(L to R): Charles Leclerc, Ferrari; Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022

F1 needs changes to stop DRS “cat-and-mouse games” – Horner

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 should change DRS zones where necessary to prevent drivers slowing excessively as they approach detection points, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said.

While disputing the lead during last weekend’s race in Jeddah, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen repeatedly slowed ahead of the DRS detection point before the final corner, each wanting to be last across the line to gain a benefit from it.

After several attempts, Verstappen was finally able to gain use of DRS and passed Leclerc to win the race.

“I basically knew that if I was leaving Max with a DRS behind for the main straight, I will be overtaken very easily,” said Leclerc. “So I just wanted that DRS.

“On the first lap I braked very early and I got the DRS and manage to overtake back on the run to turn one. And then the second one, obviously Max knew that I was going to do that, so we both braked quite early, but I still managed to stay in front at the end. The third time, it didn’t work out for me.”

Despite his driver winning the race, Horner says the fact drivers were prepared to lose time in order to be the last one over the DRS line shows changes are needed.

“The DRS is so powerful you can see that there was a game of cat-and-mouse going on between the drivers where they’d actually brake to a point that they accelerated then to the corner,” he said. “So I think maybe we should look at where that DRS detection zone is for future years.

“You definitely want to avoid being in that situation.”

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A similar problem occurred during last year’s race. At one stage Lewis Hamilton ran into the back of Verstappen as the Red Bull driver tried to provoke his rival to overtake him before the DRS detection point at the same point on the circuit.

Start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in pictures
However Toto Wolff believes the drivers’ attempts to avoid reaching the DRS line first adds entertainment to F1 races.

“I like it personally,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “I think the cars delivered on what Formula 1 hoped.

“Great overtaking and DRS is powerful but it provides a great show now. I think that was entertaining to watch.”

However Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer also believes F1 should consider changes to DRS based on the first two races under the series’ new technical regulations.

“The only thing we’ve got to do is now assess what DRS does with these cars because you can follow a lot closer,” he said. “Before it was really easy to break the DRS train and then off he went. So we just have to assess that.”

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2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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105 comments on “F1 needs changes to stop DRS “cat-and-mouse games” – Horner”

  1. Is Otmar Szafnauer not now working at Alpine yet the article states:

    However Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer also believes F1 should consider changes to DRS based on the first two races under the series’ new technical regulations.

    1. Correct. It’s a major error.

    2. Lol easy to get mixed up, with those pink Alpine cars.

  2. Two races into the season, Verstappen’s wheel-to-wheel racing has been clean as a whistle and Horner is making sense. Something feels wrong ;-)

    1. Came here to say that! Feels so weird agreeing with Horner!

    2. Because you need two to tango.

  3. However Toto Wolff believes the drivers’ attempts to avoid reaching the DRS line first adds entertainment to F1 races.

    So F1 now has become a ‘race’ to slow down enough to come second :P

    Give me sprinklers any day of the week.

  4. petebaldwin (@)
    29th March 2022, 12:00

    Two races in and DRS has been a huge factor in fights for the lead in both. If they want to keep DRS, it has to be in places where it can help but not guarantee a pass. It also should never be on two consecutive straights as it creates a really weird type of racing.

    It won’t be long before someone brakes early to try and let the the other driver past in order to get DRS and we end up with contact.

    We’ve seen these games played before but it’s getting a bit silly now. I don’t think the FIA can bring rules in to stop it – they just need to reassess how DRS is used (or better yet, get rid of it entirely).

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      29th March 2022, 12:09

      It happened last time at Jeddah, remember?

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        29th March 2022, 12:10

        the contact I mean.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        29th March 2022, 12:48

        It did indeed but that was to let someone back past so a slightly different situation… You’d have never seen anyone deliberately lose a position if they didn’t have to previously whereas the regs are creating that situation every week now.

        I don’t blame the drivers at all – Leclerc did the only thing he could to try and hang on to his position and if you bring in rules to say you can’t brake early, they’ll just ease off the accelerator earlier down the straight. If drivers are deciding that it’s beneficial to lose a place in order to get DRS, there’s clearly a significant problem….

    2. It won’t be long before someone brakes early to try and let the the other driver past in order to get DRS and we end up with contact.

      I mean, it happened last December did it not?

