drs and ers in formula 1 explained

The DRS And ERS In Formula 1, What’s The Point?

Formula 1 can be full of bizarre terms. ERS, DRS, and KERS confuse even long-time F1 fans. These technologies all serve the same goal: to make the sport more thrilling. So, ideally, we should be captivated by Formula 1 with all the drivers’ thrilling overtaking and defensive positions at each turn during the race. But it is what is just perfect. The reality is that we have the team in which two drivers soar ahead of others like two rockets, leaving a considerable gap, another three teams form the mid-grid, and … the rest. The others. Sufferers. To give them the chance to race faster, the FIA Formula 1 introduced specific tools and regulated rules, providing an additional advantage to lagging cars. But does it alter the game, and how not to confuse these three abbreviatures? Let’s simplify things!

To begin, let’s start with the basics, with the ERS.

To Bring The Competitive Edge Back in Formula! 

So, all the gadgets that promise to make the most drivers race equally in Formula 1 circle around one thing.

The case is the Energy Recovery System, shortly ERS, which was introduced in 2014. 

The name is speaking enough. The system recovers energy, which previously had been lost during braking, and uses this energy to power various systems within the F1 car, including its electric motor. So, overall, ERS reduces the reliance on the internal combustion engine and improves efficiency. 

Sounds great, right?

However, it is not an independent part of the car, not the magic element that gives the extra boost, but ERS is the entire system that consists of the Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K), the Motor Generator Unit – Heat (MGU-H)batteries and assist button

So, here is how ERS works. 

How does ERS work in Formula 1?

Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic captures and converts kinetic energy during the car braking into electrical energy, which is been stored in a high battery or flywheel to release the maximal push. 

When the drivers accelerate, MGU-K acts as a generator, converting electrical energy back into mechanical and producing an additional power boost.

As for the MGU-H, the Motor Generator Unit – Heat recovers and utilizes the heat generated by exhaust gases to create electrical energy. Connected to the turbocharger, it helps control the turbine’s speed, maximizing the engine’s efficiency and reducing turbo lag.  

All the converted energy by the MGU-H and MGU-K systems is stored in the batteries of the ERS, which are connected to the crankshaft to convert heat and kinetic energy. 

See, ERS is the king of the additional power for the F1 cars, while ERS Assist is its supervisor. 

So, when Charles Leclerc, for example, needs the extra speed to improve his performance, he orders ‘Let’s bring the heat!’ pushes the ERS Assist button on the steering wheel of his Ferrari, and gains more horsepower during overtaking maneuvers or defensive driving. 

Simple, right? 

The primary terms are full batteries and proper operation. And yes, someone can call it a ‘magic button,’ while drivers use DRS to gain a short-time speed advantage.

ERSGoodBad, or Indifferent? 

Frankly saying, ERS didn’t change the dominance. After the Red Bull F1 Team and its champion Sebastien Vettel’s four-year winning, the title moved to Mercedes and their eight-year glory package with Lewis Hamilton. However, one thing has really changed.

So, the question is, how can we see the advantage of F1 cars with the ERS? It’s challenging because it’s a mix of the settings, good tires, and the car’s performance that help drivers race faster. Go figure whether the ERS plays a role or not. 

However, we can estimate how much performance cars gain by using ERS when two fast-paced vehicles have run for a few laps, and the car behind finally overtakes the leader. A recent highlight of the above was the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi race when Max Verstappen outdid Lewis Hamilton.

Another evidence of the correct ERS usage is Ferrari drivers who took podiums in qualifying despite being second fastest after Red Bull. Thus, Charles Leclerc is mastering charging the batteries to the maximum before the last super push to gain the purple sectors. 

Last but not least. Fernando Alonso is another professional of using the ERS at the right time. Look at his racing battles and maneuvering on the Brazilian GP 2023. He attacks after a while, preparing by storing the energy, so-called ‘harvesting mode’ for a few laps, and runs for a super throw, overtaking even the superb Red Bull of Sergio Perez. 

So, with the ERS system, drivers got additional speed, acceleration, and better overall performance. In the right hands became a chance to reckon with, resulting in mid-drivers finishing in the top three or even working miracles like Alex Albon scoring points at the slowest Williams car.  

The final verdict is yes. The ERS in Formula 1 is more than good; it’s the perfect option for lagging participants, but this is not the only ace in their pocket. 

Let’s talk about the DRS.

What is the difference between DRS and ERS?

