Whilst watching Formula 1 over the past year or so you may have heard the commentators mentioning a relatively new system called DRS. Confused? DRS stands for ‘Drag Reduction System.’ This DRS system is integrated into the back wing of the Formula one car. You can see a picture of the DRS below.

The DRS system was introduced into the sport to help the drivers gain a little bit of speed to aid them whilst overtaking. It features a driver controlled adjustable flap on the rear wing, the picture above shows Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes with the DRS in action as the rear wing has opened up. The system is said to give the driver around 11 km/h in extra speed. The DRS system however cannot be activated all the time, the following rules apply to the usage,

It is allowed to be used only when:

  • The following car is a maximum of one second behind the leading car (the FIA reserves the right to alter this parameter, race by race).
  • The following car is in an overtaking zone as defined by the FIA before the race (commonly known as the DRS Zone).


  • The system may not be activated on the first two laps of a race.
  • The system cannot be used until two laps have passed after a restart or safety car appearance.
  • The system may not be enabled if racing conditions are deemed dangerous by the race director, such as rain as was the case at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix.

Above picture ( Top image: open DRS, bottom image: closed DRS).


Now for the more advanced technical garbage:

The DRS allows the flap to lift a maximum of 50 mm from the fixed main plane. This reduces opposition (drag) to airflow against the wing and results in less down-force In the absence of significant lateral forces (straight line), less down-force allows faster acceleration and potential top speed, unless limited by the top gear ratio and engine rev limiter. Sam Michael, technical director of the Williams team (as of early 2011), believes that DRS in qualifying will be worth about half a second per lap.

So for a basic one sentence version of what DRS is: DRS is a system which helps drivers speed up their cars for a certain length of tie to help overtake someone else.