FIA race director Charlie Whiting re-ignites DRS debate
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jan 2014   |  8:13 pm GMT  |  177 comments

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.”

Whiting: "Big fan" of DRS in F1

DRS was introduced at the same time as Pirelli entered the sport as sole tyre supplier, with a mission to produce fast degrading tyres which increased the strategy options and also increased overtaking between cars on different age tyres. Some insiders have argued that one of those two “artificial” elements might have been sufficient and that the purity of the racing has suffered from introducing both. It would have been interesting to see the response to DRS with the Bridgestone tyres up to 2010. Fernando Alonso might well have won the 2010 championship if he had been able to pass Petrov and Rosberg, behind whom he was otherwise stuck in the final round in Abu Dhabi.

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.

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James, what if you are at full speed in a NO-DRS Zone, and activate the DRS Wing, but it is programmed to open 30% only, and not the full 100%, how could you police that, just imposible…. 1 or 2 milimmiters difference between a closed DRS and a cheating one, is impossible to detect.

DRS is just a window for teams to cheat, although anything can be built to cheat, yea, just remember, flexy front wing, flexy car, flexy rear wing, etc…. bah, all we want is just cleat rules, so no one is cheating, and we can see the best driver at work, and not the I won because I am a better cheater than you situation.


I think people overestimate the difference DRS is making. DRS assisted overtakes can look too easy, but often in races you see a queue of cars on a straight with DRS seemingly making no difference at all. The “easy” DRS overtakes are down to better cornering speed and/or traction, which in turn is probably down to tyres as much as skill.

Martin Brundle’s comment was that DRS “opens up the possibility of overtaking” – and I think that’s completely right. Whereas in the past we’d just hear the “impossible to overtake in F1” excuse time and time again, the fact that DRS might help the driver finish the move if he can get alongside means he’s more likely to try. And that can only be good.

There’s a lot of rose tinting amongst F1 fans. To me the last few years have seen more close racing than ever before, certainly more than the refuelling years. Whatever the reason the current regulations have revitalised the racing; it’s just a shame little of it is for the lead.


The racing is non-existent… DRS just adds to the boredom.

DRS is just an aid, that allows a driver to avoid the need for skill to get past a slower car. Sure helps the well-financed teams get their sponsors on TV, and thats about it…

F1 has fallen so far, even the selected highlights are boring…

The modern track battle is equivalent to watching ducks in a pond.


i like kers and drs. it’s the rules limiting them that i don’t like. i think drivers should be allowed to use them at will. or even better teams should be allowed to use ecu’s to control the use of kers and drs throughout the race and get rid of the blue flag rule.


I think drs should just stay. Has everybody forgotten the discussion of a couple of years ago? Everyone was complaining about the lack of action on circuit. Might not be the best solution, but it’s better then watching a train for 2 hours, no?


There’s a lot of “bring back the good ol’ days” around.

I was watching yesterday Monaco 2013 and 1986. In 1986 (turbo)they did lap-times at 1.27 – 1.28, with basically no degradation at all.

In 2013 VET sat 1.16,5 in his penultimate lap. That’s 10+ seconds difference. I know that Monaco might not be the most interesting race per se, but 2013 was seriously quicker and with more possibilities to overtake.


The main bugbear I have with DRS is when they have multiple DRS zones. A driver can use DRS to pass but when the second DRS zone is entered, they are a sitting duck to be re-passed by the car they overtook. It’s just silly. Limit it to one zone per race. I still don’t like it but I guess we’re stuck with it.


The “wooden plank”, which is now a step in the floor, was the biggest single mistake in the rule book of grand prix history, it is why we had stupid rules like refueling, movable front wings, no-tire-change and now DRS. All these rule changes tried to deal with the consequences of the stepped floor: Bad air got too important. Refuelling was pathetic, it devalued pit stop work, it devalued race craft to a tactical time trial. “No tire stops” should take back overtaking from the pits to the race track, but causes pit works to be worthless alltogether and caused whole new problems, like Hamilton destroying his car with a flat spot. The overtaking working group once planned to have a split rear wing to get rid less bad air, they were also thinking of getting rid of the diffuser for the same purpose, which was a pathetic idea, because it would have killed the drafting one needs get into an overtaking position. The movable front wing tried to tackle the same problem, but then all it did was giving pilots the measures to alter the balance of the car and it was useless for overtaking, plus it had this pathetic “only change the balance twice per lap” constraint. Then they tried wider front wings, which caused havoc because cars touched and ripped tires apart, spreading carbon debris on the track.

