Why – Does the spoiler open at specific times ? DRS system

History

Before 2011, to overtake in Formula 1, you just had to find the right opportunity and be a better driver or at least have a better car.

Since 2011, the FIA has introduced this system to have a better show during races and to encourage overtaking.

Functioning

This system, called DRS (Drag Reduction System), allows on certain areas of the circuit to have the inside of the rear wing which opens (thanks to a hydraulic cylinder) and closes as soon as the steering touches the brakes.

This therefore influences the aerodynamics of the car and its air penetration.

Far from being a detail, this allows in a straight line to gain about 15-20km/hour of maximum speed.

Use

Each circuit has different DRS zones, between 1 and 3 depending on the circuit. This is often linked to the number of straight lines that allow it to be used effectively and without risk.

Concretely when can it be used and is it automatic?

  • A pilot is entitled to DRS when he is less than one second from the pilot in front of him when crossing the dedicated white line.
  • He can activate it as soon as he passes the DRS white line zone.
  • It’s not automatic, you have to press a dedicated button when you cross the line.

It can only be activated from the 3rd lap, or even more depending on the race or wheather conditions, the FIA decides on the activation. Even during a new start following a safety car, you have to wait again for a minimum of 3 laps and/or the validation of the FIA.

Example

As you have understood, the DRS is a powerful asset for overtaking the driver in front of you. It also permits not staying too long in your opponent’s exhausts and damaging your tires.

Where it becomes extremely interesting is when 2 drivers overtake and repeat and there are 2 close DRS zones, strategies then arrive. Maybe it’s better to stay behind and not overtake at the end of the first zone in order to get out of the turn well and overtake on the second DRS zone? Because if I double on the 1st, it will be my opponent who will have the DRS on the 2nd zone and who will certainly overtake me.. And we will be off again for an identical round.

Prefects examples are between Leclerc and Verstappen in Jeddah in 2022 or Hamilton and Alonso in the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix.

Hope this is clear, thanks for reading !

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