There are two Abu Dhabi DRS Zones on the Yas Marina circuit for the Formula 1. These two zones increase the overtaking opportunties during the Grand Prix, but do they actually make passing too easy?
This articles provides full details and a map of the location of the DRS Zones at Yas Marina, plus my thoughts on whether they’re in the right place or if they should be moved.
What is DRS?
DRS stands for Drag Reduction System in Formula 1. This is a system which allows a flap in every F1 car’s rear wing to open up when the driver pushes a button on their steering wheel.
When the flap opens, the air resistance or drag on the rear wing reduces significantly. That allows the car to move more efficiently through the air and reach higher top speeds.
It does also have the effect of reducing the downforce acting on the car, so DRS is normally only deployed on straights, not corners.
When can DRS be used?
Each Formula 1 track has a number of pre-determined DRS Zones.
During qualifying, the drivers can activate DRS at any point during the session as long as they’re within these zones.
During a race a car must be within 1 second of the car ahead of them when they cross a pre-determined DRS detection point just before a DRS Zones.
If they’re within 1 second, the DRS wil become active when they reach the corresponding DRS activation point at the start of the Zone.
DRS Detection Point
The DRS activation point is a line on the track a set distance before the start of a DRS zone.
If a following driver is within 1 second of the car ahead of them when they cross the detection point line, they will be able to activate DRS at the start of the next zone.
The aim of DRS is to promote overtaking in F1. The detection zone ensures that only the chasing car can use DRS, to allow them to catch up and potentially pass the car ahead.
DRS Activation Point
The DRS activation point is the line on the track at the start of a DRS zone where the following driver can press a button on their steering and activate the DRS sytem. As long as they were within 1 second of the car ahead at the detection point, that is.
The flap in their rear wing will remain open until they touch the brakes at the end of the DRS zone, where it will automatically close.
Abu Dhabi DRS Zones
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has 2 DRS Zones on the Yas Marina circuit. The first zone has a detection point in the braking zone for Turn 5 and an activation point just after Turn 5. The second zone has a detection point at the exit of Turn 7 and an activation point a little further along the straight after Turn 7.
The circuit map below shows the DRS Zones at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 circuit.
The first DRS Zone at Abu Dhabi has a detection point 250 metres before Turn 5 and an activation point 210 metres after Turn 5.
The first DRS Zone at Abu Dhabi leads on to the longest straight on the circuit. Most drivers who are catching the car ahead will strive to be within 1 second of that car when they cross the detection point before Turn 5.
Once they’ve done that, activating their DRS at the start of the following straight pretty much means that they’re guaranteed to catch up with the car ahead and probably pass them if they were much less than a second behind.
As the detection point is before the braking zone for the Turn 5 hairpin, the chasing car can pass on the brakes in to the corner and still get DRS afterwards.
If they make a late lunge on the brakes and make the move stick, and were within 1 second at the detection point, they will still be able to activate DRS when they get on to the straight. So they’ll be able to pull away from the car they just passed.
The second Abu Dhabi DRS Zone has a detection point 50 metres after Turn 7 and an activation point 165 metres after Turn 7.
The second DRS Zone at Yas Marina is strategically placed.
Lots of overtaking happens in the first DRS Zone in to Turn 7. The second DRS zone directly follows the first, and with the detection point just after Turn 7, it allows a car who’s just been overtaken the chance to re-take their position almost straight away.
This has always proven to give us some great racing and battles. Often a F1 car will overtake in the first DRS Zone. The driver who’s just been passed will know they all they need to do is stay close to the other car through the chicane of Turns 6 and 7 before it’s their turn to get DRS.
We’ve often seen multiple-lap battles with drivers repeatedly exchanging positions.
Abu Dhabi DRS Zone top speeds
The speed trap on the Yas Maria circuit is at the end of the long straight after Turn 5, just before the cars hit the brakes for Turn 6.
This is right at the end of the first DRS zone where the cars will reach their highest speed over the course of a lap.
The fastest top speed at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is 334.8kmh / 208mph, achieved by Pierre Gasly driving for Alpine during the 2021 F1 race on the Yas Marina circuit.
Are the Abu Dhabi DRS Zones in the right place?
Normally I’d say that the length of the first DRS zone makes overtaking too easy. And I’d be right – a lot of overtaking happens here, and because it’s such a long straight more often than not the overtake is done and dusted before the coner.
However, with the second DRS zone coming directly after the first, we often see the driver that’s just been passed come right back at the other one. This can lead to some amazingly close battles that go on lap after lap.
Whilst ideally I’d like to see the first DRS zone made a little shorter, I always know that the combination of both zones is going to give us some great racing. So I’ll take it.