DRS has failed in the open position in the past which is something we were assured could not possibly happen and yet it has, it still amazes me how it hasn't caused a massive accident to date, but one day someone is going to run out of luck I just know it just like they did with the ground affect cars and the movable skirts...
At that point though it is definitely a disadvantage. But a driver with such a failure will be able to brake just fine, he just loses lots of downforce. If anything it might result in understeer or a spin, but it shouldn't be anything catastrophic really.
In the season of it's introduction, Adrian Sutil was the first to discover the propensity for unexpected spin when he deployed his DRS early exiting a corner onto a main straight. I can't recall the circuit although I do remember it was in free practice. That the straight was quite wide, and that no-one was directly behind him, was pure luck, otherwise it had the potential to be a very nasty accident. It was following that incident and a couple of similar scares that rules were tightened and activation zones set further away from corner exits.
Interestingly that was never going to be an issue with the so called F-Duct since the drag reduction conferred by that was less dramatic and had a more incremental effect in relation to the speed of the car. That's just one reason why, IHMO, that should not have been banned only to be replaced with the DRS whose use is not entirely under the control of the driver. I also think that if a device is on the car it should be up to the driver as to when and how to use it.
IMHO, F1 has never really been about being "fair" and it's not supposed to be a Mickey Mouse spec' formula for amateurs. Imposition of the DRS is just another symptom of a failure to allow designers and engineers the latitude to explore innovations in every aspect of the car designs. The result is that ever more money is spent to refine elements within ludicrously constricting regulations and the team that finds the magic bullet at the start of a season will likely as not streak off into the distance. That there is so little room for development within the reg's was one reason Red Bull dominated four seasons and Mercedes is likely to dominate this one and possibly more.
It seems that the sport hasn't learned anything from the past fifteen years and, surprise, surprise, this week we have another raft of daft ideas to spice up the show circulating in the rumour mill .
So, how to make the DRS fair ... either ban the ****ing thing or de-restrict its use. If it leads to drivers messing up then that's part of the sport. After all the cock pits are such effective safety cells the odd smash will add a lot of the spice people are looking for.
I think it's hard to say whether DRS is desirable or not. Obviously it's not good if it's virtually impossible to overtake, but since 2011 the balance has shifted firmly to the other direction; overtaking has become too easy. It's a shame the rules have to change dramatically from time to time, which makes it very difficult to see the effect of individual changes. I think either the rapidly degrading tyres or DRS were enough to substantially increase the number of overtakes, but their combined effect is too much in my opinion.
In theory DRS is a good mechanism to compensate for the loss of downforce because of dirty air, but practice shows that its effectiveness very much depends on car setup, making it way too effective for some cars and not really beneficial for others - luckily the cars don't hit their rev limiters at the end of the DRS zones anymore.
I think quite some interesting suggestions have been proposed on this forum. I'd really like to see DRS at the beginning of the straight (if physically possible), or as a push-to-pass button. It may even be interesting to allow the drivers to use it whenever they want to.
However, DRS doesn't take away the root cause of the overtaking problem in Formula 1. The cars are still unable to follow closely, so they are incapable to exploit the reduction in drag on the straights. The natural way to enable is to reduce the wing sizes and to enhance the car's ground effect. So maybe the plank has to go.
The "new" teams were overtaken with ease in 2010 without DRS. And they've continued to be passed with relative ease since then inside and outside of the DRS zone. Or is it a development disadvantage?
I think DRS has been pretty good this year because cars aren't banging off the Rev Limiter 3/4 way down the straight. When cars can accelerate all the way into the braking zone then you have closer fighting.
I haven't heard too many complaints about easy passing this year and I would think that's because DRS has found a bit of a sweet spot with the regulation changes.
The good thing of the turbo engines is that they don't hit the rev limiter, but combined with lower cornering speeds and smaller aerodynamic dependency of the cars, overtaking should be easier than ever. For some reason that's not the case, and DRS is less beneficial than it used to be (which is a good thing I think). I can only come up with two possible explanations: the fuel limit (which possibly encourages fuel saving) and fewer pitstops (as the tyres have become less grippy and slightly more durable) to mix up the field. Is tyre wear the driving force behind overtaking?
Could the field just be more spread out and thus have less close racing? I feel like the new regs spread them out compared to the old ones. They had all for the most part figured them out pretty well leaving smaller differences between the top and mid teams.
Solution such as DRS can never be fair. It's artificial performance leverer, and there is nothing fair in it. I'd not be totally against it, though, on tracks were overtaking is impossible. But not in Spa, for example...
Could the field just be more spread out and thus have less close racing?
That's another possibility, but I don't really know if close racing promotes or hinders overtaking. Larger speed differences will decrease the number of overtaking opportunities, but they will increase the probability of overtaking. Maybe these effect cancel out, but probably there is an "optimal" level of spread across the grid. Perhaps DRS has shifted the optimum to smaller speed differences.