Introduction to F1
The word F1 causes a lot of images to pop up in one’s mind. The streets of Monaco, the crashes, the emotions, the drama, the classic podium. Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, and for the old schoolers, Williams. But they are all incomplete, without the inclusion of, the core, the legendary fast cars. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 370 km/h, they truly are a work of technological and engineering masterclass. The unique design of F1 cars makes them instantly recognisable, and so they have been for years.
The drivers handling them need to have the skill and neck strength to handle the tremendous speed and to beat everyone around them to achieve the highest spot at the podium.
Now, overtaking is a key aspect of racing in general and not just F1, and it all depends on the skill of the driver as the race is theirs to win. Or so we thought. Let me introduce you to DRS. DRS, short for Drag Reduction System, assists the driver in overtaking by opening a flap in the rear wing.
To understand this, we must understand how the aerodynamics on an F1 car work.
Aerodynamics of an F1 Car
In simple terms, an F1 car is designed in a way to benefit aerodynamics and move faster through the air. It is also designed in such a way, to stick to the track, because, of course, we do not want our driver to fly off into the stands, now do we? This is done by creating downforce , meaning the air will push the car downwards by the creation of high and low pressure zones. The rear wing of an F1 car is tilted upwards, to achieve a greater downforce.
DRS in F1
What DRS does is, it titls a flap in the rear wing, reducing drag, which is basically a force that pushes itself opposite to the car. So naturally as this force is reduced, the car is allowed to accelerate easily. In the image below, the upper part is when DRS is not activated and the lower part is when DRS is active.
So now as the car is going faster, it is much easier for the driver to overtake.
Now there are some rules to DRS. Mainly that it can only be activated once the driver is a second or less behind the driver in front of him. So you have to be close enough to the car you want to overtake anyways, before DRS assists you. Secondly, DRS can only be activated when the car is in the DRS zone. This is a straight part of the track in the circuit, where the drivers can use DRS to overtake. Before this is the DRS detection zone, which determines whether the car is eligible for DRS or not.
But, Why is it so Controversial?
After reading this you may understand why DRS is so controversial. It basically assists the driver to get ahead of the car in front of him. It means that this skill full manoeuvre does not require as much skill as it did before DRS was introduced. And since 2011, when it was introduced, it continues to ruffle some feathers.
Well, saying that DRS requires no skill is misleading. As said before, the downforce that acts on the car is reduced when DRS is active, and thus it severely reduces car control. Though this does not satisfy its critics, who argue pressing a button to gain a speed boost takes away from the driver’s skill. Juan Pablo Montoya, a former F1 driver, termed the device as “giving Picasso Photoshop”.
There are, as always, two sides to this debate. And whatever the future may be for DRS, the fanbase will continue to be divided on this one.