KERS would be awesome (i.e. not be seen as artificial) if they could be used as much as possible by the drivers at any point in the race. My only rule would be that DRS and KERS could not be used at the same time.

One driver may use DRS in a long straight and another driver (in front or behind) may counter with his own DRS (which may be better) or KERS.

Remember, cars using DRS will most likely hit their rev-limiters; cars using KERS will be able to accelerate past their rev. limiters.

Prisoner Monkeys

The problem with the DRS is that it wasn’t explained properly when it was first announced. It’s only now, six months after the first mention of it came up, that we’re starting to get a proper picture of how it will work. In the meantime, people have started formulating their own ideas about what it is and how it will do what it is supposed to do, with the overwhelming – and very wrong – conclusion being that it will somehow render the driver’s abilities useless. The DRS was created as an overtaking aid, not an overtaking replacement. Most people, however, have cosntructed their own ideas out of it to justify their argument: that it is bad. They are building facts to fit a case, not a case to fit the facts.


Isn’t the rear wing device for all intents and purposes just an electronically controlled F-Duct?

Yes, it might look and function in a different way to the F-Duct but the purpose is exactly the same – stall the rear wing during time spent on a straight.

The DRS IS an F-Duct under a new name it’s just an electronic one that can be operated by pressing a button without requiring the driver to perform an impromptu jig in the cockpit for a bit more speed.

It seems like the FIA liked the general concept of the F-Duct but simply wanted a bit more control over how and when it could be used due to the obvious safety issues (one handed driving)and so they introduced the DRS in its place.


You know, A lot of people use the Alonso-Petrov situation from Abu-Dhabi last year to make the point of how the ARW will help. However I don’t believe the ARW would have made much difference in that situation.

Alonso struggled to get past because Renault were not only running less downforce but also had a very efficient F-Duct & the Renault engine was very driveable out of slow corners.

Alonso wasn’t stuck behind Petrov simply because of the dirty air, He was stuck behind Petrov because Petrov (And Kubica for that matter) had more top end speed because they were running a more efficient setup.


Am I the only person that doesn’t want to see too much overtaking?

Think about it, the inevitable consequence of the DRS is that fastest driver/car, in race trim, will have much more chance of winning the race.

GREAT, but think if that had happened last season. When would it have all been over?

How many races did we have the juicy prospect of the fastest car in “race pace” being on the second or third row. The 2nd or 3rd quickest car gradually stretching the lead while the fastest attempted to pick off the cars in between. How many driver mistakes due to frustration finding a way past a slower car? How many times did they fail, extending the excitement of the season by not getting maxiumum points.

My fear this year, in the same scenario, by lap 7, all cars would have been passed by the fastest man, 1 per lap at the designated overtaking zone, and off he goes into the distance. Why bother overtaking anywhere else on the track when you know you have a certain “pass point”?

The only thing that could stop this is the new soft tyre factor, but that would “throw a wild card” without DRS.

My solutions for what they are worth

1) Get rid of the known boring tracks, replace with new better designed – Whats the point of Hungary?

2) Improve ALL tracks to improve overtaking opportunities into braking points – I don’t know how, but there are known formulae that can be used to improve. Why are some tracks better than others if not?

3) Bring back refuelling. – I could never see why “passing in the pits” is so looked down on. It takes a certain talent to do 3 or 4 quick laps when released, certain strategic knowledge to work out how it can be done. How much more exiting seeing someone “go for it” at qualifying pace whilst their tyres are on the limit, than trolling round in tyre saving mode waiting for the “pass point” ?

4) Don’t limit KERS output or storage. If you can make one, that saves up energy for 3 laps, then give a super burst and also make it weigh nothing then good luck. At least it is natural racing, and has a relevance to the real world of motoring.


I have always agreed on #4 about KERS. Developing this technology was pointless the year it was introduced because no matter how effective you made your regenerative braking the rules limited you to a couple of seconds of boost anyway. All you could do was try to make it a bit lighter… or just scrap it because what’s the use of a tiny bit of boost if you have to carry all that extra weight.