The Drag Reduction System, simply the DRS, like the ERS, helps drivers to go faster. Furthermore, like ERS, DRS is also deployed when the racer pushes the button on the wheel. 

What happens then? It allows the flap in the middle of the rear wing to open. The amount of wind disturbance at the back of the car is been reduced, and the F1 car runs 10km/h faster. 

Another magic button, you may say? Yes, and not. 

The ERS aims to improve the overall performance of the F1 car. It’s a partially driver-controlled system, as the miracle doesn’t work without charged batteries. The DRS is a fully driver-controlled system, but it works in specific zones of the track only. Drivers use DRS primarily for overtaking.

DRS: Good, Bad, or Indifferent? 

The story of DRS started in the 2000s, when there was a need for an additional tool, as in an attempt to pass the car in front, drivers had been struggling with air pollution. The air pollution made overtaking risky and impossible as a result. The FIA implemented the DRS system for the 2011 season. 

Did it change the game? Yes, but it’s not as simple to push the DRS and overtake. It is so far from the reality. Thus, according to the rules, DRS can be allowed at specific times and, as mentioned above, in particular zones. Thus, no DRS during yellow flags, in the rain, the first laps, lagging over a second, etc. … too many don’ts. 

The problem with DRS’s jam is dangerous enough like it happened with Marcus Ericsson at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. His Sauber car’s DRS did not close. So, when he applied the brakes, he lost control at high speed, slamming into the wall. 

Although it does not happen often. So, the significant disadvantage the system has been criticized for is its opposite effect, labeled as the ‘DRS train.

Defensive drivers can only activate DRS when one second behind a car in front. Struggling to overtake through the dirty air, they lose pace, stuck in a group with stable gaps. It cuts the excitement, making the race a boring one.

However, DRS has brought many thrilling overtakes in Formula 1, and it is impossible to imagine racing without this function. So, if not for its opposing effect, that would be the best tool, and the final verdict DRS is good.  

To clarify, DRS is one button that drivers occasionally press, while ERS Assist is another one racers use constantly. Both are required skills, and both tools play worthy roles in racing strategy. Moreover, ERS is not a brand-new innovation, while its MGU-K is the successor of KERS.

drs, ers and kers in formula 1 key points
First corner, GP of Canada 2017” by pedrik is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Why Did F1 Stop Using KERS?

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS, saw the world in 2009. It was a movement to electric power, but slightly ahead of its time.  

Like ERS, KERS recovers energy to power the car’s electric motors, but the primary difference between both is that the energy storage system in the MGU-K (ERS) is always electrical, while the KERS can be electric or mechanical.  

KERS has a maximum energy storage capacity of 400 kJ. It is simpler and cheaper, while ERS can store up to 4 MJ, which is more powerful and complex. 

However, its story hasn’t gained momentum so far, as the system was too large and heavy, lagging in overall performance to the ERS and its MGU-K. 

Why yet, you may ask? Simple. The developments under the KERS are continuing, while new regulations for the engines in Formula 1 2026 force engineers to revise old blueprints. 

So, will KERS return to Formula 1? I think it will happen after 2026 because KERS is a more advantageous option for the financial issue.

Let’s conclude.

Takeaways

 DRS and ERS in Formula 1 are different things – the two different buttons drivers use to gain an additional power boost but in various situations. 

The ERS Assist button helps drivers run fast when they need it the most. On the other hand, DRS gives the racers temporary extra speed, but only at specific times and zones.

The ERS appeared in Formula 1 for a reason. It replaced the KERS, which didn’t bring the expected advantage as it was large and heavy, but the most likely system will be back to Formula 1 in the 2026 season.

What’s the point of all these ‘gadgets?’ To win and make more money. To provide the teams with nearly equal conditions, leaving the chance for even lagged cars to reach the podium, making the sport thrilling, exciting, and attractive. After all, it is Formula 1, where a fraction of a second can be the difference between victory and defeat.  

Thanks to RTR Sports Marketing for providing the knowledge base for this post.  

References

WikipediaKinetic energy recovery systemhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_energy_recovery_system

WikipediaDrag reduction systemhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_reduction_system

The Race, Jack Cozens ‘WERE ALBON’S BEST 2023 DRIVES REALLY ‘WORLD CHAMPION’ LEVEL?‘ (Dec 13, 2023) https://www.the-race.com/formula-1/albon-williams-vowles-best-drives-champion-level-f1/