The Canadian Grand Prix has 3 DRS Zones, but unusually it has only 2 detection points. The DRS also helps the F1 cars reach over 210mph on certain parts of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
This articles provides all the details of the current DRS Zones at the Canadian GP and looks at whether they’re in the right place to help improve overtaking and close racing.
What is DRS?
In Formula 1 DRS means Drag Reduction System. It’s a feature of all F1 cars which allows the driver to open a small flap in their rear wing with the push of a button on the steering wheel.
Opening this flap reduces the amount of air hitting the rear wing which in turn reduces the aerodynamic drag experienced by the car. Less drag means the cars can reach higher speeds along the straights. That helps promote more overtaking and more exciting racing for the fans.
Each circuit on the Formula 1 calendar has a number of pre-determined DRS Zones. These are specific sections of each track where the drivers can activate their Drag Reduction System.
During qualifying, drivers can deploy the system at any time within these zones. This helps them set the fastest lap times around the Canadian Grand Prix circuit.
During the race a driver has to be within 1 second of the car in front to be able to use DRS. Each DRS zone has a detection point and activation point.
DRS Detection Point
The DRS detection point is an invisible line across the track that measures the time difference between two cars. It’s only used during the race.
If when two cars cross the detection point the following car is 1 second or less behind the car ahead, the following car will be able to use DRS when they reach the next activation point.
The idea of DRS is to promote closer racing by making overtaking easier. If both cars could use DRS when they reached an activation point all it would do is increase both of their top speeds. Hence the DRS detection point is used to determine when the following car is close enough.
DRS Activation Point
The DRS activation point normally comes a corner or two after the detection point. It’s the line where drivers can press the DRS button on their steering wheel to engage the Drag Reduction System, if they were less than a second behind the car ahead at the detection point.
Once they’ve engaged DRS the flap in their rear will stay open until they first touch the brakes for the next corner.
DRS activation points are usually at the start of long straights. By reducing drag, the system also reduces downforce. That means the cars have less grip when cornering so it’s too risky to use DRS on the turns.
Canadian Grand Prix DRS Zones
The Canadian Grand Prix circuit layout has three DRS Zones. The first zone has a detection point after Turn 5 and an activation point after Turn 7. The second zone has a detection point after Turn 9 and an activation point before Turn 12. The third zone has no detection point but an activation point after Turn 14.
Unusually, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has three DRS activation points but only two DRS detection points.
The circuit map below shows the different DRS zones on the Montreal Grand Prix circuit.
The first DRS zone on the Canadian Grand Prix circuit has a detection point 15 metres after Turn 5 and an activation point 95 metres after Turn 7.
Usually, if a driver has been overtaken in to turns 1 and 2, they can stay within one second of the car that passed them by the time they reach the detection point just after Turn 5.
With the activation point just after Turn 7 it gives the drivers a chance to pick up some speed along the straight before Turn 8. This isn’t a very long straight, however, so gaining enough additional speed with the DRS to overtake on the brakes in to Turn 8 infront of Grandstand 31 is quite difficult and uncommon.
The second DRS zone at the Canadian Grand Prix circuit has a detection point 110 metres after Turn 9 and an activation point 155 metres before Turn 12.
The detection point for this DRS zone is a short way before the braking point for the Hairpin at Turn 10, alongside Grandstand 34. The Hairpin is one of the best overtaking points on the circuit. If a car is trying to pass another car here, usually they’ll be behind when they cross the detection point but ahead once they’ve dived up the inside at the hairpin.
That means that when they reach the DRS activation point shortly after the Hairpin opposite Grandstand 46 and Grandstand 47 they’ll already be ahead of the car they were behind at the detection point. Engaging the DRS will give them a chance to pull away.
Sometimes, however, the drivers will make sure they’re in the 1 second window at the detection point and then wait until the activation point to try and pass.
This is the longest DRS zone on the circuit and cars can reach over 340kph here, making the braking zone for Turn 13 a great spot to overtake.
The third DRS Zone at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has no detection point. It only has an activation point which is at the start of the pit straight, 70 metres after Turn 14.
Montreal is one of only a few Grand Prix on the F1 calendar where one DRS detection point is used for two activation points.
That means that for the Canadian race, if a driver is within the 1 second window when they cross the detection point for DRS zone 2, they will be able to engage their Drag Reduction System at both activation points 2 and 3.
They are able to do so regardless of whether or not they’ve already passed the car they were following at the detection point when they reach the third DRS zone.
This activation point gives drivers a chance to overtake in the braking zone for Turn 1, alonside the Platine Grandstand.
Canada Grand Prix - DRS Top Speeds
The fastest section of the Canadian Grand Prix circuit is the back straight, known as Casino Straight, between turns 12 and 13. This is the second DRS zone and the longest straight on the circuit, meaning the cars can reach some serious speeds here.
The official speed trap is located at the end of this straight just before the braking point for Turn 13. In 2023, the fastest speed recorded at the speed trap was 343kph / 213mph by Alexander Albon in the Williams.
Williams were running a low-drag setup for the Montreal F1 weekend which included a smaller rear wing. This meant their car was fastest on the straights all weekend, and the fastest at this circuit in recent years.
That particular top speed was achieved by Albon when he had DRS engaged. He was in the slipstream of Kevin Magnussen who also had his DRS active, meaning Albon effectively had double DRS. Check out this video which shows the moment he reached the top speed of the weekend.
Are the Canadian F1 DRS Zones in the right places?
The first DRS zone at Canada doesn’t often offer much chance for overtaking, but it does let the following car get a little closer in preparation for better overtaking opportunities at turns 10 and 13 later in the lap. So I think it helps keep the racing close.
The second and third DRS zones using just one activation point have been the cause of some controversy over the years. If a following car is within the 1 second window at the second detection point but manages to overtake the car ahead on the way into the Hairpin at Turn 10, then the next two DRS zones simply let the car pull away even further.
However, this does encourage drivers to try and overtake into the hairpin. And that is what we want to see – overtaking around corners, rather than on the straights.
If a driver used DRS to overtake on the brakes in to Turn 13, it often compromises their speed through the final chicane. So the car that’s just been passed will often get a better exit out of Turn 14. This means they can stay right on the tail of the car that just passed them (which still has DRS) down the main straight.
Overall I think the DRS zones at the Canadian Grand Prix are a recipe for great racing and lots of overtaking, so I say leave them be.