The FIA is to restrict the use of DRS anywhere on F1 circuits except in the allocated zones during practice and qualifying on grand prix weekends next year.
Since the system was introduced at the start of the 2011 season, drivers have been free to use the DRS as they want during practice and qualifying with the activation zone applying only in the race. But FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting (ABOVE) recently informed the teams that he is no longer happy with this for safety reasons amid concerns about drivers risking deploying the DRS early at the exit of corners.
"We are going to prohibit the use of the DRS during practice and qualifying except in the places where it's going to be used in the race," said Whiting. "It's something that we told the teams about the other day, that we are doing it for safety reasons.
"There have been a number of incidents and drivers have told me that it's becoming increasingly prevalent [for the early deployment of DRS to cause problems]. One could argue that the early deployment of the DRS is not much different to early deployment of the throttle, but the DRS is an on/off switch whereas the throttle can be modulated."
Whiting is confident that the change will not reduce the effectiveness of the DRS is creating overtaking. The FIA conducts in-depth analysis of the DRS based on data from every race weekend and this suggests that teams will continue to set the cars up to capitalize on using it in the activation zone or zones during qualifying and the race.
"The whole point of the DRS was to improve overtaking opportunities in the race," said Whiting. "We didn't really want to have it used in qualifying and practice before but we were worried that we may not have effective DRS systems. Now I believe [based on] all the information we have, we should not see any reduction in the power of the DRS.
"Teams will still use it because even though they're allowed to use it in perhaps two places on the circuit, the benefit will still be there. I'm sure that it will work just as it does now."
OPINION: A logical step
Restricted the use of the DRS during practice and qualifying is a logical move that might even improve its effectiveness as an overtaking aid.
For the past two seasons, the DRS use has been free in qualifying. This means that there was a tangible lap time benefit in its use throughout the lap. As well as the gain on the long straights, there was an all-around pace advantage in reducing drag irrespective of what speed the car was doing.
Now, there is far less conflict. Teams will now design the rear wing and DRS for maximum advantage at higher speeds for the long straights where the DRS will be usable. There will also be less of a compromise in terms of gear ratio and wing setup.
Now, an increase in acceleration and top speed in specific zones will be the sole focus and should offer a lap time gain as well as giving cars the power to pass.
As Red Bull has done to great effect in the DRS era, if a team feels that its car is fast enough to qualify in front and escape the DRS clutches of another car, the potential advantage from optimizing setup for pace in the activation zone is lessened. But that's the case whatever happens.
The bottom line is that speed in the DRS activation zone can be worth time in qualifying and track position in the race, ensuring the the concept should continue to be effective in its stated aim.
Edd Straw, AUTOSPORT F1 editor