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F1 | Saudi Arabian GP | Verstappen: "If I didn't have DRS today, I would have never passed"

Jeddah DRS zones brought 'smart tricks' and 'cat and mouse' games into the Grand Prix. As a result, the debate continues as to whether it is still needed.

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F1 | Saudi Arabian GP | Verstappen: "If I didn't have DRS today, I would have never passed"
Fuente imagen: Hasan Bratic - MotorLAT

When F1 brought in new regulations for 2022, there was a hope that ground effect dynamics would result in an end – or at least a reduction – in DRS. However, the events at last Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as well as drivers’ comments post-race, have showed that DRS will remain for a while to come. Max Verstappen made this point clear by telling the media “If I didn't have DRS today, I would have never passed” when referring to his battle with Charles Leclerc.

Around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, there were fantastic wheel to wheel battles. However, there was also the sight of drivers at the very front of the field trying to manipulate DRS zones. In Saudi Arabia, there were three DRS zones the second of which was on the run down to the last corner. Therefore, it provided a fantastic opportunity for the attacking driver to send one to the inside. Unfortunately, due to the fact the pit straight was so long and there was another DRS zone all the way towards turn one – there was no point making the move until the second activation zone because the benefit of slipstream and the use of DRS would be greater.

What we witnessed in Jeddah was Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen each trying to tempt the other into making the move – so then they could immediately capitalise and retake the lead shortly after. There was the memorable sight of both drivers slamming on the brakes in an attempt to not cross the DRS detection point first. As much as the dramatic lockup made good television it did nothing for the tyres nor the element of sportsmanship within the sport.

Despite coming away with the victory for his team, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner told the media that F1 should look into DRS lines following the cat and mouse game seen in Jeddah.

With the approach of ‘you first’ being played out between the drivers, Max Verstappen finally retained the lead after passing Charles Leclerc with four laps of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix remaining. Max Verstappen called the strategy "playing smart tricks", whilst Charles Leclerc also revealed he was "half throttle trying for Max to overtake me and for me to have the DRS".

Motorsport.com asked Christian Horner if the DRS games being played were getting a bit silly: "The DRS is so powerful you could see that there was a game of cat and mouse going on between the drivers, where they'd actually brake to a point that they actually accelerated into the corner," Horner said. "I think maybe we should look at where that DRS detection zone is for future years. You definitely want to avoid being in that situation.

"I think the really encouraging thing about these regulations is that in the last two races we've seen Charles and Max pass each other about 10 times, which we haven't seen in previous seasons," Horner stated. "It's been great racing, another fantastic race there between the two teams. Of a sample of two, you'd have to say it's a big tick in the box for the ability to follow closely and race wheel to wheel. It's been outstanding."

The same publication spoke post-race to the top 3 of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and asked if F1 should keep DRS. In response, Max Verstappen said “If I didn't have DRS today, I would have never passed…if DRS wouldn't be there, I would have been second today.” While the man who actually stood on the second step of the podium, Charles Leclerc, simply replied “Yeah, I think we still need DRS for now.”

‘An in-depth response was left to Leclerc’s teammate as Carlos Sainz remarked:

“I agree, I think without DRS passing would be reduced significantly. So, I think we are still better off with DRS. What we might need to consider maybe is the speed delta that there is with the DRS might be a bit too much, which gives the car behind maybe too much of a speed delta [so] that sometimes the overtake is done before the braking. And you’d much rather have the two cars battling under braking rather than passing like in the highway. Now, that is sometimes what can happen. So maybe we need to have a look at this, but we definitely need DRS nowadays.”

The DRS zones worked incredibly well in Jeddah and provided some excellent entertainment. However, there is no escaping the fact that the win was decided by very strange tactics. Effectively, a desire not to race resulted in that person winning the race. As such, I would not be surprised to F1 intervene as a way to prevent such gamesmanship in future. Beyond this, as well as sportsmanship, there is surely a safety consideration needed as well due to the fact that slamming brakes on after a main straight into a DRS detection zone could have ended very differently.

With F1’s return to Melbourne approaching in a matter of days, it is unlikely to expect any changes within such a short space of time. Therefore, I expect to see similar approaches around Albert Park. After all, as the famous saying goes "Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning!"


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