September 13th, 2013 (F1plus/V. Brown-Villedieu).- It’s unfortunate that what started out as well-intentioned ideas to increase overtaking and unpredictability in Formula One, DRS and Pirelli’s fast degrading tyres have in fact led many to label the racing since 2011 as ‘artificial’.
A bit of context is required to understand why the FIA felt the need to introduce these two fairly sizeable regulation changes.
2010 is best remembered for the closeness of that year’s championship in which five drivers led the championship at different points and the season finale could have seen any one of four drivers win the championship.
It was not, however, memorable for overtaking bar the odd exception.
The difference between 2010 and 2011 is striking when you look at the statistics: 547 overtakes throughout 2010 with an average of 28.79 per race compared with a total of 1,152 overtakes in all of 2011 and an average of 59.06 per race. [Source: http://cliptheapex.com/overtaking/]
Change was clearly needed. The close championship was not enough to persuade the doubters who believed Formula One had become processional with the only opportunity for overtaking arriving at the pit stops.
So a solution was found in the form of DRS, tyres that degraded more quickly and the reintroduction of KERS. But now that we have what we desperately wanted at the end of 2010, it seems we’re not satisfied.
The problem was that the FIA were too eager to implement the changes and introduced all three at the same time.
In hindsight, it was inevitable that combining three regulation changes, two of which were designed to aid overtaking the other to increase pit stops, would have a dramatic effect on the racing.
DRS, KERS and Pirelli have all come in for criticism at various points with perhaps Pirelli bearing the brunt of people’s vocal attacks. But it is important to remember the sport that we’ve left behind since embarking on this new era of Formula One.
The question is do we want the pre-2011 type of racing where we sacrifice overtaking for a more pure form of racing or are we happy to accept the current state of affairs?
The reality is it is impossible to strike the perfect balance between the two aspects.
2014 will see a further extension of KERS capability where it will be renamed ERS and the power boost will be more than doubled from 60bhp to 181bhp as well as allowing usage for up to 33 seconds per lap. With this in mind it may be time for the FIA to consider whether there is a place for DRS and Pirelli going forward.
The status quo cannot continue if only for the alienating effect it has had on many of F1’s most loyal fans.
Pirelli tyres have been in the center of the F1 discussion for two seasons now.
So should it be DRS or Pirelli to go, or indeed both?
Pirelli have often been criticised for merely fulfilling a mandate passed onto them by all of Formula One, including the teams. The company has done this despite the negative publicity it would inevitably bring by supplying tyres that run contrary to the principles that guide the company when constructing their road tyres.
Loyalty can be a rare thing to come by in life but Pirelli has so far stuck with Formula One through thick and thin so F1 would do well to return the favour.
What should change instead is the specification of tyre rather than the supplier.
A more durable tyre would please the drivers who have complained that the current tyres do not allow them to push the car to its limits in race trim.
But safeguards, such as mandatory pit stops, would limit the chances of a repeat of the old days where a majority of races were decided by a strategy call rather than a brilliant overtake.
That leaves DRS.
By Formula One’s standards, DRS was a relatively inexpensive and simple solution to the overtaking problem.
The issue has been in getting the system to neither make it too hard nor too easy for drivers to overtake but it seems unlikely it could ever achieve such an aim.
On balance, DRS has served only to dilute the true nature of racing rather than enhance it.
As fans we should be about promoting what is good for Formula One and highlighting what harms our sport. DRS falls into the latter category.
There is no perfect solution to the dilemma posed in this article.
But in a sport governed by aerodynamics and mechanical engineering, overtaking is a rare expression of art in a sport dominated by science.