January 25 2015 Latest news:
Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Thursday, June 7, 2012
In many ways, and in its first season, it was last season’s Canadian Grand Prix where DRS came into its own. Introduced for all cars to help increase overtaking after McLaren’s original innovation was banned, Formula One’s drag reduction system propelled Jenson Button in Montreal.
"You always get bitten on the bum when you get fancy, so you just don’t try"
At the back of the grid on a drying track, the Brit took on the whole field and won – even Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull, which had taken five of the previous six rounds.
It was a real treat, one aided by the newly devised rear wing that opened up to allow a car to pass the one in front, if close enough and on the right part of the track.
Now, the arrival of DRS is not liked by some – I guess they see it the same way I see blue flags. But most do seem to accept its existence.
Indeed, the device has clearly aided the show – although it is only one part, sitting comfortably alongside a host of other elements keeping us on the edge of our seats. The midfield is closer than ever, the cars are more reliable, we have more past world champions on the grid than ever before and the Pirelli tyres are mixing it up.
• GW – Fernando Alonso: A host of his colleagues are backing the Spaniard for drivers’ championship success; Purists: Just one DRS zone for Canada rather than 2011’s two.
• BW – Fans: The threat of political protests has seen tomorrow’s open day at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve cancelled; Red Bull: It’s been ruled those holes in the RB8 floor have to go.
In fact, most of those elements have grown since 2011 – and as a result, DRS has almost become more subtle. A refined version of last season’s efforts, if you will.
The DRS zone was shortened in China earlier this year, and rather than the two DRS zones in Canada in 2011, there will be just the one this weekend – both changes designed to ensure overtaking is not quite as easy as last time at the venues.
So in effect, Jenson best not count on getting away with a win if he rocks up at the back of the field at any point.
By next season the system will be stable – and I’m sure it will also be regarded as successful.
The best part is DRS adds to the show, but it doesn’t make it – and that may be the biggest difference this season.
The total number of overtakes in the opening four rounds of 2011 and 2012 were similar – what differed was the split.
Last year half of the passes came thanks to DRS – while in 2012, DRS helped in fewer than a third.
With a mix and match season in progress, the tightly packed field has seen plenty of passes. If a driver can overtake, they will. And for when they can’t, there is DRS.
That is most definitely an improvement – and here’s hoping it hangs around for the foreseeable.
• It’s hard to understand the growing arguments that F1 fans could turn against the sport’s current unpredictability.
There is nothing more boring that watching the same person or car win every race. Even if it was two drivers swapping top step of the podiums, some of the amusement would have to come from elsewhere.
The original argument is best put by Fernando Alonso – and it’s worth remembering that this is coming from a long-term contracted Ferrari driver.
“It’s good for the audience, good for the sport to bring attention to the races – on the other hand we can lose credibility,” he said.
“We cannot lose that the best teams, drivers, strategies win the races. At the moment from the outside it seems anyone can win. It doesn’t matter the talent, team, performance, it’s like a lottery.
“What you achieve in Formula One is not by chance. We need to make clear that if you win a race, it’s because you did something better. And I don’t think at the moment that this is clear for everybody.”
It’s almost ironic the one race that felt like a lottery was when Alonso pulled off his win in Malaysia – but I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of that.
Let’s make one thing clear, at least – F1 is not a lottery.
Every circuit’s characteristics are different. The requirements unique. All teams start that weekend with a race for data and set-up to ensure their drivers are happy to push to the limit.
The people that do the best job qualify well. If they do an even better job, they win the race.
F1 loves things to be logical – a logic where the fastest car always wins. But F1 is also a sport, and I’m yet to find a sport where a level playing field – genuine competition for honours – winds up being dull.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite – and we should all embrace it.
• It’s a long, complex battle currently being worked through – one aimed at securing Formula One’s future.
So as you can imagine, the water is muddier than the Thames.
F1 is currently dancing with the idea of a $10bn stockmarket floatation in Singapore.
The move would free Bernie Ecclestone from overall control – he’s getting on a bit, after all – and several moves are already in place to get it all off the ground.
The Concorde Agreement, which binds all teams to the sport, also plays a big part in ensuring the product’s future. A new deal is due to be agreed any time – if they can pull everyone together.
That’s the background. As for the floatation, it is currently delayed – market conditions are about as unpredictable as F1 these days.
Huge steps, huge decisions – all greatly affecting the future of the sport.
And rest assured, we are only at the very beginning of the story.