The Truth About Overtaking

The excitement quotient of a Formula1 race is directly proportional to the number of overtaking moves in that race. This seems to be the logic the powers in the sport used while agreeing to install and then finally installing a DRS in every car. I beg to differ. (Read: What’s Wrong With Formula One)
If DRS is a joke, that there was an ‘Overtaking Working Group’ a few years ago is the bigger joke. For those needing a refresher, the OWG was formed to help come up with solutions to increase ‘overtaking’ in the sport. And of course, the DRS is their addition to the sport. (Also known as the ‘adjustable rear wing’ in its earlier days)
I decided to pen this post for multiple reasons. First, to set the record straight and express what I believe is the truth about overtaking. Second, because I had one of the Facebook pages on Formula1 throw up a post that claimed that the Hakkinen-Zonta-Schumacher moment at Spa was possibly the greatest overtaking moves in modern times – a moment of inspiration. Third, the executive summary of the GPDA fan survey – finally some data!
The best way to explain my view on overtaking is by comparing it with foreplay and climax. I am happy to see cars battle with each other for laps on end without an overtake actually taking place because once the act is over, the excitement drops. Of course, the act is more fun if your favourite driver comes out on top (pun not intended), but that’s beside the point. The DRS fast forwards to the climax even before the act starts. And no, I didn’t get inspired by Bernie’s ‘F1 is like sex’ quote! (Read: Ban The Grid Girls)
For Formula1 to get more exciting, it needs to bring back the act without making the climax predictable. Overtaking is an art and making it artificial and mechanical has done more harm to the sport than good. Drivers have learned the art over years of training and practice in junior formulae only to realise that you might not need it every race in the pinnacle of motorsport any more. This is after realizing that ‘lift and coast’ and not late braking is to be mastered. (Read: Lift And Coast)
One may blame the build of the modern racing cars (their aerodynamic profile) and the tyres, but if there’s one thing that the F1 Strategy Group should fix, it should be this. And it seems that the regulations for 2017 might introduce ground effect aerodynamics and a restriction for front wing design which should help resolve this issue to some degree. (Read: A Strategy Of Errors)
Till then, reliving races and duels from the past and enjoying movies such as Rush is what the new generation of fans will have to be content with. (Read: What Formula One Can Learn From Rush)
Now over to the 40% of the fans who voted in the GPDA survey that DRS has helped improve racing to disagree!
And you are also welcome to read ‘Formula1 Is Cruel’ and ‘Give Everyone Mercedes Engines’.

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

3 comments On The Truth About Overtaking

  • I’ve wondered what use DRS was… you have to be within a second of the car in front of you to have it activated. Personally I’d like to get rid of the detection and always allow it in the “zones” … and make it driver initiated – when they hit the zone, they hit a button and it opens up. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the lead, following, 5 seconds behind, 10 seconds behind or .5 seconds. Or get rid of it all together. For me, one of the boring aspects about it is fuel consumption. Or conservation rather. I think the restriction of having x-liters left at the end needs to go and refueling needs to be brought back. I bet we’d see a lot more battles happen if the drivers could just stomp on the gas and go and not have to worry about conserving fuel to have enough at the end. Given that now they can make an entire race on a single tank, imagine what they might be able to do if on the second or third pit stop, they took on more fuel (yes it’ll add weight mid stream, which may change some dynamics) and could then just flat-out run to the end.

    • Thanks Chris. To all of your suggestions on refuelling, I would also add better racing tyres. Right now the tyres are a problem too. I hope ground effect aerodynamics (set to return in 2017) will bring back wheel-to-wheel racing.

  • Pingback: DRS Has Ruined Formula One, by Kunal Shah - ()

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