      1. That was Max giving the place back to Lewis after Max had cut the corner of turn 1. It just happened to be just before the last corner.

        1. So there the intention was not to gain drs?

        2. That was no coincidence… It was both reasons- he wanted to give the position back there BECAUSE it was just before the DRS line

    3. Dead right about consecutive straights. It was rubbish at Melbourne before, hopefully they’ll change it this time with the new faster back section.

      It’s reaching a ridiculous, unsafe point like the old acoustic/manual
      DRS that Alonso operated by taking both hands off the wheel…

      Toto won’t like it so much if he gets his cars to work and there’s an unsighted Merc driver at the back of a group of three or four who goes flying over someone’s back wheel when they all hit the brakes.

  5. yyyeeeaaahhh
    29th March 2022, 12:00

    As long as no one was coming full speed behind them, and for this race they still went at a racing pace with a very early brake while the competitor was on the side vs. not right behind (I saw it as something that could be tried in a non-DRS tight corner, for better line/speed at exit) ; so I would agree with Toto here.
    Last year with the slow crawling made me think of the track cycling Sprint format, when they only go full speed at the last possible moment for 1 lap (which I’m not fond of, I prefer the Pursuit)

  6. I dont agree.
    The new regulations improved racing but I am not sure yet if DRS can be dispensed. Saudi Arabia track is very peculiar and we might not see DRS working like that again.
    Anyway, it can look like contrived or even dangerous to go slower to let the car behind be the one ahead at the DRS, but ir seems to be part of the current game.
    I dont see it differently to drafting on other series.

    1. They’re not talking about getting rid of DRS though, just talking about moving the activation points.

      1. someone or something
        30th March 2022, 0:08

        The detection points.

  7. Horner is making sense. But for now we have two intelligent drivers who know how to react.
    The problems will arise when certain drivers who do not understand how it works will hit a car from behind. And of course Fuming it was a brake check…

    1. Obvious troll is obvious.

      1. I only saw a reasonable comment here and it’s not the 2nd.

        1. @esploratore1 it’s certainly not the third, either

    2. Ah @erikje there’s the rampant anti-Hamilton we’ve come to expect from you

      Who was deemed to be at fault in that incident? Do remind me.

      1. Noframingplease (@)
        29th March 2022, 19:14

        @gardenfella72 yes it’s Mister garderner who can’t stand a single critical note about ‘the goat’. That Lewis didn’t understand Max in that race and wanted to stay behind was obvious. The thing Max can learn from Lewis is to play this game a lot more smarter (some people would call hypocrite, but that’s another discussion). If Max breaks nextime in the same way like Lewis did once with Vettel, telemetrics won’t show anything, and the result is far more effective. Just like Lewis bumps opponents at the reartire. You can always shout at the radio ‘that guy is so aggressive, he cut the corner’, and the first seed of framing is planted. In short, you don’t have to be an anti-Hamilton person to see the rather simple games Toto and his puppet are playing. It’s not his talent people argue about, it’s the hypocrisy and his amateur mindgames people dislike him. The way Lewis chooses to attack his rivals (on and off track, Alonso, Button, Vettel, rosberg and Verstappen) is no secret. There is always a recognizable pattern in Lewis behavior when drivers suddenly change in serious competitors.

    3. wow, you needed to stick that last part don’t you. Is that incident and penalty hurting you to this day, just forget it.

  8. I would like DRS to be always available for all drivers, when and where ever they dare to use it.

    1. It would be a much fairer system if all drivers could use DRS rather than the current proximity-based system which has always disadvantaged the leading driver. With cars now being able to follow and the tyres appearing to be more durable, it could be worth experimenting with DRS if it doesn’t leave the sport, which it probably won’t now.

      Unlimited use throughout would negate strategy and render DRS completely pointless, so one suggestion could be something like 60 seconds per zone throughout the race for drivers to use, kind of like how Champcar used to run the old push-to-pass system.

      1. I think that is a grand idea, something like 20 DRS moments per race, but only in DRS zones. You can use them for defense or offense.

