Drivers confused by DRS zone removal

Esteban Ocon navigates the run to Turn 9 which formerly had a DRS zone

A host of drivers have been left confused by the FIA’s decision to remove the DRS zone along Lakeside Drive on Saturday of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. reported yesterday morning that the governing body was looking at the stretch, which was added this year following the removal of the Turn 9/10 chicane.

The news was subsequently confirmed shortly before Free Practice 3 with the FIA citing “safety reasons” for the zone’s removal.

Speaking after qualifying, a number of leading drivers were perplexed by the decision, suggesting the section is no more dangerous than those at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“I don’t really understand it because for me it was way easier than doing it, for example, in Jeddah, because there’s way more corners,” said 2021 world champion Max Verstappen.

“For me, there was never any issue with driving there with the DRS open.

“You have to ask the FIA why they took it away. It’s a shame because it would have helped the racing.”

At Ferrari, where porpoising has been more of an issue this weekend, Charles Leclerc admitted the zone was a little more difficult for him.

“On our side, with the heavy bouncing that we have, with the DRS it was quite tricky sometimes,” the points leader said.

“But yeah, with or without, it’s not a big difference for us.”

It’s understood Alpine was the squad which lobbied for its removal, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon being among the fastest in the speed traps.

The elimination of the DRS zone therefore goes some way to protecting that advantage.

Alonso downplayed his team’s role in its removal, claiming it was the generally held belief in the drivers’ briefing that Turn 9 was enough of a challenge without the added complication of DRS.

“It was a general view that into Turn 9 it was enough corner to be fighting wheel-to-wheel with each other tomorrow with the DRS open,” Alonso said after qualifying.

“So I think the FIA, for safety reasons, decided to stop it.

“I don’t think that there was a huge impact on the team.”

However, the Spaniard appears to be in the minority, with Lance Stroll having told after Friday’s running that the section was not especially tricky with DRS open, a view both McLaren drivers share.

“I don’t think it needed to be removed at all,” opined Lando Norris and agreed with by Daniel Ricciardo.

“If you compare it to Saudi for instance, you pull just as much G[-force] in terms of cornering there and there’s just as much of a speed as you do here.

“I think it’s just if there was a chance of it, they [Alpine] would do it because they’re very fast in the straights and it benefits the Alpines quite a bit because of that.”

The zone has not been added back, meaning the Albert Park circuit will maintain the three DRS zones it had throughout Saturday for today’s race.

The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix gets underway at 15:00 AEST today.

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