The downforce in F1 refers to the force that pushes the cars on to the track. This downforce help drivers get a better grip of the tires on the track. The better grip on F1 tracks is very important during the corners. As F1 cars are very fast and they can go upto 300-320 kmph on a straight they need to stick to the track during corners. The downforce helps the cars in getting this grip. F1 car usually produces 5G’s of downforce in a race, i.e, five times the car’s weight pressing downwards onto the track. F1 driver experiences 4G to 5G of downforce while braking, and around 2G of downforce while accelerating. But how does the Downforce work on an F1 car?
The rear wing in an F1 car’s job is to push the air upwards. When the rear wing pushes the air upwards, the air pushes the wing downwards. This is where the downforce comes from. Although the downforce has it’s advantage on the corners as it allows the cars to get better grips on the tires. However, it creates drag. This drag slows down the cars on the straights. How to overcome this? That is where the Drag Reduction System or the DRS comes in.
Drag Reduction System (DRS)
The Drag Reduction System (DRS) is a system in which the flap of the rear wing opens up allowing the air to pass through. This reduces the aerodynamic drag resistance allowing the driver to increase the speed. This increases the chance for the driver to overtake during the straights on the track. The Drag Reduction System helps the car increase the speed by around 10 to 12 kmph. The flap is eventually closed by the end of the straight, increasing the downforce for better grip on tires during the corner.
Some tracks only have one DRS zone. While others have two. And recently during the F1 2018 and 2019 season, the third DRS zone was added in Australia, Canada, Bahrain, Singapore, Austria, and Mexico. The Drag Reduction System isn’t always available for the drivers. There are some rules and only if these circumstances are matched the DRS is enabled for the drivers.
- The cars go through a DRS detection point. If the car is within one second of the car ahead of the driver, the DRS is enabled.
- The defending driver cannot use the DRS unless he is behind another car within one second.
- The DRS is not activated for the opening two laps of the race.
- The DRS cannot be used during a safety car or if the racing conditions are dangerous (sometimes in case of rains).
Power Tracks are those tracks that have less downforce. These F1 tracks have long straights and high-speed corners. So, cars with low downforce and good horsepower will have an upper hand during the race.
|Australia (Melbourne)||4 (Downforce)|
|Bahrain||2 (Power Track)|
|China (Shanghai)||2 (Power Track)|
|Azerbaijan (Baku)||2 (Power Track)|
|Spain (Barcelona)||4 (Downforce)|
|Monaco||5 ( Maximum Downforce)|
|Canada (Montreal)||2 (Power Track)|
|Austria (Spielberg)||3 (Balanced)|
|Britain (Silverstone)||4 (Downforce)|
|Hungary (Hungaroring)||4 (Downforce)|
|Belgium (SPA)||2 (Power Track)|
|Italy (Monza)||1 (Extreme Power Track)|
|Singapore (Marina Bay)||5 (Maximum Downforce)|
|Russia (Sochi)||4 (Downforce)|
|United States (Miami)||4 (Downforce)|
|United States (Austin)||3 (Balanced)|
|Japan (Suzuka)||3 (Balanced)|
|Dutch (Zandvoort)||2 (Power Track)|
|Brazil (Sao Paulo)||4 (Downforce)|
|Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)||3 (Balanced)|
What is a slipstream? As mentioned above, there are some conditions during which the drivers cannot use the DRS as it is not enabled. So what are the other ways by which the drivers can take advantage to overtake the car in front of them? The F1 drivers have a few different ways to overtake, and one of them is to use the slipstream of the driver in front of him. Slipstream is the low-pressure area created by the driver in front, which reduces the air resistance and improves the car’s aerodynamics.
Slipstream works on a straight, and to use it to its full potential, the driver needs to be close behind the car to benefit from the drag reduction.
Another way apart from Slipstream by which the drivers can overtake is to use the RCH Button on their steering wheel. This button gives extra power to the engine and boosts during the overtake. So apart from DRS, there are a few other ways that help the drivers overtake.