Why F1’s dropping DRS for its 2026 cars

One of the most notable features of the new Formula 1 rules for 2026 is that the drag reduction system will be replaced after 15 seasons of use.

The FIA ​​has revealed how new front and rear wing active aerodynamics will work from 2026, allowing any car to activate low-drag mode on the straights at any time – whether chasing or following, and no matter how close it is to another car. We are.

“Z Mode” is the standard setting, and is the highest downforce configuration the car has on most laps. “X Mode” is a low-downforce configuration, which will place the front and rear wings in a low-drag position for straight-line use.

This replaces the simple, retractable rear wing flap that has been the DRS system for more than a decade – and was only usable when one car was within one second of another at a specific detection point.

The abolition of the DRS – introduced in 2011 – is a development that fundamentalists may want to celebrate. It has been a controversial staple of Formula 1 since its introduction, and has often been overpowered, resulting in easy driving where the pursuing car gets a significant increase in speed on the straight and leaves the defending car powerless.

It has survived many rule changes because it was necessary to have something to help with overtaking. Now new bypass aids are being created in their place.

Since the cars will have 55% less drag than current cars, they will be faster on the straights and the benefit of the DRS effect in its current form will be minimal. Low drag cars are a function of the engine rules as current drag levels combined with the characteristics of the 2026 engine will likely mean a sharp drop in straight line speed.

This requires a new solution to encourage overtaking. For 2026, the moving rear wing will no longer be an overtaking aid – it will take into account energy management over laps and over the course of the race, and this is where the focus on race strategy will come.

“When the power unit has abundant amounts of power, we will be in a high downforce mode, which gives us high cornering speeds,” says Jason Somerville, head of FIA aerodynamics.

“And when we don't need to control the aerodynamics, we deactivate the wings, which gives us a low-drag mode and that gives us the ability to use the power we have from the electrical systems on board reasonably well for the duration of the flight. Straights.”

Low Drag Mode

But if all cars were in X mode and therefore faster on the straights, how would overtaking be possible? As previously explained by The Race, a manual override function will be added to use more power from the MGU-K at high speed to help combat the cars' low drag range.

Once the vehicle speed reaches 340 km/h, the spread of the MGU-K will diminish, but the bypass option will give drivers access to more electric power for a longer period. When the override is activated, the MGU-K will continue to deploy a maximum power of 350 kW over 340 km/h up to 355 km/h.

We still don't know how long the overtaking function will last or how many times a driver can use it per lap or per race, but in principle it will work similarly to DRS, with the condition that it is within a certain distance before the end of the lap to the car in front. .

“Overtaking remains a very important factor for Formula One. It will be addressed in two ways,” says Jan Monschau, FIA Single Seater Technical Director.

“The first thing is to continue to have an aerodynamic concept for the car that minimizes the losses from the car in front of you that negatively impact the following car. So, you get into the straight and the car is fairly close to the other.

“To aid overtaking, since both cars will have an open rear wing and an open front wing cover, we will allow the rear car to deploy more electrical energy for a certain portion of time during that lap.

“Right now, with DRS, you're behind a car, within one second, the box is ticked and you're allowed to open DRS in a straight line.

“That won't be the case anymore. However, the logic will be the same: 'I'm close enough to another car, and I get an extra amount of power for that one lap, which I can deploy in any way I want.'

“The amount of additional power is determined which will give a boost of power to eventually give the following car a chance to overtake at the end of the straight.”


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