Make it unlimited. Let the teams innovate in this area and not just in aero. Let them develop multiple versions, super light for some tracks, super high storage so that they can boost for the whole back straight. All we hear about is wind tunnel and CFD and new wings. And smaller gearboxes to help reduce aero drag. And all for fractions of a percent of improvement. All tech that will never get passed down to a regular vehicle.


Meant to say over the years, not just last season. First time I’ve posted , didn’t realise you can’t edit.


It’s a very simple situation.

The cars have excess aero, and are underpowered.

Overtaking based on driver skill will come from big differences in speed between straights and corners.

Eau Rouge is now usually taken flat out – where is the skill in that? It’s only aero…

This is the same problem on all corners of a track… the driver is irrelevant. The speeds are so high in the corners that the following driver cannot get close enough to the car infront without falling foul of the turbulance.

So the real fix is to reduce aero, which will allow true slip-streaming to occur, and not this artificial rubbish, where a driver needs no skill or judgment, beyond pusing a button…

If we also up the power to areo ratio, we will see more twitchy cars, and driver errors as they attempt to laydown the power – this creates great excitement intself, as it gives the following driver opportunites to attack.

And most importantly of all, it’s entirely geniune skill based racing, and not driver irrelevant button based passing.

FOTA are proving to be inept as the FIA.


James, off the topic but

why is Bernie opposing the FIA about smaller, more fuel effiecient engines, that are just as powerful! This would directly help consumers in the technology we all need, especially now!

didnt f1 used to have a 1.5L turbo engine, with 750hp – 800hp

sounds to me as if Bernie is trying to keep himself and his rich middle eastern oil buddies in the bling!


Not sure, I’ll ask next weekend


Let’s not forget that we had even smaller turbo engines in the past, very spectacular they were too. Great pyrotechnics!

No they don’t sound like a V8 or a V6 but loud enough to be noticed. (the modern motorbikes don’t sound like a rocket or gold star (once per telegraph pole) either but they are not to be ignored either)

To hear a V8 you can go and watch F1Stock cars (UK stocks not USA).

But before we get into a discussion about sound volumes, I will just say that I live down the road from an RAF Typhoon station and we didn’t even notice when the Vulcan visited last year.


all this talk of a car following another been ‘artificially affected’ by the turbulant air is nonsence. its not artificial, its a part of the sport.

i think the entire concept that a car stuck behind another should be given advantages just because he is behind another car is completely ridiculous.

the so called DRS & KERS has already negatively affected my intrest in F1 & the coming season. for the 1st time ever im actually looking more forward to the start of the ALMS & Indycar seasons than F1.


I suppose the GP organisers will be able to charge a premium for seats in the grandstands at the end of the straights where the DRS is enabled!


A lot of people seem to be commenting that the DRS is overly ‘artificial’.

I thought the system was developed because F1 cars cause so much turbulence in their wake that trailing cars cannot draw close enough to attempt to overtake.

Therefore, I see it as a bit of a contrived version of slipstreaming – the car behind can get a ‘tow’ from the car in front. It’s not an artificial device that will lead to ‘fake’ racing – it just seems a fairly logical plan to remedy an issue inherent in a sport so reliant on aerodynamics.


It’s nothing to do with the tow — it just allows the car using it to go faster because while its DRS is enabled, the car can push itself through the air more easily (reduce its drag) and thus travel faster with a given amount of power.


Think I may have confused you a bit there, Born 1950.

What I’m saying is that in most categories of motorsport, when one car catches another it can continue to gain ground for as long as the driver in front is slower then the driver in pursuit.

In F1, this is clearly not the case – at a certain distance, the air flow becomes turbulent and the car in pursuit is held back and suffers a loss of aerodynamic grip.

The DRS offers a compensatory mechanism; what is lost where the pursuing car hits turbulence can be regained on the long straight, giving the car behind a chance to overcome this invisible hurdle.

The problem is that to me, it’s like papering over a crack in a wall. The reliance on aero somewhat limits the competitive aspect of the racing and I don’t think giving the pursuing a driver what might be seen as ‘an advantage’ solves the issue.