    2. I would like it back that way again. Either that one or limit the number of times someone could use it.

    3. Or to get rid of it.

  9. DRS needs tweaks. I can’t believe the system is so slow that it can’t tell who is 1s behind at the activation line. DRS shouldn’t be available before the cars enter the straight that DRS is on. Either that, or have the line at the Apex of the corner before the straight

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      29th March 2022, 12:54

      I don’t think having the line at the apex would help. If you take the last turn at Jeddah as an example, what would stop Leclerc from just going slowly around the outside of the corner and letting Max past? If Max refused, you’d have both of them crawling around the first half of the turn instead….

      If they can get DRS to work at the activation line (maybe it automatically activates or something) then that could work….

  10. Oh no… I guess it finally had to happen. Infinite monkeys typing in a room and all that.

    I agree with Horner…


    1. Enjoy your ‘Monkey Shakespeare’!

    2. It reminded me of Montoya and Andretti at MIS back in the day. Entertaining as anything, but not without a gimmick on the back if the car.

  11. Ok whatever horner. Guy would complain about anything wouldn’t he? As much as Lewis has empathy for everything and everyone christian wants everyone to know how much he hates winning!

    BUT what I don’t get is why no teammates took advantage of DRS to advance their positions…did they deliberately want to fade back from the lead? In the states we work together dammit, we even draft the cars we ARENT teammates with just to stay close for an opportunity… And we. KNOW these cars work a lot better, it’s plain to see. DRS isn’t too powerful, it’s just unnecessary now. Regardless… I was stunned to see Alonso and ocon fighting to slow each other down when they could have just leap frogged one another as long as they had that artificial advantage. How TF is that not even a strategy after damn near 10 years?!!

  12. Horner praised Perez for slowing Hamilton down to a crawl at some corners in Abu Dhabi 2021 so it’s difficult to see where he finds issue with the DRS ‘no, please, you first’ battles. The fact is watching the drivers trying to trick each other over the DRS is similar to SC restarts and similarly entertaining, lots of second-guessing, feints, double-bluffs. And far more fun than the actual DRS passes themselves.

    1. @david-br I don’t see how you can equate Perez in AD in a one-off scenario where SP happened to have the pace and the opportunity to slow LH down (not sure about ‘to a crawl’) to what is turning out presently to be a repeated ‘cat and mouse game’ that could affect every race and occur throughout much of every race.

      “The fact is watching the drivers trying to trick each other over the DRS is similar to SC restarts and similarly entertaining, lots of second-guessing, feints, double-bluffs. And far more fun than the actual DRS passes themselves.” Lol I don’t disagree but I am just still trying to wrap my head around this. It certainly is a different ‘usage’ (in a way) or let’s say effect of DRS that I hadn’t expected. Overwhelmingly I’d like to see them try a race without DRS with the hopes of them discovering they can do away with it completely, but I have to admit this different flavour of DRS has been entertaining, and perhaps I’m aided in that opinion because Max is in this fight and we have now seen Ferrari isn’t the be all and end all after all.

      Anyway, bottom line for me is that I haven’t been put off with what we have seen so far, but I lean towards what Horner is alluding to, as in, is this really what we want? As well, I still would far far rather just see DRS gone, or used as a fuel saving tool by all drivers in each designated zone every time they are in said zone regardless of proximity to other cars.

      The way I was thinking of it yesterday is that prior to DRS being introduced the cars were also very negatively affected in dirty air, and yes there were times of processions for various reasons, but the point being it took them decades of having clean air dependent cars before bringing in DRS, meaning we lived without DRS for a long time with those types of cars. Why should they still need DRS now that the cars are finally no longer clean air dependent?

      Just as they wanted to experiment with Sprints, I’d like to see them agree to three races this season that will be DRS free, and let’s see what that brings. Give them this first half of the season to get a better handle on their cars and the tires, and then let’s just see what happens without DRS, even just for one race (perhaps too small a sample size though) so they have something to ponder from that experiment going forward.

