Over the US Grand Prix weekend, it was announced that the drag reduction system, or DRS, would be limited during qualifying and the free practice sessions in 2013. DRS will only be usable within the pre-defined zones that activate the system during the race on the Sunday.
The FIA made their decision based on safety, highlighting the fact that drivers were taking more risks, especially during qualifying, and that a well designed DRS rear wing was given a much larger benefit than had previously been thought possible. In qualifying, it’s thought that this has been giving over a second a lap in performance in some cases.
While you can certainly see where the race director Charlie Whiting and the FIA are coming from, part of their reasoning might have been based on the teams developing systems similar to the early season Mercedes double DRS idea to reduce drag even further on the rear wing for 2013.
The Mercedes double DRS (that’s DDRS for acronym fans) system is actually banned for 2013 – teams are not allowed to use the DRS rear wing in conjunction with redirecting air into ducts for further performance benefits. Over the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ test and for a few of the previous Grands Prix however, many teams have been trying out a seemingly “passive” system without the use of DRS, which would be perfectly legal. This relies on openings above the driver’s head on the airbox for air to enter and some pipework exiting the rear bodywork and point up towards the rear wing. It’s thought that the system then relies on a mixture of air pressure and air speed to calculate when to redirect air through the duct. By doing so, this would cut drag from part of the rear wing, increasing speed.
This is almost the same style of device as the F-duct from 2010. This worked by the driver activating the system with his hand, foot or leg to redirect air to the rear wing and cutting the drag this way. The system was effectively banned from 2011 onwards as drivers were no longer allowed to physically activate such systems.
F-what? The F-duct was developed by McLaren for the 2010 F1 season, and was a way of cutting drag from the rear wing at high speed, improving straight line speed. It’s thought to be named the F-duct as it would have covered over the “f” in “Vodafone” on the rear wing.
This new approach however seems to be very complex, and the teams will have to be sure that drag is cut when the driver (and team) would expect it to be, with the air re-direction potentially having a mind of its own! The thought of combining this idea with unlimited use of DRS in free practice and qualifying would be a concern for anyone, which may have made up the race director and the FIA’s mind on the matter. Time will tell though if this system is actually used in 2013.