Yes, but a car has to be within a second of the car in front before he can use his DRS; and at that point, if he’s that close, he’s gained enough ground to be in the tow of the vehicle in front anyway, and can overtake by slipstreaming. If the rules allowed him to use his DRS on straights in order to catch a car that was further in front than a second, then the car in front would be using his DRS as well — because he’s also following a car in front of him — right up to the car at the very front who is a sitting duck because he is the race leader.

As I see it, the way the DRS rule is constructed is more of a penalty on a leading car than it is a benefit to a following car. Two evenly matched cars, in theory, will constantly be overtaking and re-overtaking each other, lap after lap — the race winner being the car that happens to be leading on the lap when the flag drops. Again in theory, we could see race tactics where the second placed car, rather than overtake, hangs back and waits until the last lap to close up the gap and use his DRS to take the leader — thus giving the former leader no more opportunities to come back at him.

I suppose in summary what I’m saying is that the odds-on winner will tend to be the driver who hangs back in second place until the last possible lap, before then using DRS to take the lead — leaving the car that’s led up to that point no opportunity to retake his position.

It’ll be fascinating to see how this works out in practice when cars are closely matched.


I think the problem with the DRS is not the DRS itself, but the fact that it can only be used for a set time during a lap and only when “certain conditions apply”.

I would like to see all moveable elements fully under driver control to be deployed as when the driver sees fit for any length of duration, at any point on the track, as many times as the driver sees fit.

The DRS isn’t the artificial bit, its the conditions when you are allowed to use them. Its mickey mouse.

I’d like to see skillful drivers changing the DRS into, through and out of a corner to get the extra edge. Just as several years ago you’d see Schuey adjusting his brake bias while in the middle of a corner at InterLagos. Not all the drivers were good enough to do that, but he was. I think we could see some drivers doing that with the DRS, but we won’t get to find out with these arbitrary rules.

Mind, you I’d like ground effect to come back, active suspension. The works. Except for automatic gearboxes and launch control. I’d like all of that gone. A driver crunching his gears, or missing a gear, that is skill, or more correctly, lack of skill, or fatigue. The automatic systems take that away. Whereas the ground effect just pushes the edge even more.


How come nobody told Kamui Kobayashi that it’s imposible to overtake in F1? And it’s not as if he has the fastest car, either…


Hi all,

long time lurker and v occasional poster.

I’m actually rather intrigued by the movable wing idea. I think it’s going to introduce a number of variables that will be of differing importance during a race.

As others have mentioned – how will the teams set up the gearing?

What happens at the end of the passing zone when the wing reapplies downforce?

How will that feed into the braking point/force?

With the condition of the tires at that point?

I think these are all conducive to presenting an opportunity to pass without making it a straightforward ‘press to pass’ type arrangement. It’s only an overtake if the driver makes it stick.

I also like that nobody knows what’s going to happen on race day – smarter, better drivers will make it work to overtake, and smarter better drivers will still be able to keep faster cars behind them. And We’ll love them all the more for that.


James as you probably no longer check the comments thread regarding the tyres, do you think that this year, the driver qualifying 11th has a bigger advantage than ever… they can stick on a fresh pair of hards where as the 10 in front will no doubt be on softs which have more than seen their best and have a very fast performance drop off…

Could this possibly save them a whole pit-stop over the course of the race?

And do you think that every car should start with the tyres it qualified fastest on? It does seem a little unfair that this rule still exists given the introduction of the new tyre supplier.


The DRS will be interesting I think. What we’ll see is people perhaps struggling to optimise their cars for a race.

With KERS and DRS enabled a car will need a top gear ratio perhaps 15-20kph longer than would be used otherwise. Without DRS enabled though the car will essentially have a top gear that’s too long comprimising it’s acceleration.

In the recent past I’ve numerous times seen a car which struggled to pass another because it was on it’s limiter in 7th gear (as when your car isn’t in the slipstream the ratios are optimised).

Given the area of DRS is only 600m prior to the end of a straight (?) I think we might see the system have significantly less impact than many people are concerned about. In fact I can see teams like RBR optimising their cars ratios for when the car doesn’t have DRS enabled as they are likely to be at the front (and thus it’ll not get activated). That should give them slightly superior acceleration in 5th, 6th and 7th (as you’d spread the ratio change) and make them marginally faster over the course of a lap.

