Formula 1 surprised the paddock with the introduction of a fourth DRS zone at the Albert Park circuit, one of the few that already had three in its arsenal. This new zone, which included the section of track from Turn 8 to Turn 9, was removed by the FIA for safety reasons just 20 minutes before Saturday’s FP3 session.
The night before, during the drivers’ meeting, the inclusion of this fourth opportunity to open the rear wing to help with overtaking maneuvers had been the subject of debate, with Fernando Alonso leading the conversation.
Before FP3, race director Niels Wittich asked the teams for their opinion on the safety implications of the area. Five supported the idea of removing it and five opposed it, with Wittich opting to remove it.
After the race Esteban Ocon, who spent much of the race behind other cars, suggested that the additional DRS zone might have helped.
However, he acknowledged that overtaking would have been “risky” with the DRS open heading into Turn 9, which was the argument his Alpine team-mate Alonso had used in the meeting.
“We were very close but we couldn’t overtake,” said the Frenchman when asked by Motorsport.com about the impact of the loss of the DRS zone.
“I think we may have been missing that fourth DRS zone, to be honest. Let’s see, it was probably dangerous to have, but that was the place I was closest to.”
“Making a move [to overtake] at such high speed is risky, and I agree it’s good to take it off for safety, but it’s probably what we lacked today to put on a bit more of a show.”
Sergio Pérez, who was involved in several battles on his way to second position, said: “It was a shame they removed the DRS because I think the race could have been a little better with it.
For his part, Daniel Ricciardo also agreed that there would have been more overtaking with this extra zone.
“I would say we would have had quite a few overtakes at Turn 9 with the DRS there,” said the Australian.
“I saw one lap where I think Lando [Norris] was behind Kevin [Magnussen] , not too long after the restart, he got pretty close going into Turn 9. I think with the DRS he would have caught him, so maybe there was more options with that fourth zone”.
Ricciardo said that overall the changes to his home track were an improvement.
“I think it’s a bit better, but I don’t know [how it went] the rest of the race because the second half of mine was pretty lonely, so it felt similar to previous years,” he said.
“I’m sure there was more overtaking, but being a street circuit you can’t change or modify a lot of things, so you try to do the best you can with what you have.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but I’ll probably have to watch the race again to find out.
Magnussen made a peculiar observation about how he lost downforce when he was right behind another car.
“I had a moment where I was very close at Turn 9 and there was nothing, like there was no downforce at all,” said the Dane.
“If you’re a car away, it’s very good. If you’re right behind him, it’s much worse than in the old cars, but if you’re a car away it’s much better, and that’s better for the race because you can launch an attack a little easier.”
Asked if he had experienced that before with the 2022 Haas car, Magnussen added: “Not like this. I was glued to the other car at Turn 9 and when I braked I locked up both tires at speed, it’s not normal.