Now DRS tries to deal with the consequences. It is no better solution. Since cars are losing too much downforce in dirty air, they lose time in the bends following each other. DRS causes a huge speed difference in order to make up the time lost in the corner, plus the time needed to pass. Big speed differences are dangerous. Even worse: Because DRS severely destabilizes a car aerodynamically, you can’t give drivers a fixed time budget and drop all the DRS detection point and DRS-zone nonsense, so it only solves the problems in certain “DRS-zones”, it will not be of any help in other sections of the track. DRS is a stupid solution for a problem that could be solved once and forever, if people were willing to take a step back and questioning the design of the floor.

We need to restrict wings to a much more simple design and we need to make the floor of the car create more downforce again.

The floor is far less sensitive to bad air than the wings, so less downforce from the wings and more from the floor, will cause cars that are less sensitive to bad air, even if the downforce levels stay similar.

When teams were discussing the rule changes for 2014, they were discussing ground effect cars and decided they could not imagine the levels of downforce the designers would create and thought it was a step that was too risky. Fine, I’m okay with that, but why didn’t they shift the downforce from wings to floor just a little more by getting rid of the stepped floor and simplifying the wings? That would have been a step into the right direction.


The plank was put there in the aftermath of the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger to control ride heights. Ride heights had been an issue for years and there was a valid safety concern around them. At one point in the 80s teams were running cars with trick suspension systems that meant that the car was legal in the pits when it was stationary and could be measure but illegal when it at race speeds.

The plank, introduced after the first two driver deaths for over a decade, was a low-tech but effective solution to the problem because it wears away if the ride height is too low. It forced ride heights up.

Remember that in F1 teams are to be presumed to be maximising every rule to their advantage. You obviously can’t have a “no tyre stop” rule because tyres may wear or may be damaged. So teams would pit and claim that they had a sidewall damaged by a curb or something, and, of course, they had to change all four tyres so that the car didn’t become seriously unbalanced. So then you need to have a way of deciding if a tyre really was damaged to the point of being dangerous. A ration of tyres is not the most attractive solution, but it’s easy to administer in real time.


Only it didn’t change the ride height at all, because whether you hit the floor with the plank or the sidepods doesn’t matter: You go off, if the tires lose contact and if they hit a puddle in the rain it’s the same effect – floor raised or not.

They effectively used the plank to slow the cars down in the corners, because the raised floor meant less downforce from ground effect and they also raised the front wing and made the diffuser shallower after these accidents.

If you remember; Senna himself had raised concerns that the cars had become so quick that running them without driver aids would be dangerous. But these cars had less downforce than today’s cars and we don’t have driver aids today and it works so well because todays cars are mechanically much more sophisticated (just think of the J-Damper / Inerter that didn’t exist these days and interlinked suspensions) and they’re aerodynamically more sophisticated, which also means they are much more predictable. So I guess it would work today.


Well, yes. They wanted to reduce downforce in corners and so used the plank to force the body higher to reduce the downforce. So we’re talking about similar things I think 🙂

They wanted cornering speeds down and there’d been concern about downforce for some time because if it was disturbed the car could become unstable.

The other thing about the plank is that it wears. So if you try to run your car so that at race speeds it is pushing down a little too close to the track then the plank wears and the scrutineers will detect the wear and conclude you were running too low.

Of course a laminate plank on the bottom of an f1 car is a bit odd, out of place. But FIA knew the game the teams would play with trick suspension and cars that were only legal when stationary, and Imola had just happened so they came up with an ugly but enforceable solution.


Remember DRS back in Turkey? “Well that was easy” It shouldn’t be banned, but the effect of it should be seriously reduced.


I’d rather they get rid of DRS altogether but change the rev limit in the race and allow the drivers a set number of times that they can press the button to allow more speed to get closer

For example in qualifying the cars can all use the maximum 15k rpm limit so all the cars are geared properly but in the races they lower the limit by 1k. When the drivers exit the previous corner they can press the button and allow an extra 1k rpm through all the gears until the next time they lift the throttle. This method also allows the driver who is in front to deploy too if he wants to defend (if they realise they guy behind is using it – this means they would lose one of there chances too ) or try and hold out and save his for a later stage in the race

The other idea would be to have so many of these attempts allowed per segment of a drivers race dictated by each time they visit the pits – so start the race with say 10 uses but for every pitstop they gain 5 more. We can get rid of the cheese tyres then and drivers can push harder and then choose if they think an extra stop might help gain track position etc thanks to extra push to pass attempts


To me, F1 is moving in the direction of Indy Car (DRS vs “push to pass” and two tire compounds per race)and NASCAR (pace cars, silly penalties for meaningless “infractions”; and double points for the final race which will be the equivalent of the late cautions and green-white checkers of NASCAR). The financial health of those two series and their teams and the quality of the result has not helped either attendence or TV numbers. F1 is surprisingly behind the trend rather than leading with its own innovations for making the racing both interesting and genuinely competitive.