      1. @robbie I made the equation because I presume Horner believes there’s some problem with the slowing down bit of the DRS cat-and-mouse. It doesn’t really matter to my point if it’s taken to be a one-off scenario or not.
        Anyhow, answering the more general point, yes DRS was an artificial solution to the dirty air problem. But should it go? I’m split minded. Put it this way: if the cars can now race each other closely, which they seem to be able to do, and the teams are close – specifically at the front (Red Bull and Ferrari) – then maybe DRS is unnecessary in a purest sense. I buy that idea. On the other hand, if you have two DRS zones, one close to the other, it’s quite entertaining to see these calculations about when to go for the pass, how to block a re-pass, and so on. And the fact that there are two zones – and this ‘cat-and-mouse’ – for me cancels out somewhat the artificiality of DRS because it makes it ‘evenly artificial’ if you see what I mean. So I don’t know. I think without DRS we’d see fewer overtakes but they might be ‘purer’. But is that what F1 wants? I doubt it.

        1. @david-br Fair comment.

          “Despite his driver winning the race, Horner says the fact drivers were prepared to lose time in order to be the last one over the DRS line shows changes are needed.”

          I think he is just questioning if this is the way to go with drivers intentionally slowing when they should be racing, not ‘reversing’ to the DRS lines. Simply he is questioning if this new dynamic is the right dynamic and shouldn’t it be tweaked.

          That said, and as I said earlier, I’m still wrapping my head around this and have been entertained even as a big detractor of DRS, like you, and that it is exactly because of this juxtaposition between entertainment and gadget that needs to go. I still say these cars shouldn’t need it at all, and I certainly appreciate Horner questioning this new dynamic even when Max won.

          1. @robbie @david-br I think the fact that even detractors of DRS (myself included) are acknowledging this kind of racing makes for an entertaining show means that DRS isn’t going anywhere. Ironic, isn’t it — the new regs, which were supposed to eliminate the rationale for DRS, have done their job, but in doing so have made DRS even more valuable to the show.

          2. @markzastrow I’m just not at all convinced we’re seeing the style of racing we should be settling on in these early days with these cars, as per Horner’s comments, and I think that when the likes of Horner is questioning if this is what we want, I expect there to be tweaks along the way as they learn more about these cars. They literally should not need DRS now or at a minimum should be doing experiments to see if DRS free racing might be even better with these cars. So no, I am not at all of the belief that DRS is even more ‘valuable’ than before. We can’t say that when we haven’t even seen them try racing without it now that the cars are so so different. Interesting choice of words as well, to say ‘valuable to the show’ when if anything DRS devalues passes.

          3. @robbie Oh, that’s a deliberate word choice — I wasn’t saying that you think DRS is more “valuable”, but that it is literally more valuable, as in to F1’s market cap. After seeing all the engagement that these battles are driving and their commercial value, I just don’t think Liberty and F1 are ever going to pull the plug on DRS. [he says with a tone of frustrated lament]

          4. @markzastrow I agree it is ironic! Rather than helping a faster car pass by cancelling out the speed loss from dirty air, DRS has turned into a kind of Mario Kart boost pill you can take once or twice a lap when in close racing. It adds another dimension of tactics. I’d suggest letting it happen for a while, experiment with the format a bit, the length and location of the zones and so on, maybe even drop DRS at some venues and see what happens.

          5. @markzastrow No for sure that is what I picked up on from what you said, and I didn’t think you were saying that I think DRS is more valuable but rather you think it might be too valuable commercially, but I am not convinced that F1 wants this powerful DRS, and I have much hope that they will head towards tweaking or removing or repurposing it than liking what they see now and sticking to it.

            That to me connotes that they might as well have just stuck with aero downforce cars, but no, they changed the cars for a reason and I don’t believe for a second that it was to make DRS more powerful and even more of a factor. I think we need to give them time to evaluate this and head towards the very reason they made such drastic changes with which to begin…more close combat between drivers…teams closer to each other…all adding up to less DRS not more. I mean, they have hinted all along about reducing or eliminating DRS, or using it for everyone on the straights as a tool to save fuel, and never have they said we love DRS so much, and we know you fans do too, that we’re going to change the cars to head towards not needing it, but then double up on it instead. No, I think there is much more to the story than that, and it just may take some time for them to settle into these new cars and see them on various tracks before they make more moves. I just don’t see it as desirable in general, and in the long term, from both within F1 and without, to have cars doing as Horner points out and jockeying for position and riding their brakes to be second place before this line or that.

          6. @david-br @robbie I agree with both of your suggestions — completely sensible to experiment. If we have to have DRS, I wouldn’t mind a real variety of approaches to setting up DRS zones, and some tracks with a lot and some with none, etc.

