what are ers and drs in f1 explained

What Are ERS And DRS In F1 In Simple Terms?

Formula 1 can be full of bizarre terms. ERS, DRS, and KERS confuse even long-time F1 fans. What are ERS and DRS in F1? Let’s simplify these things!

All these technologies serve the same goal: to make the sport more thrilling and exciting. So, ideally, we should be captivated by drivers constantly overtaking and defensive positions at each turn during the race. But it is what is just perfect. The reality is far. We have the dominant 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 a chance to race faster and score points, the FIA Formula 1 introduced special tools and rules that gave an extra advantage to the lagged cars. But does it alter the game? 

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

What Is ERS In Formula 1?

Pick any of the Formula 1 car’s devices, and you will find that all the gadgets that promise to make the most drivers race equally in Formula 1 circle around one thing – the Energy Recovery System, shortly ERS, introduced in 2014. 

The name says it all. The ERS recovers energy previously lost during braking and uses it to power various systems in the F1 car, including the electric motor. Overall, ERS reduces reliance on the internal combustion engine and improves efficiency. 

Sounds great, right?

However, ERS is not an independent part of the car, not the magic element that gives the extra boost, but it is a 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 in Formula 1 

Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic captures and converts kinetic energy during the car braking into electrical energy. MGU-K stores energy 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, it 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 these two fellows is stored in the batteries of the ERS, which are connected to the crankshaft to convert heat and kinetic energy. 

The ERS in F1 car is the king of the additional power, while the ERS Assist button is its supervisor. 

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

Clear, right? Let’s make it more simple.

ERS in Formula 1 helps drivers to race faster, but the primary terms are full batteries and proper operation. 

And yes, someone can call ERS Assist a ‘magic button’ to go fast the entire lap, while racers use DRS to gain a short-time speed advantage.

What Is The Impact Of ERS On Formula 1 Racing?

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. So, ERS didn’t prevent the fastest cars from winning by reducing the gaps between leaders and others. 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. Go figure whether the ERS plays a role or not. 

However, we can estimate how much performance F1 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 mark the purple sectors. 

Last but not least. Fernando Alonso is another professional of using the ERS in F1 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 in Formula 1, drivers got additional speed, acceleration, and better performance. It 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 Formula 1 DRS.

What Is DRS In Formula 1 Racing?

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. 

However, what happens then? DRS 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. 

What’s the difference between DRS and ERS?

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 only – DRS zones. Drivers use DRS primarily for overtaking.

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. 

What Is The Impact Of DRS On Formula 1 Racing?

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, but did it change the game? Yes, but it depends.

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 first problem with DRS is it brings additional risks, like what 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. 

However, 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.

Despite the above, 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. 

what are ers and drs in f1 explained key points
First corner, GP of Canada 2017” by pedrik is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What Does KERS F1 To Do With This?

In simple terms, ERS is not a brand-new innovation because its MGU-K is the successor of KERS F1.

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, and successfully replaced with ERS in 2011. 

Like ERS, KERS in Formula 1 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, while ERS can store up to 4 MJ, which is more powerful and complex.  The first one is simpler and cheaper. However, its story hasn’t gained momentum so far, as the system was too large and heavy, lagging in overall performance to the ERS. 

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.

Setting The Order In ERS And DRS In F1

ERS and DRS in F1 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 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.  


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

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

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