“push to pass” can be used anytime and is often used to keep from being passed.


Lots of rose tinted rubbish about the past. Thierry Boutsen in an inferior car held Senna off to the end of a race because overtaking was too hard even for the master. I remember GPs where, following the start, there was ONE on track overtaking move in the whole race.

When overtaking DID happen, it was helped by the fact that cars were also vastly different in performance down the grid. Check out the gaps between the grid spots, often there was seconds between the top 4.

It’s about sterile now sure but at least they can RACE.


Races like Imola 2005 and then 2006 should be an acute reminder of why DRS is needed. 2005 saw Schumacher unable to pass Alonso. Nail biting stuff on that occasion, but the same thing happened the following year (rolls reversed) and it was plain to see that overtaking was absolutely impossible at a majority of circuits.

These were two of the greatest drivers of their era, and if neither were able to pass, it calls into question the legitimacy of the “sport”. In a way, Imola 05 and 06 were just as artificial as DRS is claimed to be.

The tyres are a much bigger concern.


I thought the AbuDhabi 2010 example from the article was inappropriate, but this one is simply confusing.

Could you explain how “it calls into question the legitimacy of the sport” when the drivers don’t find a way to overtake?

Imola is at least 5 car widths wide, there was room, theoretically. There were pitstops for overtaking as well. If you don’t find a place to overtake, it calls into the legitimacy of your skills, tactics or setup choices. Moreover, why should a driver like Alonso or Schuey let somebody by? Why should Schumacher benefit from DRS, if he made a mistake in qualy?

“In a way, Imola 05 and 06 were just as artificial as DRS is claimed to be.”

Pardon, but what made these races artificial? The track was purpose built, of course, but so were Nürburgring, Suzuka and reopened Spa…


What other options did the technical group on over taking come up with? I guess DRS was the option that they could sell to all the teams. It does its job, if a car is quick enough to catch the car ahead it should have a reasonable opportunity to pass it, but I agree DRS makes that too easy.

Personally I’d like to see tyres that don’t cover the track with marbles, so the tracks don’t become one car width single racing line within the first 5 laps, this might give some of the chargers a chance to find a way past (much as they can in the opening laps).


DRS? Okay. It ended the parade and dealt with some of the “dirty air” issues that made passing near impossible, or unsafe.

However, the tire issue is contrary to the spirit of the sport. We now have drivers who are not rewarded for getting the most from a car, nor teams that are encouraged to take design to the bleeding edge. Instead we have managers, trying to be most successful at 7/10ths of capacity.

Our current repeat champion is not the best driver, nor is his car the fastest design. They are both the best managers of the tires, and hence the collective yawn.

Not exactly the thrill of Senna making the MP4/4 dance, is it?


On the whole it’s not a bad idea, actually a good one, in my view. However, I think the FIA could do better at determining where exactly and for how long it is allowed at certain circuits.

I’d love to see what would happen if the DRS use limited to 10 times per race.


Whiting sure is entitled to voice an opinion. More so than the most, in fact.

And yet, I can’t agree with him and his argument about following what the fans want.

Too much listening to fans will inevitably dumb the sport down.

Most fans don’t understand what is it what makes the F1 spectacle great, and without much thinking will ask for the most obvious thrills: and overtaking (of course) comes first.

They have got it now, and what was once a proof of the mastery over car, conditions and the opponent, is now reduced to one simple push on a button.

Those very fans who asked for it (without ever understanding why) still can feel that even with all this additional overtaking something is missing. So, new thrills are required.

And here they come: double points race (perhaps races, later on).

And so on.

F1 leaders really are at a crossroads now. The current road is gradually declining into the WWF abyss. F1 needs to stay elitist sport, something others aspire to.

It doesn’t matter if some vocal minority is screaming for shorter races, reversed grids, medals, and what not. They will go on complaining – and watching every race.


Let’s have big Venturi tunnels and fat slicks. And while we’re at it, manual gearboxes and steel brake disks… Maybe get Nigel Mansell back in a Williams… Oh wait, that’s the 1980’s again, isn’t it?


What exactly is your point?


If we are okay with gimmicks like DRS than why do people oppose double points in the last race, which is just as gimmicky ?


Not everyone is okay with DRS – I wouldn’t even push it to say a majority are okay – but the thing is that every driver has DRS available for every race (weather permitting), so like it or hate it at least it’s consistent.

The double points thing is just for one race which sort of undermines the integrity of every other race and the championship itself.

