F1 sees 20% less overtaking with 9% smaller field in 2015

2015 F1 season

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The number of overtaking moves during the 2015 season fell compared to last year according to data produced by F1’s official tyre supplier Pirelli.

The loss of Caterham meant two fewer cars were entered for this season – a fall of 9%. However the total number of overtaking moves fell from 636 to 509 – a 20% reduction.

While the F1 grid fell from 22 cars to 20 this year, it will return to 22 next year with the arrival of new team Haas.

The Malaysian Grand Prix saw the most overtaking moves with 60, compared to a low of 11 in Australia and Singapore.

The Toro Rosso drivers were responsible for the most passes – Max Verstappen performing 49 and Carlos Sainz Jnr 45. Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg made the smallest number of overtakes – three each – and were also the least-overtaken drivers, being passed just three times each.

Fewer pit stops were made in 2015 – 706 compared to 816 last year, a fall of 13.5%.

2015 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “F1 sees 20% less overtaking with 9% smaller field in 2015”

  1. Hi Keith, can you tell us where we can find the detailed statistics? I’d be curious to have more info about some particular drivers :)

    1. It comes from Pirelli, but the original article is a seemingly inaccessible press release:

      Fortunately, after a quick search one can find it here: https://imgur.com/a/bW0So

      1. So the highest number of kms with supersoft compound is higher than the highest number of kms with hard compound.
        I don’t even know how the motivation could become a justification of that.

        1. @alfa145,

          There are none so blind as them that will not see

          1. How is that even a reply to what I said? Let alone a polite one, since I can smell from here you’re being presumptuous

  2. The only crumb of comfort that I can take from these figures seems to be that the number of pit stops decreased. 22 cars should bring the overtaking figures back up next year, but the number of pit stops will be up as well. Let’s hope the changes planned for 2017 don’t send the overtaking figures plunging again.

    1. Decrease of number of cars have minimal effect on number of overtakes in total. It’s really come down by a lot. We are at 2010 levels right now and it doesn’t look like it’s gonna be picking up.

      1. @ireni, I would disagree with that, as both Caterham and Marussia (as they were then) often fought quite hard on track despite getting very little airtime – for example, those who were at the Chinese GP in 2014 in person noted that Kobayashi and Bianchi fought pretty hard on track, although Kobayashi’s eventual pass on Bianchi didn’t count due to the flag mistakenly being shown a lap too soon.
        Just because they were towards the back of the field, it doesn’t mean that nothing happens there at all, though it is true that we rarely hear about it due to the inevitable focus on the larger teams and those at the front.

        However, by removing Caterham, you removed the only rival that Manor had and, with Manor being so far off the pace relative to the field, their influence on the race is more or less negligible. As Keith notes below, without a closer analysis of whom was overtaking whom, the headline figures are really not telling us that much.

        1. Manors in the race and Mclaren collecting grid penalties every race quite likely added 4 passes per race during the year. Not to talk down Alonso’s stats this year, but we should see the numbers after discounting his lap1 passes on both Manors…

  3. What I miss is a comparison with 2012 and 2013. 2014 wasn’t that great, comparing to the V8 era would be of more interest.

    1. We had around 55-60 overtakes per GP in 2011-2012-2013. Last year it was 45, this year it is 30.

      1. I wonder what the percentage would be if the absurdly gimmicky DRS overtakes were removed.

    2. +1

  4. I assume a frontrunner lapping a backmarker is not considered an overtake? Otherwise Caterham contributed quite a lot in the number of overtakes.

    On average 29 overtakes a race, still not bad.

    1. I meant 27 overtakes…

  5. The first thing that occurs to me is of course we should be about the quality of overtaking, not just the quantity of it. The old DRS thing.

    On top of that, I wonder how much of last year’s overtaking was Marussia-on-Caterham or vice-versa? It may well be that losing Caterham has actually accounted for most of the reduction in passing, because as well as there being no Caterhams to pass and be passed, there are no cars which Manor are likely to pass.

    I also suspect a substantial amount of overtaking comes from drivers being relegated to the back of the grid by penalties or dropping back after mistakes at the start, and coming past the likes of Manor with ease. Another reason to believe not having Caterham this year will have had a significant effect on overtaking.

