Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel has indicated that he would like to experiment racing without the Drag Reduction System [DRS] to make drivers work harder to pull off overtakes.
DRS was introduced in 2011 in a bid to improve the racing spectacle, and there were 1250 overtakes in the 19 races that year, compared to 616 the year before with the same amount of races and just 302 in 2009 when there were 17 races on the calendar.
The technical regulations were changed this season to allow for closer racing and more longevity in race battles, and the ground effect aerodynamics certainly seem to have accomplished their goal.
The on-track battles have been exhilarating thus far in 2022, and it has been epitomised by the battles between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen as they persistently came back at each other in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Although Imola is a notoriously difficult circuit to race at anyway, there were precious few battles in the drying conditions as race director Niels Wittich took 17 laps from the first stop onto slick tyres to finally enable the use of the rear wing, after which both Charles Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda were able to pull off moves on the home straight – one of the Japanese driver’s overtakes was on the four-time champion.
Although we have already had a glimpse of racing without DRS this season, Vettel would like to experiment further.
“I think you can follow closer, there is less drag effect as well,” he said, as quoted by Motorsportweek.com.
“We do rely on the DRS probably more than in the past, to some extent.
“The interesting bit would be to take the DRS off and see how the racing really is, if you are able to overtake a lot better than in the past.”
The 34-year-old explained that the system was brought in as an auxiliary to see if it could boost the drivers’ chance of getting moves done, but he warns that the sport is becoming dependant on it.
“I’m only a bit cautious for the DRS, because it was brought in as an assistance to help overtaking but now it feels a bit like it’s the only thing that allows you to overtake at times,” he said.
“So ideally, we have set of regulation that allows us to follow and race without DRS. You know, DRS hasn’t been there for 70 years. It was brought in 10 years ago to help, as an experiment.”
Verstappen and Leclerc had to improvise in the opening two rounds of the year when they let each other through so that they were behind in the detection zone, allowing them to use DRS to finalise the move.
As an old-school racer, the 53-time race winner is not a massive fan of that.
“I think an overtake should always be an effort and not dictated by you being in the zone and you get the DRS,” he added.
“The race in Jeddah, where you had the leaders braking for the DRS line to try and be the second one to cross that line, that’s a different type of racing.
“So I don’t I don’t think we should go that way so we will see. We’re still early in the in the project. Definitely you can follow closer.
“Overtaking is still hard, but it should be an effort and it should be a reward when you manage to overtake.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz said during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, after being wiped out by Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap, that Wittich likely had the 2021 incident between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas on his mind when delaying the use of DRS as the race transitioned from wet to dry conditions.