The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix turned out to be an absolute banger with a battle for the victory in the closing laps and fantastic midfield overtakes. However, there was one glaring problem that we saw during the race around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit – the use of DRS.
The way in which this very strange game of ‘you go first, no, you go first’ unfolded left me feeling slightly strange. It’s not the first time we’ve seen something like this happen, either.
Last year at Jeddah’s debut, we had ‘the incident’ between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton where Max tried to let Lewis through before the DRS detection point, and Lewis, well, drove straight into the back of him.
MAX AND LEWIS COLLIDE!
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021
WHAT ARE THE DRIVERS TRYING TO ACHIEVE WITH ‘DRS CHICKEN’?
There were three DRS zones in Saudi Arabia, the second of which is on the run down to the last corner, giving the attacking driver a fantastic opportunity to send one to the inside.
However, with the pit straight being so long and there being another DRS zone running all the way towards Turn 1, there really is no point in making a move until then. This is because the benefit of the slipstream and the use of DRS is greater than being marginally ahead after the last corner. You’re just going to lose the position anyway.
Leclerc, in this example, knew this and tried to bait Verstappen into taking the position into the last corner with the Red Bull’s massive overspeed. They then both slammed on the brakes, trying not to cross the DRS detection point first, which dramatically saw both of them lock up. Leclerc then decided to go full beans on the accelerator and catch Max out.
Now, I’m all for unpredictable things happening in F1, but these kinds of games aren’t really what the spirit of the sport is all about.
This didn’t happen all the way up and down the field, and it is more than likely only a problem when it’s a two-car battle for the lead, and they’re clear of the chasing pack. The midfield are never going to bother losing a handful of seconds as their races are always about maximising their result against all the cars around them.
HOW TO SOLVE IT?
One option F1 could take would be reducing DRS usage to once per lap in races or even a certain amount of usage throughout an entire race. Max could rock up so easily because there were three DRS zones, and with his straight-line speed advantage anyway, he could easily pick his moments.
I still 100% believe that the cars need some sort of assistance, such as the Drag Reduction System, to allow them to battle cars ahead of similar pace. In fact, I think the DRS worked incredibly well for the most part during the Saudi GP.
But the fact that the win was decided with bizarre tactics may well mean F1 will want to intervene to stop this kind of gamesmanship determining a victory in the future and ensuring these tactics don’t lead to dangerous outcomes.
It’s not the safest thing ever to have two drivers trying desperately to go slower than the other into a detection zone.
Another route could be to move the DRS detection point to after the corner and put it on the straight so the drivers are less inclined to get out of the throttle into a braking zone.
I think that last idea is actually pretty solid. So F1, I think you should take notes and implement that if you can.
Should the FIA clamp down on this kind of strategic DRS battling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.