    1. As you have said, without Caterham and a detailed look at the drivers from faster teams relegated to the back of the field in both years these bare figures actually mean very little. Last year the relegated drivers would have done 4 passes each, this year only 2 passes each, assuming all the cars from Caterham and Marussia were running.

      We could also look at those that failed to overtake, even with DRS, even though being faster because of the turbulence and then the subsequent ruining of tyres. It didn’t just happen to the Mercs.

    2. ColdFly F1 (@)
      14th December 2015, 12:13

      a substantial amount of overtaking comes from drivers being relegated to the back of the grid by penalties or dropping back after mistakes

      Exactly there you have a main reason why a 9% reduction in cars can/will have a major impact on overtaking moves!

      Also (for the statisticians/mathematicians) the overtaking moves will typically reduce more than the amount of cars.
      The reason: there are less theoretical overtaking moves available (combinations of 2 different cars). With 22 cars we had 231 combinations; with 20 cars this became 190 – a reduction of 18%!
      (e.g. in the extreme: if you go from 2 cars to 1, then the amount of cars reduces by 50% but overtaking by 100%)

      1. That’s a very good point, but the effect of field size on overtakes is really complex, as the probability for each combination to result in an overtake is not the same for all combinations. Nowadays, the tire stops bring fast cars behind slow cars, which vastly increases the overtaking potential. In this way the number of overtakes may be roughly equal to the square of number of cars (for example, 1 car overtaking 5 slower cars yield 5 overtakes, while 2 cars overtaking 10 slower cars yields 20 overtakes). However, the non-strategic overtakes may only be proportional to field size (as drivers usually overtake at most a few drivers in this way).

        This year a couple of factors have decreased the number of overtakes: the smaller field size, less tire degradation (and less tire stops) and possibly the very substantial speed differences (Manor were not really participating, although they too got overtaken in most races by drivers who had just fitted new tires). The grid penalties may have compensated for this loss of overtakes, but grid penalties have been quite common for many years. By the way, a lot of these penalized drivers moved up substantially in the first lap (so these overtakes do not show up in the statistics).

      2. Exactly there you have a main reason why a 9% reduction in cars can/will have a major impact on overtaking moves!

        Also (for the statisticians/mathematicians) the overtaking moves will typically reduce more than the amount of cars.
        The reason: there are less theoretical overtaking moves available (combinations of 2 different cars). With 22 cars we had 231 combinations; with 20 cars this became 190 – a reduction of 18%!

        Thank you, I was going to say almost exactly that. Since the number of car pairs is proportional to the square of the number of cars, substracting x% cars is approximatively the same as substracting 2*x% car pairs (when x is not too large).

        So the news is about the remaining 2% of overtakes (the difference between 20% and 18%). Too small to be significant. A big non-news IMHO.

      3. I think the major contributor is the DNFs.

    3. I was just going to say how many of those are DRS drive bys.

    4. 2 more cars in each race would probably increase the number by 2 per GP. Drop is massive, it cannot be explained by 2 less backmarkers.

    5. I’d really like to see how many of these overtakes happen in the first 2 laps (or the first however-many-laps of a wet race). It feels a lot easier to credit those than the DRS passes where the flappy wing not only accounts for the pass, but for much of the set-up for the pass too.

    6. @keithcollantine Not sure the impact of losing Caterham was that great, I’d rather say the performance difference between teams was clearer this year. Just look at the 2015 Driver Standings: two Mercedes drivers, two Ferrari drivers, two Williams drivers, two Red Bull drivers, two Force India drivers … The whole top 10 is filled with only 5 teams.

    7. @keithcollantine Spot on Keith. Overtaking has always been sparse in F1 but the quality of the overtake was always there. I really miss the days were an overtaking manoeuvre was special and celebrated. Nowadays they are routine and more about pressing a button and letting the aerodynamics do most of the work for you. It’s utterly soul destroying.

    8. Spot on @keithcollantine. We’d never consider the number of goals scored as a quality indicator of a Premier League season.

      I really couldn’t care less if there was 50% less overtaking. I miss defensive driving.

  6. Considering the Toro Rosso almost always had relatively weak top speed, it’s even more impressive that Verstappen and Sainz overtook that many cars.

