F1 DRS explained: What does DRS mean in Formula 1?

F1 DRS explained. (HAMAD I MOHAMMED/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
F1 DRS explained. (HAMAD I MOHAMMED/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

DRS is an important feature of Formula 1 racing. What does it mean? Who can use it? And why does it have such an impact on F1?

While watching Formula 1 races, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “DRS is powerful.”

Indeed, DRS is one of the most important elements in F1. It allows drivers to overtake. It’s often the difference between a race win or second place.

But what exactly does it mean?

F1 explained: What does DRS mean in Formula 1?

DRS stands for “Drag Reduction System.” It’s literally a system designed to reduce drag, just as you’d imagine, and it’s a feature of the rear wing of every Formula 1 car.

Basically, the rear wing is adjustable. In the closed position, it provides downforce, which improves traction through corners. In the open position, it allows air to flow through, reducing the drag experienced by the car. Opening the wing on straights allows for a higher maximum speed.

Drivers can use DRS (opening or closing that rear wing) at any time during practice or qualifying, though they really only gain an advantage on straights.

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During the race, the use of DRS is restricted to designated stretches called DRS zones. Drivers are allowed to open the rear wing in those zones only if they are within one second of the car in front of them. This allows a greater chance for overtaking.

Since the car with an open rear wing has such an advantage over the car ahead with (presumably) a closed wing, drivers in front must try to keep a chasing car out of DRS range while drivers behind must try to get within DRS range to have a chance to pass.

What is a DRS train in F1?

Sometimes, races end up with something called a DRS train. That’s when multiple cars are picking up DRS off each other.

For instance, a Red Bull is leading a Ferrari, which is close enough to activate DRS. However, behind the Ferrari is a Mercedes which is also close enough for DRS. The Mercedes in that instance no longer has a real advantage over the Ferrari because both have their rear wing open. Overtaking becomes more difficult in that situation.

DRS is not allowed within the first two laps of the race or after a safety car restart. It is also disabled during wet weather conditions.

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