DRS to stay beyond 2026 regulation shakeup

Since its Formula One introduction in 2011, DRS has been the source of many a debate at the highest level of the sport. The drag reduction system (DRS) is a driver activated adjustable section of bodywork designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, increase top speed and promote overtaking. The rear wing of the F1 cars are designed with an adjustable flap operated by the driver that can be deployed when the car is less than 1 second behind the car in front at a pre-determined point on the track.

The problem with the modern F1 cars is that their downforce design has lead to the creation of high vortices (dirty air) behind the car which affect the ability of a car behind to run efficiently. At certain circuits the ‘dirty air’ can event prevent a car two seconds a lap quicker from overtaking when driving behind a much slower F1 car.



Formula One’s DRS introduced in 2011

As Formula One races became more and more processional due to aerodynamics and ‘dirty air’, DRS was introduced as a way of combating the difficulty of overtaking.

Yet F1 purists believe the DRS system should be abandoned because it is argued that the system creates false overtaking manoeuvres during the F1 races.

Pat Symonds, Formula 1’s chief technical officer, now reveals the next generation of F1 cars due in 2026 will retain the DRS system despite the push to reduce the amount of ‘dirty air’ produced by F1 cars.

North America’s premier single seater racing series promotes overtaking with a “push to pass” system where the drivers are awarded between 150 and 200 seconds per race where by pushing a control their car’s power is increased by 60 BHP.



Power boosts an alternative to DRS

The new generation of Formula One power units due in 2026 will embody a similar system where the electrical power produced can temporarily improve the power provided to drive the F1 car.

Despite the new 2022 ‘ground force’ car design regulations reducing the ‘dirty air’ created by the rear wing, Pat Symonds argues DRS remains a necessary evil.

“To us, overtaking is the end of the battle, it’s the battle that’s interesting, it’s the unpredictability, ‘is he going to get past?’”  Explained Symonds at the Autosport International Forum in Birmingham.

“And I know a lot of people criticise DRS, and that is the trouble with DRS, it can make the pass too easy.

“Conversely, if you don’t have it, you know, during the Imola race where the FIA were very reluctant to enable the DRS, you do get some dull races.

“It’s a matter of getting it right. And I think for ’26, we’ve learned a lot from ’22.



DRS here to stay in F1

“We won’t lose DRS because there’s totally active aerodynamics on the ’26 car.”

There is a meeting in late January of the FIA power unit working group to discuss the 2026 regulations. Symonds believes there will be another push to ensure the new aerodynamic designs follow the example of those introduced for 2022 and reduce the effect of the ‘dirty air’.

So the impact of DRS in the future may be reduced, but the system will be retained.

“DRS is drag reduction, and what I’ve always felt we should do is we should have downforce augmentation,” Symonds added. This has been achieved with the new Venturi ducts under the floor of the 2022 cars which increase downforce from the low pressure effect of sucking the car onto the track.



F1 cars dimensions require DRS

“Because what does the car behind do? Yes, it loses some drag, but you work really hard to extract this lost downforce. So our idea now is to make the downforce back to where it should have been if the leading car wasn’t there.”

Given the dimensions and the weight of the modern Formula One cars it is almost impossible to deliver the Symonds Nirvana of delivering to the following car the same downforce as though it was in clear air.

And for this reason alone, DRS in some form or other is almost inevitably going to be part of the F1 landscape for years to come.

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