DRS was introduced into Formula One back in 2011, mostly thanks to the fact Fernando Alonso couldn’t overtake Vitaly Petrov at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It meant the Spaniard was pipped by Sebastian Vettel to the World Championship that year.
Since the beginning of 2017 with the current generation of cars, we’ve seen a number of races where the top teams and drivers have been at the back of the grid for various reasons and looked set for long afternoons. Yet, they’ve ended up strolling through the field.
Let’s take a quick look at some of them below.
Following an engine issue in qualifying, Sebastian Vettel started at the back of the grid for the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix. By lap 21 the German was already up into 5th place ahead of all the midfield runners, as the DRS allowed him to cruise through the pack. Seb came home 4th, 41 seconds ahead of Perez, the first driver outside of the top three teams.
It’s been a similar story with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
The young Dutchman lined up P16 at the 2017 United States Grand Prix because of power unit penalties. He vaulted up to 6th by lap ten of the race and it was another case of easy DRS passes on the long back straight at the COTA circuit. A 4th place finish saw him cross the line 1 minute and 14 seconds in front of 6th place finisher Esteban Ocon.
Lewis Hamilton is the biggest example of this problem, however. In the last 8 months, the Brit has come from the rear of the field to collect miracle results – and nothing should be taken away from that for the most part. Yet, DRS has made it way too easy at times.
The 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix and the last two races at Silverstone and Hockenheim have shown everyone that this system to help drivers overtake is too powerful currently when it’s the top teams vs midfield teams. At Brazil last year, Hamilton ended up over a minute clear of Massa, who was P7 behind the top three squads.
There are some positives, though.
It can be very helpful if it’s a front-runner vs another front-runner – who can forget Vettel’s brilliant move on Bottas at Silverstone or Ricciardo on Raikkonen at Monza last year for example. That’s how it should be all the time; only putting the driver in with a chance to overtake, not just push the DRS button and sail past the opponent.
Should DRS be forbidden for the top teams vs midfield teams
It’s a question that really needs to be asked. To watch any of the six drivers in the top three teams ease through the field pressing a button to overtake cars is pretty embarrassing for such a high-level sport.
The new plan in recent races is three DRS zones are making these passes even more simple at present.
In reality, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have a second a lap or more over the other seven teams on Sunday’s and that makes DRS moves very, very simple when they come flying through. The gap between the top three and the rest is for another day and a different piece.
One solution could be to prohibit them from using it against the midfield runners. There is no skill in pressing a button to ease past other cars.
Something needs to change because watching Hamilton, Vettel etc. walk by the Haas’, Renaults and others is like watching candy getting taken from a baby.
We should be seeing drivers like Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Perez defending hard against pilots like Hamilton, Verstappen and Raikkonen. There is as much of a skill in defending as overtaking.
The days of a top driver having to get creative to make a move or force a driver in a much slower package into a mistake are gone and that’s not a good thing.
Races like Japan 2005 when both Raikkonen (P17 – P1) and Alonso (P16 – P3) carved their way through shows it’s possible. F1 needs to get back to that kind of way or make some changes to the DRS rules.
The skill of overtaking is being lost and drives through the field like the ones above feel a bit hollow and definitely not as legendary as previous decades at the moment.