Whiting defends DRS


FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has defended DRS despite fans claims that it makes overtaking too easy.

Introduced to F1 in 2011, the Drag Reduction System (DRS) was aimed at increasing overtaking at a time the FIA was banning F-ducts. Although movable aerodynamic parts are banned, an exception was made in the case of DRS albeit with provisos, namely that it would only be activated on certain parts of the track, in certain conditions and the driver using it had to be within one second of the car being overtaken in the detection zone.

While it appeared to be a quick fix to the lack of overtaking when first introduced, many fans felt that it made it too easy, leaving the car being hunted down a sitting duck. Furthermore, at tracks where two DRS zone were used, essentially the norm in 2013, a driver overtaken in Zone A would re-take the position in Zone B, thereby negating the effect.

Speaking in Birmingham, Whiting has defended the controversial system which was devised by some of the leading engineers in F1 along in conjunction with the FIA.

"I'm a great fan of it," he admitted. "I know some people are opposed to it and really think it is not pure enough, but I completely disagree with that view. It still requires extreme skill from the driver. It is not as if it's; turn on... overtake... go... done!"

Citing Spa Francorchamps, where in the last couple of seasons we have witnessed countless overtakes - courtesy of DRS - on the Kemmel Straight heading up the hill to Les Combes, Sebastian Vettel's move on Lewis Hamilton last year being a prime example, Whiting denied that DRS has made it too easy, insisting that all is not as it appears.

"Sometimes it does appear like that," he admitted, "but Spa is an example of how if you come through Eau Rouge a bit quicker than the car in front and deploy DRS it's dead simple. But it's only because of the exit speed of the car. 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. You have to pre-suppose that the cars are at the same speed but you have no idea what speed they are going to do that. If you understand the reasoning about it and what is required to actually overtake, it still takes a great deal from the driver."

While the DRS rules have been tinkered with since its introduction, Whiting doesn't envisage any further changes.

"We feel it should be allowed only on certain parts of the track," he said, when asked if F1 could follow Formula Renault 3.5 example and limit its use to a set amount of time in races. "Before last year, drivers could use it at any time they wish in practice and qualifying and that led to a couple of incidents where drivers used it too early, so for last year we only allowed them to use it in practice here they can use it in the race. We think it is important only to be used in certain areas, not for a maximum amount of time."

In the first year of its use, DRS saw overtaking climb to record levels. Excluding overtakes categorised as 'Lap One' or because of damage, there were 1180 manoeuvres. The combined total of 'Normal' and 'DRS-assisted' moves - the indicator of what most observers consider to be 'clean' overtaking - was 804 overtakes, giving an average of 45 normal and DRS overtakes per race.

There were 441 normal overtakes and 363 DRS overtakes; from the total of 804 clean overtakes, 55% were normal and 45% were DRS. 300 overtakes were on the three slowest teams by faster cars, with passes between team-mates accounting for 76 overtakes.

The highest number of clean overtakes were recorded in Turkey (85), Canada (79) and China (67). The races with the fewest were Monaco (16), Australia (17) and India (18). Nine races featured fewer than 50 clean overtakes; eight races featured more than 50.

Chris Balfe

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Published: 11/01/2014
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