I’ve been a Formula 1 fan for years, attending my first F1 event in 1986 at the inaugural Hungarian Grand Prix. The small trek from the buses to the track was worth it when I was able to sit on the hillside and see, hear, and almost as importantly, feel the cars as they passed by below me. You can feel the power from the engines as it resonates inside your chest, hear the whine of the cars as they move away from you and smell the fumes and rubber after they’ve gone. It was a very visceral experience I’ll never forget.
Technology has come a long way with today’s cars utilizing things never dreamed of then. One of the technological advances is DRS, or the Drag Reduction System. Essentially, the system allows a driver to utilize downforce (drag) when it is needed in the corners and then remove downforce to obtain the highest speed possible on the straights. These movable rear wing elements are controlled electronically by the driver after a certain number of laps (determined by race control) and are activated when the car is within one second of the car ahead, which has to occur at a specific location on the track (the arming zone). Once armed, the driver waits for the opportunity to initiate the DRS on the following straight. This reduction in downforce effectively gives the driver/car approximately 10-12 km/h (5-6 mph) of extra speed down the straight, which may or may not be enough to complete a pass. The system is deactivated when the driver uses the brakes. The key point of the system is to gain a competitive advantage, even if temporarily. Every team wants to win and utilizing all of the tools at their disposal is paramount to winning the race.
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Image Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team