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Is the devil in the Formula 1 DRS?

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Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya May 2017

For years being a devoted Ferrari fan has been a bit like having a rat licking fetish during the plague, and DRS perhaps just denied the Tifosi the most promising battle of wits, skills and wills witnessed for several years…

Now, am not a luddite, harping on about the real cars and real drivers of days gone by. I enjoy most of Bernie’s annual injection of randomness to the situation, keeping things a bit chaotic each year through regulation changes. I have enjoyed the ebb and flow of rules regarding aero, chassis, handing responsibility to drivers (I won’t deny enjoying the time when Rosberg gained a huge advantage over Hamilton through paying more attention in steering wheel class, when they covered “what this button does”).

However, time teaches us what should stay or go. Wrong choices should be subject to reversal or change ASAP as to prevent a concentration of bad ideas in the sport. I think DRS falls into this category.

This weekend we were treated to a very promising closing driver battle: Vettel and Hamilton seconds apart, Vettel with a fresh set of medium tyres on lap 33, and Lewis on the faster soft option soft on lap 37. The excitement heightened further with a virtual safety car, which resulted in some very close re-emergence racing between the two former world champions.

Here we had two of world’s best drivers going head to head in the closing laps of a classic circuit, in equally matched cars with evenly matched engines. Lewis puffing and panting, on the edge, skill, power driver’s tactics, and backmarker traffic – would the advantage of the soft tyres be negated by being stuck behind Vettel and the battle?

We never go to find out.

With a press of a button and artificial advantage was activated. It might as well have been a turbo boost button like knight rider used on kit or some wacky races modification that extended one arm from front of Hamilton’s car and shove a banana up Vettel’s tailpipe.

With just 22 laps to go this pass resembled a team orders pass, or that the blue flags had been deployed blue and Hamilton resorted to a simple corporate and safe overtake. I can’t blame him – you use what tools you have in the bag and when you know you can activate something that would neutralise all Vettel’s skill, experience and track position, you would. Sabastian having no answer simply reported back to the paddock “he went passed me like a train, like a train” His voice filled with resignation, and Hamilton, in clear traffic could take full and unrelenting advantage to the tyre strategy and finished 4 seconds ahead. The problem with DRS is All you must do is get close and wait for a straight and this bypass’s all the advantages that makes watching a race at home with the dog wanting a walk and the kids wanting to go swimming worth procrastinating over.

I for one got a bit fed up with listening to the commentator’s, overstrung with excitement when a real “daring pass” is achieved – nearly as breathless as Hamilton and the drivers called brave, skill is attributed and we are told we have just witnessed a racing Masterclass. Should this not be the norm?

Chase Carey and his relentlessly cheerful Moustache wants to listen to ideas? Well this is mine: If the racing is at a circuit, that offers overtaking opportunities (surely this should be the bare minimum) then DRS is disabled, even as a test. All the new tracks taken that are being spoken of should be designed with the ban in mind.

If I am paying £300 real money a ticket, I don’t want to see too real advantages destroyed by artificial gimmicks.

We are now seeing that because of DRS fast cars at the back can get to the high points almost unchallenged, making engine change penalties almost pointless.

Young drivers want to shine, then stand out. Outdrive the young’uns, take them to school.

I think if this was trialled and re-evaluated we would see happy driver, we would see more real racing and some realise how much they must learn, and fast if they want to keep their seat.

Right now, we need to rely on the randomness caused by nature for the chance for “good old fashioned” real talent to shine.

…Just my opinion

By Steve Barby

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