I haven’t seen the above mentioned anywhere, many people are making the presumption that DRS = higher top speed, but the top speed is governed by gear ratios as the cars are only allowed to rev to 18,000rpm. Thus the engine/gearbox speed won’t allow the car to go quicker.

I would guess that one of the reasons why cars are allowed to use DRS in qualifying is to ensure that running it encourages teams to go with the longer ratios?. I question if the accleration difference from running optimised ratios for a car unlikely to use DRS in the race would outweight the benefit DRS would give a car in qualifying? E.g. Save 3 tenths in Q3 vs a car thats half a tenth quicker a lap with the ratios set differently.

@James, any change you could put the above (roughly) to one of the engineers?

Andrew Woodruff

Hi Paul

I’m not an engineer, but I’m not convinced by all this talk of gear ratios. Surely if you keep all other factors constant but reduce drag, the same revs/power output etc will result in a higher top speed regardless.

Gear ratios therefore a red herring?


Nope not a Red Herring at all 🙂

Reducing drag will make it easier to drive a car forward (less drag means less power required to push the car forward), but it will not increase a cars top speed unless the gear ratios and engine speed allow it to do so. F1 cars Gear ratios are normally set so the engine speed (RPM) is nearing the rev on the limiter at the end of the longest straight. As the engine speed in F1 is limited to 18,000rpm engines cannot and will not increase speed with DRS enabled. All that would happen is that a car would bounce of the revlimiter more easily. We’ve seen this happen when one car slipstreams another, drag is reduced, the car speeds up but then hits it’s rev limiter and is limited to how fast it can go.



Today the FIA have increased the distance of the length of track cars can activate the rear wing system to 860m (although part of that is on a corner so they’ll only use ~750m).

Christian Horners Response:

“I only found out today,”

“It’s a pain because it screws up our simulations and affects gear ratios.”

Gear Ratios see 😉

Andrew Woodruff

I hear what you’re saying, and maybe you are right. But if it’s so elementary then why have all the boffins within the FIA and FOTA not thought of this?

What you’re saying, effectively, is that DRS will have no effect at all on the cars’ performance at the top end. I just can’t believe that is right. If you pedal a bike at a constant rate without changing gear, you will go faster downhill than than you will going up. Surely the principle is the same?


Thanks for that.


I’m not against using this new technology in the sport. I’m against the way it is being implemented. Allowing an driver to overtake using a drag reduction ‘boost’ is only fair if the defending driver can use it as well.

My suggestion would be to scrap these designated ‘zones’ and allow the drivers to use it when they want to.

Andrew Woodruff

I posted earlier (#30) but have had a few more thoughts.

Some people seem genuinely outraged that DRS will give the driver in pursuit an artificial advantage (see Wayne in chain #1!). I don’t necessarily see this as a problem though, for one simple reason.

One of the most frustrating things in Formula 1 over the last 10 years and more has been the sight of a car and driver that would be seconds faster in clear air being held up by a slower car. Witness Jonathan Legard referring endlessly to the “Trulli train” effect (even after the offending Toyota car had disappeared from the grid).

The way I look at DRS isn’t that it will necessarily increase overtaking generally (although it will, and I will come back to that) but that it will eradicate situations as I have described above. This in my view is a good thing, as it will mean more genuine on track battles between the championship contenders for podium positions, of which we have all too often been robbed.

Then there is the question of what will happen with two evenly matched cars, let’s say Alonso and Vettel, fighting for first place. People seem to be worried that the car behind will simply overtake without incident and run away. I’m not so sure this is going to happen as a matter of course (although concede that it could). Hopefully what will happen is that two evenly matched cars will be able to stay close to each other (whoever is in front) and then pass and re-pass a number of times. There is still skill involved in getting to within a second, the shame is that DRS will only be available at one corner during the race (see my argument in #30, above).