    And considering the hype around Verstappen, the fact that Sainz made nearly as many overtakes as the teenager is another sign that the two were more closely matched than a lot of people have thought (based on a lot of driver rankings and not just on F1 Fanatic). He may be a tad slower than Verstappen, but considering the apparently truly enormous talent of the Dutchman, that’s not a big minus. Sainz deserves more credit for his debut season.

    1. Sainz was the best driver of anyone on first laps. The vast majority of his overtakes actually comes from first laps (I believe he had more than 40 positions won on first laps during the entire season), which I have to admit is very impressive and clearly he is a specialist at that (and also started at the back of the grid a few times).

    2. While I do think you’re right about Sainz having done a good job too, when you look a bit deeper into those stats you probably still might find some more clues about the difference between both drivers.

      Sainz had on average a higher starting position (so he needed to overtake lesser cars) and how many overtakes did actually stick ?…I can remember Sainz overtaking on more than a few occasions, but losing the place a bit later on again, while with Verstappen that almost never happened. On the other side, the number of Verstappen overtakes would have been much lower if it wasn’t for the many qualifying mechanical problems and engine gird penalties he suffered.

      1. errm ok, so unbiased…. disagree with those generalisations sorry

  7. Interesting how 2015 had significantly more passing per race than seasons like 2003, 2008, and 2010. Despite that, those seasons are still wildly regarded as better than 2015 by a mile. This just shows how little DRS has actually solved.

    High way overtakes do not make a season exciting. A close championship fight with evenly matched teams is what makes a season exciting. Cars that can follow each other closely also helps, of course.

    1. @kingshark – many passes this year were made on yet-to-stop drivers, significantly increasing the numbers. The same applies to 2011-2014. There was no such thing in the refuelling era. I do not consider them overtakes for position.

      But as you rightly said, it is the closeness of the championship fight that determine how exciting the season is. 2007 had generally dull racing and exciting title fight, 2011 the opposite. ’07 is regarded as a classic, ’11 as a boredom. Yet every time I would want to watch races I would pick up 2011 ones as they were much more exciting.

      1. @michal2009b
        Indeed, 2007 and 2011 are polar opposite seasons. Perhaps a season most comparable to 2011 would be 2001, which also had a very one-sided title fight, but had plenty of exciting races.

        However, unlike 2011 (which had tonnes of classic races), 2015 was not even remotely interesting in terms of on-track action either. Of course there were some exciting races, but every season has those. The vast majority of races in 2015 were dreadfully boring and predictable.

        The thing is, that even in some of the few so-called “boring” races of 2003, there was a story behind them. Malaysia, San Marino, Spain, France, and Monza might not have been particularly entertaining, but they all added individually to the story of the championship.

  8. Not too surprising really, you would expect the % of overtakes to reduce more than the % reduction in size of field (if other factors remain the same). With 9% fewer cars, there will be more than a 9% reduction in the number of cars lapping within (say) 3 seconds of each other, hence less chance of overtaking opportunities. Not sure what the expected % of overtakes reduction should be but some clever person could work it out i’m sure (based on length of track, number of cars circulating etc). That said, there did seem to be other factors making it more difficult to pass this year – let’s hope the trend doesn’t continue next year, or the year after for that matter.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      14th December 2015, 14:53

      @keithedin – Yeah but the reduction in the field was Caterham… How many overtakes did they contribute last year?

  9. I think too much emphasis is put on numbers these-days & far too many seem to believe that more is always better.

    This season won’t be looked at as a classic, However the reason for that will have very little to do with what the overtaking figures were & more to do with how little competition there was at the front.

    For example people look back at seasons like 2005 as been good despite there been a lot less overtakes than what we had this year & the reason for that was that there was a good title fight & the racing/overtaking we did get was quality & genuinely exciting to watch unfold.

    IMO A race which features 50 overtakes is not necessarily better than a race which only featured 10 (Or even less) because I believe its the quality of the racing that’s far, far more important than how many overtakes there was.
    Again here’s an example, The 2006 San Marino Gp is remembered fondly because we saw a great battle for the lead between 2 of the best drivers of the time (Alonso & Schumacher) yet that race seemingly featured only a single on track overtake all race. Its the same if you look at races like the 1992 Monaco Gp, Not a lot of overtaking went on but we all remember the great fight for the win between Senna & Mansell.

