The Australian Grand Prix returns this weekend for the third instalment of the 2023 Formula 1 season. The race at Albert Park will feature some significant changes to the track layout, including a fourth DRS zone. But will this make the race more exciting and competitive, or will it just create massive DRS trains? Here are some of the pros and cons of having four DRS zones in Melbourne.
What is DRS and how does it work?
DRS stands for Drag Reduction System, and it is a device that allows drivers to adjust the angle of their rear wing to reduce drag and increase speed on certain parts of the track. The system can only be activated when a driver is within one second of another car at designated detection points, and only in specific zones marked by lines on the track.
The aim of DRS is to help drivers overtake by giving them a speed boost on the straights, but it also comes with some risks and limitations. For example, drivers have to deactivate DRS before braking for a corner, or they could lose downforce and stability. Drivers also have to be careful not to activate DRS too early or too late, or they could miss the optimal overtaking opportunity.
Why are there four DRS zones in Melbourne?
The Albert Park circuit has undergone some significant changes since the last time F1 raced there in 2022. The track layout has been modified at six corners, with some of them widened and smoothed to allow for higher speeds and more racing lines.
The chicane at Turns 9 and 10 was also removed, with these changes to remain for 2023. A fourth DRS zone has been added for this year’s race between Turns 8 and 9, meaning Albert Park becomes the only track on the F1 circuit to have more than three activation zones.
These changes are expected to make the Australian Grand Prix faster and more exciting, with lap times predicted to drop by around five seconds and overtaking opportunities increased by around 25%.
What are the pros of having four DRS zones?
The main benefit of having four DRS zones is that it could create more overtaking opportunities for drivers, especially on a track that has traditionally been difficult to pass on. With four DRS zones, drivers will have more chances to close the gap to the car ahead, or defend their position from the car behind.
Having four DRS zones could also make the race more unpredictable and exciting for fans, as drivers will have to use different strategies and tactics to gain an advantage. For example, drivers could try to save their tyres or fuel for a late attack, or use different engine modes or settings to maximise their speed.
Having four DRS zones could also benefit some teams or drivers more than others, depending on their car characteristics or driving style. For example, teams with a powerful engine or low drag could gain more from using DRS than teams with a weaker engine or high drag. Similarly, drivers who are confident and aggressive could exploit DRS better than drivers who are cautious or conservative.
What are the cons?
The main drawback of having four DRS zones is that it could create massive DRS trains, where cars follow each other closely but cannot overtake because they all have the same speed advantage. This could make the race boring and artificial, as drivers will rely on DRS rather than their skill or bravery to pass.
Having four DRS zones could also make the race unfair and unbalanced, as some cars or drivers could gain more from using DRS than others. For example, cars with a strong engine or low drag could pull away from cars with a weak engine or high drag, creating a bigger gap between teams. Similarly, drivers who are ahead or behind another car at the detection point could lose out from using DRS compared to drivers who are alongside another car at the activation point.
Having four DRS zones could also pose some safety risks for drivers, as they will have to deal with more traffic and turbulence on the track. For example, drivers will have to be careful not to collide with other cars when activating or deactivating DRS, or when changing lanes or braking for corners. Drivers will also have to cope with less downforce and grip.