The funniest part of the entire debate is that the element of fairness. In other sports, athletes are penalized for using performance enhancement drugs which give them slight advantage. And it doesnt work like that in f1. Cars are never equal in the first place. Finding and utilizing the advantage is the name of the game anyway.


I’m ready to give it a go – but its a stupid idea.

This all cost lots of money for the teams to develop = teams spend more money = teams need more sponsors to keep alive = teams with more money win races = higher ticket prices for fans = a few people getting very rich.

Its fake racing.

As has been said before its the track layout that is the problem – and before you start bashing Trike – its the regs he has to design within that makes the tracks crap.


Yeah, well if it didn’t work we are going to abolish the concept! Teams already spent a lot of money for development and manufacture, and then they will spend some more to change it! Yet everybody will always speak about the need to make F1 more affordable. Ideas like this, that are leading to artificial solutions, are the result of the fact that nobody really wants to make the right decisions and return to the fundamentals of F1. Just look what Alonso said the other day: the best car will win! I wish we could all say the best driver will win!!! That would be the F1 back at its right track.


Well guys (and gals) if F1 is getting too artificial, the MotoGP season starts this weekend in Qatar. Having lost Bahrain (possibly for good now) This is serving as my first fix, of the year, with intriguing situations to start the season. Read our Suzi. who I declare as the MotoGP equivalent of James.


Suzi looks far better in a pair of leather trousers than Mr Allen ever would! 😉

Yep, I like a bit of MotoGP too and it will be an intriguing season 🙂


My issue with the whole DRS concept is that we may only see over-taking in one place on a lap now… I don’t feel that we’ll see people trying passes in other places. Ok, let me try to define that better. Sure a lot of tracks only have certain places to overtake, take Brazil for example, it really has only one spot for over-taking – at the end of the pit-straight into senna * [* – although yes someone might try at the end of the “back” straight too]. With DRS we may see drivers trying to close in (to a car in-front) only when approaching this “DRS zone”. Ok, so that still isn’t precisely what I’m getting at. Hamilton, in Australia, went around the outside of Rosberg at a place no-one thought you could over-take; Alonso went around the outside of Schumi at 130R – again, who would have thought a pass was possible there. Schumi got his own back at Monaco last year between Rascasse and Noges (ok, so it was revoked on a technical issue) but I was still whopping with joy at the audacity of the move – not because I like or dislike a driver etc. – and because I’d never seen a move there before.

That’s what I feel we’ll miss… the attacks at non-obvious places, because now we may simply have a designated over-taking area. This is my big concern – people won’t try to pass where they can, they’ll wait until the “zone”.


Sure, FOTA, I’m very happy to see how it goes but — just so you see where I’m coming from — I’ve nothing at all against a driver-operated, drag-reducing flap in principle. The ‘artificiality’ that I and, I think, others are complaining about, is in the terribly contrived circumstances surrounding how it will be used.

Glad to see you’re willing to experiment with it. I’m sure we’ll see changes in the way it is used, though as I said previously I think we’ll end up — indeed should end up — allowing the drivers to use it when and wherever they like without limitation.

Of course, being an F1 fan, trying to predict what will happen — and having a pop at those in charge — is all part of my harmless fun! Don’t take it to heart, FOTA!


Born 1950 – I suspect you’ve seen this before, but note the discussion of aerodynamics here, especially the driver controlled rear wing (and what they didn’t call an F-duct, but is essentially the same thing in modern lingo):


Thanks for that. Those were the days! In 1966 I spent most of my time at school designing racing cars when I should have been revising for my O levels! I still contend I was the first person to come up with the idea of a rear diffuser — as drawn in the back of my school notebook around 1964.


Spot on.


I’d don’t reay understand the “if it doesn’t work well just get rid of it” argument. The costs involved of implementing the systems is too great to just scrap it. What about the smaller teams? Can they afford to just scrap it? There needs to be a more long term objective and not a short term fly on the wall approach.

It’s absurd that the FIA did not allow extra testing or race simulations to get accurate and important data from the teams running the new systems. Right now no one appears to have a clue what’s going to happen in Australia.

It could be a stroke or genius or it could be a total mess leaving the viewers confused

Top Tags