    F1 & a lot of fans are far too focused on quantity alone nowadays & quantity doesn’t always equate to quality or excitement & its that which should be the focus IMO because its always the quality racing battles that create those exciting moments that are fondly remembered.

    1. @stefmeister – I generally agree with you. This year’s Brazil race have had 30+ (fake) overtakes but the top six remained unchanged throughout the race! Hardly an exciting one. However I do believe it is more of a nostalgia about 2005. This season was better of course than this one but most of the races were snoozefests and the title fight was never fully on. I doubt many people consider it as good/great. 2005 pale in comparison to the following three. I also now hear people wanting 02/04 back as drivers pushed all the way :)

      1. Gavin Campbell
        16th December 2015, 19:09

        I agree this years last few GP’s were an exercise in watching paint dry.

        I also feel that a lot of the races this season were dull after the starts, there were people who dropped back but then would power past a few opponents once DRS came online. Then we had out of position drivers being motorway passed as they were trying to long out the tyres for one less stop. There were very few gambles for another set of racey tyres or people holding out when the rest of the field went for another set. There were few challenges out in front or for prominent positions where we got to watch some will they/wont they action.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      14th December 2015, 14:52

      @stefmeister – the old quality vs quantity debate. Well I’m sure we can agree that the quality has been absolutely terrible……!!!

  10. Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg made the smallest number of overtakes – three each – and were also the least-overtaken drivers, being passed just three times each.

    Wow, that really does say it all about the “fight” at the sharp end of the grid this season!

  11. The numbers don’t look good at all, do they? What is worse is that a lot of these overtakes were completely dud due to the driver being ahead well before the corner thanks to the wonderful DRS. It’s not just the quantity of passes which has dwindled, but the quality too.

    IndyCar had a race at Fontana this year. There were 2537 on-track overtakes in that race, and that is not including cars being lapped. That’s before the other 15 races are mentioned.

    The quality of the overtaking in the World Endurance Championship at every round this year was phenomenal. When it wasn’t the sensational Audi vs Porsche battle, the LMP2s and the GTEs were also providing brilliant DRS-free overtaking.

    1. 2537 passes? Who counted them?

  12. petebaldwin (@)
    14th December 2015, 14:49

    Nothing could sum up this season more perfectly – Lewis and Nico made a combined 6 overtakes. They made more against each other in Bahrain alone last year!!!

  13. Have to agree with all who say it is about the quality of the passes and not the quantity, which is what makes it so depressing that they went the direction of DRS, thus selling out on their own historic mantra. Passes in F1 were always supposed to be rare and special and therefore talked about for decades afterwards, as some passes still are to this day. No DRS pass will ever be discussed for minutes after a race let alone decades. Nor should passes made by one bloke over another bloke who was simply defenseless as his tires were that gone, or he just didn’t want to risk ruining his overall strategy by defending, or following too closely, thus killing his tires and his computer’s race plan.

    Simplify. Get the cars racing more closely and get rid of DRS. Get back to a handful of special passes per race that will be memorable, will separate the men from the boys, and will get us back to honoring gladiators out there as Greats achieving great feats rather than today’s passengers monitoring systems with no chance of doing anything idolic nor being categorized amongst the Greats of the past.

  14. @keithcollantine In the article you say that Lewis and Nico only made three passes each all season. I have a very hard time believing that this is true.

    Some Rosberg passes this year:
    -Both Williams at Silvertone
    -Bottas into the final chicane at Suzuka
    -Vettel on lap 17 at Bahrain (nominated for pass of the season)
    -Hamilton at COTA
    -Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat at COTA
    -Quite a few in Hungary after falling down the order a bit
    -Most of the cars that stayed out after the SC in Malaysia (Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Sainz Jr., Perez)

    Hamilton passed more than three drivers on his way back through the field in Hungary. He was 9th, fought back up to like 4th then got pushed back down to 12th and fought back up to 6th. In addition, he made quite a few passes at COTA, passed Rosberg in Russia, and most of the cars that stayed out in Malaysia.

    1. +1
      I believe Rosberg had to overtake Vettel 3 times in Bahrain alone.

  15. Bernie is actively working on having more passes per season, his solution is typical of the mans genius, more races.

  16. And usually they were valueless.

  17. Wasn’t the best season. These stats does not surprise me 1 bit.

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