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today is Sep 28, 2022

Formula 1 may be able to eliminate the Drag Reduction System from future regulations if it can continue the progress it has made in encouraging cars to run together more closely.

That’s the view of the FIA’s head of aerodynamics Jason Somerville. He joined the sport’s governing body earlier this year, having spent five years at Formula 1 where he developed the new technical rules which were introduced this year.

DRS was introduced to F1 in 2011 to help drivers make overtaking moves. The new rules developed for this season were also designed to address that problem, but Somerville said it became clear during their development that F1 wouldn’t be able to do away with DRS immediately after their introduction.

“During the initial research, because we reduced the size of the ‘hole’ that sits behind the car, we reduced the downforce lost [by a following car] but we also reduced the tow,” he explained in an interview with Peter Windsor. “So we were a bit mindful that we probably weren’t going to be able to just park DRS and remove it from the regulations.”

However he indicated F1’s reliance on DRS to aid passes could be reduced and eventually removed. “I think DRS, for us, is a very tune-able feature,” he said. “It’s very circuit-dependent and it can be dialled in and out.

“I think most of us feel, longer-term, we’d very much like to try and phase DRS out if we can. But we didn’t think that was necessarily going to be the right thing to do overnight for these regulations.”

Formula 1 will introduce its next major revision of the technical regulations in four years’ time. “For the 2026 car, we’re looking at different solutions,” said Somerville. “And it may be that DRS doesn’t have to have such an important role in the concept of those cars.”

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During and after the last race at Imola, several drivers claimed DRS should have been activated earlier than it was to aid overtaking. However Somerville pointed out passes were made without DRS before then and few were afterwards.

“I thought it was quite interesting that because we had this drying track, we had almost half the racing with no DRS. And I think it was interesting to see that there were a few overtakes that happened before the DRS got switched on but then the DRS was cancelling each other out.”

Somerville believes F1’s four grands prix so far this year have shown the new rules have helped drivers race more closely. This will inform F1’s thinking on “how we prioritise DRS at the various events” in future.

“At the start we couldn’t be 100% sure that the teams wouldn’t have undone half of the work that we’d spent the last four years doing,” he said. “Now it looks like we’ve managed to keep a lot of it so that has meant the teams can visibly run a lot closer through the corners and onto the next straight.

“So we do get something that we haven’t seen for a while, actually, an overtake happens but you look over your shoulder and he’s still there and he comes back at you. That’s something that has been quite refreshing for the first few races at various points and it’s not purely been DRS. There’s been DRS ‘cat and mouse’ but I think we’ve been quite pleased that the downforce retention is there.

“We just need to be careful that we don’t ignore the fact that naturally means the tow is a bit smaller. So you kind of need the tow effect, the big hole in the air behind you, to give you a little bit of a boost if you haven’t got DRS.”

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