“Too easy” DRS passes better than “boring races”, drivers tell FIA · RaceFans

Formula 1 drivers have urged the FIA to reverse its efforts to shorten DRS zones this year.

The series introduced new technical regulations last season aimed at making it easier for cars to follow and overtake. After seeing some improvement, the FIA shortened DRS zones at three of the first five venues the series races at this year.

The shortening of the zones to prevent overtaking from being too easy was taken by some as a sign the new regulations had worked as planned. But some drivers have warned passing has become more difficult in the second season under the rules.

After the FIA announced it would shorten two DRS zones at the Miami International Autodrome this weekend, several drivers criticised the decision. The matter was discussed in the drivers’ meeting ahead of the grand prix.

While the FIA said the length of the DRS zones used this weekend could not be changed again at short notice, some drivers urged them not to abandon their efforts to shorten them elsewhere.

“I appreciate the FIA’s viewpoint that it’s not quite as simple as just changing something overnight and there’s other elements to take into consideration,” said George Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

“I think it’s going to be another challenging race. I think the reduction by the 75 metres is [worth] three or four metres which is one car’s length and that can be the difference of overtaking or not.”

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Russell said drivers want FIA to err on the side of making DRS zones longer. “All 20 drivers sort of came to the conclusion that we’d prefer it to be slightly too easy than slightly too difficult.

“Having it slightly too easy creates a bit more of an exciting race, slightly too difficult creates a very boring race. So better being on the safe side in that regard.”

Lando Norris said there has been a clear change in how cars behave in turbulent air this year which makes it harder to follow rivals and overtake them.

“More and more often you’re running lower downforce set-ups because that seems more like where the downforce is coming from. So you can get away with running smaller rear wings and things which makes slipstreams less, cars are way more efficient. Cars are harder to follow as well because generally the way you produce downforce makes the dirty air maybe a little bit worse.”

The FIA’s justification for shortening the zones in Miami was that passing was fairly easy in its DRS zones last year. Some drivers backed that view, but Norris disagrees.

“In my opinion there was no overtakes here last year, hardly any – three or four – and they still shorten [the zones]. I think we made our point clear: What you see [in the data] last year is a year too late. You have to see what happens in one race and not just make a guess from then on where to put things. There’s enough evidence already this year which has proved that racing is more difficult than in previous years.

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“When you go to a high-downforce track like Australia, maybe there it was a little bit easier. When you go to a lower-downforce track it seems like it’s extremely difficult. The slipstreams are minimal, dirty air is still a thing, it’s not like these cars have got rid of it and it’s easy to follow. It’s still very difficult to follow. So a number of different things.”

Like Russell, Norris is in favour of keeping DRS zones on the long side, even if that risks making passes very easy. “I just don’t see why you wouldn’t have a way longer DRS,” he said. “I don’t see the downside of having it.

“I guess you don’t want to have passes which are super-easy, but I feel like it’s better to be towards the too-long side than too short because if you’re quicker, you’ll still be able to get past them eventually and probably still beat him. But if it’s too short, you just don’t even pass in the first place and it’s boring.”

However before the weekend began Carlos Sainz Jnr said some drivers were arguing for changes to the DRS zones based on what would make their cars more competitive. Speaking after qualifying yesterday, he predicted the slight shortening of two DRS zones in Miami would not make a significant difference.

“We expressed our feelings to the FIA about the situation of the DRS. We got very specific feedback and it is something that is going to work probably differently in the next few races.

“For me, I don’t think 75 metres of DRS changes what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s probably, maybe not in the direction that this sport was going with the show and with overtaking and trying to make overtaking easier to shorten the DRS zones.

“But it is also not like 75 metres of DRS or whatever they’ve done is going to change the whole race. I don’t think it’s going to be a very different picture and overtaking like always in F1 is always a challenge. It’s always difficult and I expect it to be difficult tomorrow.”

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