I’m going to say something unpopular here: I’m increasingly beginning to think DRS, decried by many – including reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton – as a gimmicky sticking plaster for F1’s overtaking ills, may actually be a good thing.
The 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix is my case in point. Taking a more liberal approach to its use, by deploying a third zone between the Turn 1/2/3 complex and Turn 4, helped create conditions for several contested overtaking moves throughout that race, including the one that proved decisive in Hamilton’s inherited victory. True, it didn’t make a huge difference in Melbourne – never a good track for overtaking anyway – but Romain Grosjean made use of the added opportunity to pass Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa, so that’s something.
China, with two zones, was a turgid affair, which leads me to wonder whether a third, between Turns 3 and 6, or the short straight between 10 and 11, would have spiced things up. Certainly, on the evidence of Bahrain (an admittedly small sample set), an extra DRS zone combined with bigger and draggier rear wings seemed to create more useful slipstreaming.
Formula 1 is forever trying to be all things to all people. Making the cars faster and more extreme will inevitably lead to more downforce, which we know hurts racing, but DRS mitigates the effect, allowing F1 to have fast cars and overtaking. Following seems easier with the simpler front wings too – Kimi Räikkönen seems to think so – and as long as braking zones remain contested, which is the absolute key to making the overtaking exciting, there is no reason why DRS cannot contribute positively.
F1 has been bold in bringing a taste of its 2021 revolution forward with 2019’s revised aerodynamics. That boldness should extend to greater use of DRS at other circuits. It might be unpopular, but Bahrain showed how well it can work if used correctly. I think it might be time to reappraise the worth of this particular gimmick.
Speaking of reappraisals, McLaren is undergoing a painstaking process of renewal after a terrible run of form in F1’s V6 era. After a difficult end to 2018, this season has started better for the beleaguered British team. But, crucially, McLaren is being extra careful not to get carried away. There is a refreshing air of humility about the team now and, as Andrew Benson explains in this month’s cover story (page 50), McLaren has properly hit the reset button after years of over-promise and under-delivery.
You will notice a slightly different balance to F1 Racing this month. We’ve expanded our regular Pro section with the aim of taking you deeper inside the world of F1, revealing some of the secrets behind how the professionals do their thing at the pinnacle of motor racing. We hope you like what you see.