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Friday, April 1, 2011

DRS Explained for Malaysia

There would appear to be a lot of interest out there in the Drag Reduction System, or adjustable rear wing, which has been deployed in F1 this year.  While I'm no expert in the technology I am interested in its purpose and so I'll try to explain how it works and how it is intended to function.


First thing relates to why is it here? The easy answer is; who the hell knows? I mean didn't we have the best season for years last year? Every fan I know was really excited by the majority of races last year, even though there was a lot of gloom around after Bahrain and further disappointment at display in the Abu Dhabi.  The races in between them were all pretty exciting - for the most part.

Apparently, we don't have enough overtaking in F1 so the Powers that be decided that by providing a hydraulically or electronically moveable rear wing we might get some overtaking action down into the first corner (or at some other suitable corner at the end of a long straight). Hence the introduction of DRS to F1 - a system which I hope will not have any longevity in the sport.


I'll let Tony Purnell, Mechanical Engineer(now a Technical advisor to the FIA - you may remember him as Director of Jaguar Racing and Red Bull pre C. Horner) explain:

"As a car comes out of a corner and crosses the timing line within the prescribed interval, at the moment the following driver feels he is no longer traction limited, he will press the button and drag on his rear wing will be reduced. He will sprint down the straight and, by the end of it, will have a 4-5kph advantage over the car he is trying to pass (The teams reckon that the advantage is 10-12kph based on the current system).

When we looked at the problem in 2007, we saw that as a Formula 1 car comes out of a corner it has tremendously good acceleration – they wouldn’t be F1 cars without it – so when the leading driver gets on the throttle those fractions of a second earlier, even if the following car is a lot faster the leading car pulls a big gap. That means immediately coming out of a corner, any advantage from drag reduction is not really there".

Essentially he appears to be saying that this proposal has been in the works since 2007 - and wasn't scrapped on foot of last year's success.

The basic scenario is that when two cars pass over timing loops in the surface of the track and the car behind is within one second of the driver in front a signal will be sent to the second car informing the driver that he can deploy the car’s DRS. The drivers will only be able to deploy the adjustable rear wing to reduce drag as their cars go down a nominated straight on the track, in Melbourne this was the start finish straight, In Malaysia a decision is yet to be made as to whether this will be on the final straight into the last corner or the start finish straight.  My bet is on the start finish straight for the simple reason that overtaking at the last corner would be limited to the inside line due to the location of the pitlane entrance. Safety measures have been introduced so that in the event of a failure in the DRS system the moveable rear wing element will drop down into the default, high-downforce position.


The DRS system is operated from the steering wheel.  A button or paddle sends a signal to the ECU which activates the moveable rear wing flap either hydraulically or electronically.  A hydraulic solution would require pipework within the body of the car running to the activation mechanism in the rear wing which might probably require a bulkier stanchion connecting the car to the rear wing element while the electronic solution would do away with that.

I've noticed that the majority of the teams appear to have a central column linking the rear wing elements to the car while the likes of Red Bull and Force India don't.  I'm wondering whether this might be a pointer as to which teams are using hydraulic systems over electronic.  The central column is not a new concept but it would provide a direct route for any pipework, while the absence of this column would leave little in the way of options for the required connectivity.

If anyone knows whether this theory is just crap tell me and let me recant all.  Is there any way to spot who's using which technology? This would help us fans in determining whether one system is more advantageous than the other.