What is Formula 1 DRS?

Formula 1 DRS

In Formula 1 DRS is an overtaking aid known as ‘Drag Reduction System’ and is a tool used by drivers to increase their top speed, which promotes more overtaking and therefore more entertaining races.

DRS was first introduced to the rear wing of Formula 1 cars in 2011 to promote overtaking during a grand prix and to mitigate the effects of driving in dirty air. DRS is now also used in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Renault 3.5, Super Formula, and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters to help facilitate overtaking in those categories.

What is Formula 1 DRS?

In Formula 1 DRS opens a flap on the cars rear wing to reduce aerodynamic drag, and gives the trailing car in the turbulent air a speed advantage of 10-12km/h to make an overtaking move on the leading car who is in clean air.

A Formula 1 wing is made up of horizontal elements including the main plane and a flap and is a marvel of motorsport technology. When activated, DRS allows the wing flaps to lift a maximum of 50mm to reduce drag, resulting in less downforce.

Less downforce means faster acceleration, and depending on the car and its setup, a higher top speed.

When DRS was first implemented it was monitored to ensure overtaking could be made easier, but without reducing the skill level needed from the driver.

The effectiveness of DRS varies from track to track, and can be dependent on elements such as the maximum downforce of each circuit, the track surface, the length of each DRS zone, where each detection point is situated, and track characteristics at the end of the DRS zone.

There are two DRS zones at most circuits, however, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Austria, Singapore and Mexico all have three DRS zones.

What are the Formula 1 DRS rules?

There are several rules governing the use of the drag reduction system DRS in Formula 1.

1)     The pursuing car is within one second of the lead car.
2)     The following car is in a DRS zone as pre-determined by the FIA.
3)     The DRS system may not be deployed until two racing laps have been completed after the grand prix start, a restart, or a safety car period.
4)     The DRS system can not be used by the driver in front to defend their position, unless they are within one second of a car in front of them.
5)     The DRS system may not be enabled if the Race Director deems racing conditions are unsafe, such as in a race being held in the rain.

What is a Formula 1 DRS zone?

A drag reduction system zone, or DRS zone, is an overtaking zone where drivers are permitted to deploy the system, if they (the pursuing car) are within one second of the car ahead.

It is marked by a line on the track to signify the start of the zone, known as a detection point, followed by a second line known as the activation point.

There is also a sign marked ‘DRS’ where the DRS zone begins.

Who activates DRS in Formula 1?

A light on the car’s steering wheel lets the driver know when the DRS system is enabled (the driver can also see the rear wing system deploy in his wing mirrors). The system is deactivated the moment the driver starts braking.

The detection of the one-second gap between cars is fully automated via sensors in the cars as they enter the detection zone on the race track, however, the actual deployment of the DRS system is completed manually by the driver pressing a button on the steering wheel.

Formula 1 DRS Official Regulations

FIA regulations state that no item of bodywork may be adjustable by the driver during the race, with the exception of the DRS. The following paragraph states the official regulation on this matter.

3.18 – Driver adjustable bodywork :

3.18.1 The incidence of the rearmost and uppermost closed section described in :Article 3.10.2 may be varied whilst the car is in motion provided :

  • It comprises only one component that must be symmetrically arranged about the car centre line with a minimum width of 708mm.
  • With the exception of minimal parts solely associated with adjustment of the section, no parts of the section in contact with the external airstream may be located any more than 355mm from of the car centre line.
  • With the exception of any minimal parts solely associated with adjustment of the rearmost and uppermost section, two closed sections are used in the area described in Article 3.10.2.
  • Any such variation of incidence maintains compliance with all of the bodywork regulations.
  • When viewed from the side of the car at any longitudinal vertical cross section, the physical point of rotation of the rearmost and uppermost closed section must be fixed and located no more than20mm below the upper extremity and no more than 20mm forward of the rear extremity of the area described in Article 3.10.2 at all times.
  • The design is such that failure of the system will result in the uppermost closed section returning to the normal high incidence position.
  • Any alteration of the incidence of the uppermost closed section may only be commanded by direct driver input and controlled using the control electronics specified in Article 8.2.

This is further clarified by the Sporting Regulations:


Driver adjustable bodywork permitted by Article 3.18 of the F1 Technical Regulations

a) Subject to any special conditions relevant to a specific Event, details of which the FIA will provide to each competitor at least one week before the start of an Event, the adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at any time prior to the start of the race. In conditions of poor visibility however the race director may, at his absolute discretion, disable all such systems until conditions improve.

If the adjustable bodywork is disabled in this way at the start of any of the three periods of the qualifying practice session (Q1, Q2 or Q3) it will remain disabled for the remainder of the relevant period.

b) For the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race the adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver after he has completed two laps after the race start or following a safety car period.

The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics (see Article 8.2 of the F1 Technical Regulations) that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit. The system will be disabled by the control electronics the first time the driver uses the brakes after he has activated the system. In conditions of poor visibility, or if yellow flags are being shown in the activation zone, the race director may, at his absolute discretion, disable all such systems until conditions improve or yellow flags are withdrawn.

The FIA may, after consulting all competitors, adjust the above time proximity in order to ensure the stated purpose of the adjustable bodywork is met.

c) In the event of a failure in the system which notifies the driver that he was within one second of the car in front, and is hence authorised to use the adjustable bodywork, the team concerned may ask the race director for permission to override the system. If permission is given in this way the onus will be upon the team concerned to ensure that their driver only uses the adjustable bodywork if he is within one second of the car in front of him.

If the failure in the system is rectified the driver may no longer use this override, the race director will notify the team if and when the fault has been remedied.

How The Drag Reduction System Works In F1

This video from Race Fans has Sebastian Vettel talking us through you how the drag reduction system works in F1.

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