The matter of adding a Drag Reduction System (DRS) zone to a newly adjusted segment of a track, which temporarily replaces four corners with a longer straight, first became a talking point in the summer. The complexity of rosette to adding a DRS zone was due to various factors such as an early kink in the stretched straight, the crowned surface on the road, and the track’s bumpy nature. This made the decision to add the DRS zone less straightforward.
In the month of June, the FIA sought feedback from teams via simulations. However, the timing of this consultation coincided with the teams’ concentration on the races coming up in July, and those due to kick off immediately after the summer break. At this time, Singapore wasn’t a primary focus for the simulation departments.
Of the team feedback gathered, three were against the proposition of a new DRS zone, two stood neutral with no definitive opinion, and five teams did not respond at all. As a result, it was decided not to go ahead with the additional zone.
However, the issue was reignited as race drivers familiarized themselves with this new track section using team simulators in preparation for the Singapore Grand Prix. The drivers queried the absence of a DRS zone, a sentiment that was further echoed when they arrived at the track.
Following this, a team managers’ meeting was convened early on Friday where the issue was discussed. Subsequently, the sports governing body, the FIA, requested a team vote on whether to add the DRS zone, despite last-minute logistic challenges such as resurveying the track to add a loop and reprogramming car Electronic Control Units (ECUs).
Enacting the change required a unanimous vote; however, four teams vocally opposed the proposal of an additional zone.
The topic was broached once more in a drivers’ briefing that took place post-Friday’s car run. GPDA director George Russell was among the voices supporting the usefulness of an extra DRS zone, however he conceded it was too late for changes to be made.
Lewis Hamilton pulled no punches about his disappointment regarding the DRS zone issue. He aired his dissatisfaction about how it might potentially make racing more challenging. He said, “I think we need DRS in that new last section, which all the drivers requested from the FIA.” Hamilton continued, “And the FIA asked all the teams and there were a couple of teams that turned it down. The teams should be for more racing, not against it. And it’s interesting to have few teams that are against it.”
Valtteri Bottas suggested that introducing the DRS zone further down the straight might be a solution, offering, “I think it should be there.” He continued with, “The worst case straight after the kink. I think it would be a great opportunity to make this a bit more interesting race to watch.”
Nico Hulkenberg dismissed any safety issues revolving around the early kink on the straight, arguing, “There would be no problem with DRS, at that speed already there’s so much downforce on the rear there.” He conceded the timing of the requests from the drivers was perhaps late, but stressed the need to test it out and see, saying “We don’t really know until we race here. So I guess we do it like this now, and then review for next year.”