            But it will be interesting to see how Brawn and F1 play it. It reminds me of when IndyCar moved to the DW12 chassis with the rear wheel pods, which were meant for safety, but had the side effect of cleaning up dirty air and yielding those race-long slipstreaming battles at the Indy 500. I thought it was interesting that when IndyCar removed those pods in 2018 and it got harder to follow again, IndyCar’s competition department said they liked that there was less overtaking and that it rewarded the teams that were able to properly set up their cars.

            I was actually a big fan of those 500s. That style of racing was unique to certain tracks and the means of achieving it was less artificial than DRS. But I do admire IndyCar’s willingness to experiment and tweak the effect. I’m just not so sure F1 will have the same willingness…

      2. @robbie Spa-Francorchamps, Interlagos, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, or Red Bull Ring might be suitable for a wholly DRS-free race experiment. No other track really.

        1. @jerejj Spa and Interlagos I’d definitely like to see DRS free. Not so bothered about other tracks.

  13. F1 needs removal of DRS to stop DRS “cat-and-mouse games”


    1. Hopefully the announced review will soon clear up how F1 plans to handle DRS.

      Keeping it, especially with multiple zones on a track, is a vote of no-confidence in the 2022-spec cars.

      1. I hope so.

        I have been debating with my wife, who came to the sport recently and has never seen F1 without DRS. She can’t seem to understand that seeing 2 well-matched cars and racers battle for several laps, with attempts at outbraking and high pressure on both drivers, is far more exciting than even the Leclerc-Verstappen battles we have seen so far this season, even if there is no overtake by the end of it. We don’t need lots of overtakes to make a race exciting, it’s far better to have close, wheel to wheel action even with few overtakes – in fact it makes the few overtakes we see more impressive.

        From what I have seen so far, we are at least very close to that happening this season. Maybe we are not quite at the point of being able to ditch DRS in its current form altogether yet, but with a single short DRS zone (say in the middle of the longest straight) I believe we would get to the point where late braking and high pressure would bring us the exciting races we want.

  14. I don’t see why. Let em race.

  15. 2022 when Verstappen was tricked by Leclerc into this cat-and-mouse game:
    Horner: “Changes are needed”
    Wolff: “It was entertaining to watch”

    2021 when Hamilton was tricked by Verstappen into this cat-and-mouse game at the exact same place:
    Horner: nothing to see here
    Wolff: he braketested!

    This is just a comment to show that (all) people adjust their opinions to what suit them, I don’t want to restart old conversations about whether Horner and Wolff tell the truth or whether Verstappen may or may not breaktested Hamilton.

    1. That’s true!

      1. @matthijs Not a very accurate depiction imho. More like…

        2022 even when Max beat Charles:
        Horner: Is this really what we want?
        Wolff: Yes, it is entertaining.

        2021 when the cars and tires and the rivalry was different and LH should have stomped on it and blown past a very slow Max such that Max would not have been able to catch up in time to DRS LH:
        Horner: LH, shadowing Max’s gearbox rather than picking a clear side to be on, ran into him in a cat and mouse game for who would be second to the DRS line.
        Wolff: He brake tested LH.

        I think it is a fact that Max brake tested LH, but LH shouldn’t have put himself directly behind and so close to Max imho, and I’ll suggest that if this cat and mouse is to become the norm, then drivers will already understand to not put themselves directly behind a car that may want to slow quite a bit and purposely try to be passed.

        1. So you’re saying that it was partly Lewis’ fault for being behind Max when Max decided to decelerate rapidly and unexpectedly, and that he should have known in advance what would happen and position himself accordingly?! I mean, short of clairvoyance I’ve no idea how you expected him to arrive at that conclusion seeing as his team hadn’t even notified him yet that Max was letting him back past. It was completely in Max’s interests to make it as awkward and unclear as possible, which is why he slowed and weaved across the middle of the track at first, as if there was a problem, before suddenly slowing further when it became clear #44 was reluctant to pass.

          It wasn’t a competitive cat-and-mouse incident in the braking zone as per 2022, it was a clumsy attempt to make giving up a position as difficult and unclear as possible, hoping to reap the benefit either via an immediate DRS re-pass or, as happened, a contentious incident with everyone pointing fingers at one another.