What is DRS in Formula 1, what does it mean and how does it work?

The system effectively makes it easier for cars to overtake along long straights

Sports Staff
Wednesday 28 February 2024 15:17 GMT
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If you’ve become a fan of Formula 1 in recent years, you will probably be familiar with the term ‘DRS’ - the system which effectively allows for more overtaking.

Following its introduction in 2011, DRS has become a vital part of the sport. It stands for Drag Reduction System and is an adjustable part of the rear wing which, when opened, improves speed by 10-12 kmph.

That doesn’t sound like a lot when cars already travel at around 300kmph, but it can make all the difference along a long straight.

Drivers are only allowed to use DRS under certain conditions: the system is only enabled after the opening lap of the race, and drivers must be within one second of the car in front in order to activate it. Drivers can also only use DRS in certain ‘zones’, which are usually found on the straights.

This marks a break from the last 12 years, where two laps had to be completed before the DRS system would be enabled.

If Lewis Hamilton was chasing Max Verstappen, for example, he could only use DRS once he got within one second of the Red Bull driver.

Along a straight, Hamilton would get an extra boost of speed that would not be available to Verstappen as he is the car in front, making it considerably easier to execute the overtake in a part of the track where pure speed is the only factor.

If another driver, say Lando Norris, was within a second of Hamilton, who was within a second of Verstappen, then both drivers would be able to use DRS once it became enabled.

In midfield, where cars are usually closer together, such scenarios can create what is called a ‘DRS train’ in which the benefits of the system are effectively cancelled out - as it is available to several drivers at once.

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