All About The F1 DRS System

If you want to learn everything there is about the DRS system you are in the right place. Let’s go!

What is the F1 DRS system ?

DRS stands for Drag Reduction System. It is a moving part on the rear wing of F1 cars. When the DRS is activated, the flap (moving part) rotates and diminishes the air influx on the rear wing. This reduces the aerodynamic drag but increases the speed up to 10-12 km/h (6-7 mp/h). The rotating flap is shown in the picture below. The aim of this system is to provoke more overtaking in F1 races and to make F1 more spectacular.

The activation of the DRS system is subject to strict rules :

  • The pursuing car must be less than on second away from the pursued car when the detection point is crossed. It can be used both for gaining a place or lapping an opponent.
  • A certain number of lap must be made before activating DRS. The number changes for each race.
  • The car needs to be in the DRS zone. Maps showing each DRS zones for each Grand Prix will be shown later. Usually, there are 2-3 DRS zones per race track.

There are other rules but more on that later. This system has been introduced in F1 in 2011 and since then to other racing competition. It has made overtaking more frequent and harder to defend for pursued cars that can’t use the system unless they are within one second of the car in front of them. Notable point: when DRS was introduced in 2011 the number of overtakes doubled compared to the previous season and went from 450 to 820.

Now let’s go more in detail. The DRS seems simple from afar and we seem to have covered a lot of ground already but it is actually a really complicated system.

Tightening The Rules

Since the number of overtakes has increased the FIA tightened the rules on the use of DRS. There are more restrictions for its use:

  • The system may not be used in the first 2 laps of a race or after a safety car deployment.
  • The system cannot be used by a defending driver unless within one second of the car immediately preceding it.
  • The system may not be authorized if race conditions are judged to be dangerous by the race directors.

On The Technical Side

How the DRS is really working you ask? We’ve got the answer!

The DRS is activated with a button present on the steering wheel. You can see that on our amazing homemade Formula Racing Passion steering wheel :

Once the driver pushes the button, a jack activates the upper flap of the wing in order to make it horizontal. According to Jody Eggerton, technical director of Torro Rosso, when the DRS is deactivated the pressure of the wind makes it go back to its original position. The system is specifically designed to be this way in case of a hydraulic failure that will keep the flap from returning to its original position. A system can fail but the wind just can’t.

This opening mechanism is linked to the hydraulic system of the car that also controls the gearbox, braking, differential, admission, etc. When the driver asks for the deactivation of the DRS, the hydraulic pressure inside the jack diminishes, the flap starts losing its horizontal position and the air pressure then finalizes the change of position of the flap to its original condition.

All F1 teams check the aerodynamic behaviour of the car when activating and deactivating the DRS system. They need to keep the car under control all the time.

Additional note: The DRS was initially set to have an opening of 6,5 cm. This was raised in 2018 to 8,5 cm. More opening means less aerodynamic drag which means more speed and more overtaking.

Where are the DRS zones?

Glad you asked :

  Grand Prix Number of DRS zones Approx DRS zones length Track diagram with DRS zones in blue
Australia 3 2 km
Bahrain 3 2,4 km
China 2 1,7 km
Azerbaijan 2 1,4 km
Spain 2 1,7 km
Monaco 1 0,4 km
Canada 3 2,1 km
France 2 2,1 km
Austria 3 2,8 km
Great Britain 2 1,5 km
Germany 3 2,2 km
Hungary 2 1,3 km
Belgium 2 1,6 km
Italy 2 1,8 km
Singapore 3 2 km
Russia 2 2 km
Japan 1 0,65 km
Mexico 3 2,2 km
USA 2 1,8 km
Brazil 2 1,4 km
Abu Dabi 2 2,1 km

Reviews and Reception

While some fans and drivers stated that the DRS could be a solution to the lack of overtaking in F1 over the past years some others have criticized the fact that it makes overtaking too easy.

Eddie Irvine, the former F1 driver, stated that the F1 is a mess with all of the new gadgets that have been put in place. Juan Pablo Montoya, also a former F1 driver stated that: “It is like giving Picasso Photoshop”. Sebastian Vettel, 4 time World Champion, stated that: “He preferred throwing bananas ‘Mario Kart Style’ over the use of DRS”

To Conclude

The DRS is a system made of a moving part on the rear wing of f1 cars. It allows to reduce the aerodynamic drag in order to gain speed on certain portions of F1 circuits. The aim is to make the sport more spectacular with more overtakes. To this day, it is the only moving part on f1 cars.

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