As the fallout from Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix comes in, it’s clear that this race was a bit too much. It featured 82 pit stops and countless passes assisted by the Drag Reduction System wing which were too easy in the eyes of the fans and of the drivers as well.
I picked up a distinct undercurrent from drivers after the race that they hadn’t enjoyed being able to sail past each other in the DRS zone which was half way down the high speed straight leading to Turn 12. We saw many passes where the driver who was unable to activate the wing was powerless to defend and this doesn’t give drivers satisfaction.
Mark Webber said after the race that his run in China had made him aware that the tyre situation and the DRS was making things artificial, “You come up against drivers like Fernando, Jenson and Nico, you catch them at 2.5 seconds a lap it’s nice but it’s not rewarding because they’ve got nothing to fight back with.” He stopped there, not wanting to be too critical of the situation in public.
Williams’ Sam Michael said that the DRS making overtakes so easy meant, “you could run optimum strategy, you didn’t have to worry about traffic. That’s what the intention was. I still think it’s beneficial, but remember that when one car is on 15 lap older tyres, the other one is going to go past whether there’s DRS or not.”
The drivers aren’t along, we’ve had many fans commenting that this race was a bit too much, such as Dmitry who posted this comment:
“I am getting more and more sure with each race, that F1 became too artificial with DRS… of course, it is nice to watch, when one car passes another, but when it is performed in such a fashion as today – thanks, but no thanks.
“If F1 will follow this trend, then one day we will get rules, when a driver behind another will receive some other kind of performance boost, for example – additional “super engine mode”, gear, or just a hellfire land-to-land missile (why should we stop on DRS?).
“I am following F1 since 1991 (as a child, so it was just an interest…) and starting from 1998 – really serious. F1 cars always had some kind of funny devices or something giving them the edge over others, but never had rules allowed such performance boosts as we see with DRS…”
The FIA is still finding its way with DRS and in the first three races it managed it about right. The zone in which the DRS can be activated was not too far after a slowish corner and it helped drivers to get alongside but wasn’t the difference. The age of the tyres was the difference.
The problem in Turkey was that the DRS zone was placed half way along the straight from Turn 10 to Turn 12, where the cars are already travelling at around 180mph. Opening the DRS gives a sudden electric burst of speed, which took the car past its rival with no real problems. The car in front was a sitting duck.
So it was quite an extreme example of what DRS can do. In retrospect perhaps it would have been better to have it closer to the exit of Turn 10, which the cars exit at 100 mph.
In Barcelona, traditionally one of the hardest tracks of the season to overtake on, we should see it make a smaller difference.
I’m sure Pirelli would love to have a race without DRS to see how much overtaking is promoted by drivers being on tyres of varying ages. One suspects it might be enough and that the DRS is a step too far.