Former F1 technical director Gary Anderson has questioned whether Mercedes' downturn in fortunes this season could be partly attributed to the double DRS system it has employed on its car for the 2012 season.
The system channels air to the front of the car when DRS is enabled to increase performance and had been protested by a number of teams earlier in the year before being declared legal by the FIA.
Although Nico Rosberg secured victory in China, Mercedes has since dropped off the pace to lie down in fifth in the constructors' championship and is now 140 down on Red Bull going into the summer break with Anderson feeling that the much discussed double DRS system is partly to blame.
“Mercedes started the season promisingly, with some good qualifying results at the first two races, and then took a dominant win with Nico Rosberg at the Chinese Grand Prix,” Anderson wrote in his BBC
column. “At that time, there was a lot of attention on their clever 'double DRS' system. This links the rear-wing drag-reduction overtaking aid that is on all cars with the front wing to give an extra boost in straight-line speed by reducing the front wing performance as well as the rear.
“Back in March, the system aroused a lot of controversy, as many of Mercedes' rivals thought it was illegal - and still do. When the FIA declared they were happy with it, the expectation was that the other top teams would quickly follow suit. But that hasn't happened. In the meantime, things have gone downhill for Mercedes. Apart from a strong showing in Monaco, they have never looked close to winning again, and in the last few races they have got slower and slower compared to the other teams.”
Although admitting that the system does benefit the team in qualifying where the use of DRS is free, and can also increase performance through certain fast corners, Anderson added that the negatives left him questioning whether or not the team would be better to drop the system all together and focus on improving its aerodynamics instead.
“Mercedes have a very conventional rear-end aerodynamic treatment and are not trying to exploit the exhaust gases for aerodynamic effect in the way McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull are,” he said. “There is 0.2-0.3 seconds a lap in trying to do that - all produced from greater rear-end grip. If Mercedes want to improve, they would be better advised to build that kind of exhaust system. That would give them better rear-end grip, which would enable them to put the front downforce back on without suffering the rear instability they had earlier in the year. That would give them more overall downforce and the car would go quicker.
“If I was them, I would be thinking very seriously about getting rid of the 'double DRS', unless I was absolutely on top of which circuits it will provide a benefit at and which it will create a deficit. Hungary was probably the circuit where it will affect them most, because of those short braking zones. The next race is at Spa, where the double DRS will provide some benefits, because there are long straights and some kinks where it will be beneficial to run with the DRS open.
“But you have to question, on the evidence of the season so far, whether having it is leading them up a blind alley in terms of their development direction.”