Things change over time – that’s natural – and you could say that a certain driver might have won a championship it had been five years earlier with a different set of regulations / points systems / teams / circuits / whatever, but can you imagine the reaction if a driver wins the 2014 WDC only because of the double points while the driver that would have won it misses out?

I won’t presume to speak for everyone, but I can tell you right now I’ll be seriously disappointed.


I am not a big fan of the DRS. Someone like Vettel, who, while exceptionally fast, but at the same time an average wheel-to-wheel racer, has benefited immensely from the use of DRS when coming from the back of the field (Abu Dhabi 2012 springs to mind).

For me, Alonso and Button, are and will remain the best racers when it comes to racecraft and overtaking. They have pulled off some of the most brilliant, and at the same time, clean overtaking moves in F1 in the last 10 years.

I may raise a few eyebrows with the mention of Button, but I am true fan of his racing ability since 2005, when I started watching Formula 1.




Eyebrow very raised. You failed to mention the best overtaker. If you started watching F1 in 2005- who was it that came from 17th to 1st. Passing Alonso and then passing Jean Alesi around the outside of 130R on the last lap..


By definition anyone coming from the back of the field benefits from having an overtaking aid. These days that very rarely includes Vettel, who (much to the annoyance of many) has this habit of qualifying on the front row and streaking off into the distance, sans any DRS assistance.

In spite of your suggestion, Vettel had numerous come from behind races in the pre DRS days, such as China 2007 (17 to 4th), Monaco 2008 (15th to 5th), and Brazil 2009 (15th to 4th). The “He can’t pass” charge was always bunkum.

You do indirectly raise an interesting point though – many of people in the “Modern F1 is terrible” camp feel that way simply because they don’t like the results of the last few years. If Hamilton or Alonso wins the 2014 WDC a lot of this carping will subside.


“Abu Dhabi 2012 springs to mind”

And what other race springs to mind, you do understand that most people seem to find F1 boring these days because Vettel sticks it on pole and then drives away at the front without an opportunity to use DRS like everyone behind him.


Renault and Ferrari had the F-duct in 2010, which served the same purpose as the DRS; however, Fernando could not seize an advantage over Petrov because there were no utilization rules on the f-duct. I would have preferred for F1 to not have banned the f-duct rather than implement drs.


Before DRS, overtaking was less frequent, but when a good one happened it was something you would remember for the rest of your life. I always felt that this was part of the strange and compulsive appeal of the sport as it used to be — ie the tension between long periods of boredom and moments of ecstasy.

I suspect that the effect DRS has had on racing is the reason why, in spite of the races being superficially more appealing, I haven’t watched a complete one for more than two years. I don’t think I’m alone.


its not the same anymore.


DRS was the number one thing that turned off my passion for F1… it’s unfair, it distorts the results, it devalues drivers and is incredibly sleep-inducing…

DRS is one of the main things that devalue Vettel’s efforts… he does not have to battle anyone… just drive-by in Newey’s excess aero car.

The worst DRS side-effect is the lack of effort driver put in to get past… just wait for the cheat zone, and take the candy from the baby.


You do realise what you’re typing don’t you?


I’d say keep the DRS, but shortern the distances that it can be used significantly, especially at some of the faster circuits.

Toughen up the tyres and lets get back to some proper racing again.


Hear hear!


Firstly, I completely agree that overtaking still needs “great skill to use the system properly”. But Mr Whiting overlooks the conflict of penalising the leading car. What for, too good performance in qualifying? Excessively fast pit stop during the race?

“Fernando Alonso might well have won the 2010 championship if he had been able to pass Petrov and Rosberg…”

This is the most common example that people come up with, but I really don’t think it’s appropriate. Watch the race again. There were moments when Fernando was close to Petrov at the beginning of the straight, but could not make up the ground for the braking area, even in the tow(!). That means Ferrari was slow on the straights, it was their choice of setup. Also, the circuit cannot be blamed, it is an overtaking paradise(slow corner, long straight, slow corner). Additionally, Fernando went off several times, giving some breath for Petrov. The fact that Alonso could not get by that day is not a good justification for such a twisted “solution” like DRS.

There is so much talk about overtaking. Fans should understand that overtaking does not necessarily belong to racing. Naturally, faster cars drive away from the slower ones, creating a gap…and that’s it.

“Charlie Whiting, has said that the Drag Reduction System (DRS) has been a boost to F1 and is here to stay.”

Well, why not. It has some unused potential. Time-limit the DRS, just like KERS and it becomes purely a tactical weapon. Or make it available for the whole race, it is million times smarter and greener than to produce and carry along KERS battery…

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