One of the main terms that spectators might hear over the course of the weekend of the Formula 1® Heineken® Australian Grand Prix 2022 is ‘DRS’. But what does it mean, what does it do and why is it important?
DRS is the Drag Reduction System and it encourages drivers to take advantage of increased overtaking opportunities.
It is based on the fact that F1® cars produce a lot of downforce so that they can corner quickly – but in the process of making that downforce, the wings and sidepods also produce a lot of drag. The cars do not actually need maximum downforce while travelling at high speed on the straights (let’s say, at over 200km/h), so the best way of making the car go faster over the whole lap is to reduce the drag when you can.
So, a moveable flap on the rear wing can open, cutting the drag and increasing the speed. But during the race this only happens at certain times; not during the frantic opening laps or immediately after a Safety Car, and only if a driver is within one second of the car in front at the DRS Detection Point, which is immediately ahead of the parts of the track on which this is allowed to happen, the DRS Zones.
In short, if a driver is within that second, he can activate the DRS, launch an attack on the car in front on the next straight and then, when he starts braking, the DRS’s ‘letterbox’ flap snaps shut so that he can have full aero grip for the next corner.
With the new generation of cars, which can follow more closely than they could in previous seasons, this has seen a change in tactics in the opening two races. Some drivers have preferred to keep their powder dry and hold position in spots where in previous season they may have passed, before launching an all-out attack on the next straight.
There is another way that Albert Park is breaking new ground for Grand Prix racing. For the first time, a track will have four DRS Zones, with the revisions to the track allowing one extra zone over any other track on the calendar.
So the racing will be better than ever before, the speeds will be higher and winning a Grand Prix, already a game of tactics as well as speed, just got a whole lot trickier.