Pirelli data shows overtaking fell by 47% in 2017

2017 F1 season

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Overtaking moves fell by 47% during races in 2017 according to data published by Pirelli.

Formula One’s official tyre supplier recorded the lowest average number of passes per race since it returned into the sport in 2011.

It claimed 435 overtaking moves were performed during the 20-race season, an average of 21.75 per race. This compares to 866 passes during the 21-race 2016 season, an average of 41.23 passes per race.

More overtaking moves were also recorded in the 2015 season which saw 509 passes in 19 races, an average of 26.79 overtaking moves per race.

Overtaking was widely expected to be more difficult in 2017 because of the changes to the technical rules which resulted in cars producing more downforce. Pirelli also created a more durable range of tyres this season, but says its 2018 rubber will be less “conservative”.

NB. 24 cars in 2011-12, 22 cars in 2013-14, 20 cars in 2015, 22 cars in 2016, 20 cars in 2017

The most overtaking moves in a race this season was recording in Azerbaijan, which saw 42 passes. However Pirelli only recorded a single on-track overtake during the Russian Grand Prix. There were 31 passes during the rain-affected Chinese Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo completed the most passes during the season with 43. He also made the most passes in a single race, performing 13 passes during the British Grand Prix. His team mate Max Verstappen was one of two drivers who was overtaken least: He and world champion Lewis Hamilton were only passed twice all season.

Red Bull made the most passes of any team with 65. They were also the least-overtaken team, along with Ferrari, as each was only passed 11 times.

Pirelli defined an overtaking move as “one that takes place during complete flying laps (so not on the opening lap) and is then maintained all the way to the lap’s finish line” and did not include position changes due to major mechanical problems, lapping and un-lapping.

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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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49 comments on “Pirelli data shows overtaking fell by 47% in 2017”

  1. When did Hamilton got overtaken? Can’t remember any. Verstappen’s were in Brazil and?(was china considered?)

    1. I guess letting Bottas back on the last lap in Hungary counts for Hamilton, plus when he was overtaken for the lead by Verstappen in Malaysia. Don’t know Verstappen’s other one.

      1. Verstappen was overtaken by Vettel in China and Hamilton in Brazil.

      2. Counting bottas one is obviously silly, and verstappen certainly got overtaken by hamilton in austin, he was recovering from the back of the grid and was shortly ahead of him before the pit stop, but I also think he was overtaken in china by vettel.

  2. And I honestly don’t have an issue with this because I still don’t believe that more automatically = better.

    I have argued in the past that I believe there is too big a focus on the number of overtakes & that the only thing that focus has done is give us nonsense gimmicks like DRS & high degredation tyres which while generating more overtakes did nothing but produce a lot of easy, low quality & downright boring to watch ‘overtakes’ which did zero to actually improve the racing.

    Falling back on gimmicks & artificial means to generate overtakes does nothing but devalue the product because an artificially generated pass will never be as exciting or memorable as an overtake earned through pure driver skill & that is the thing that so many overlook because there so obsessed only on quantity.

    Overtaking should be hard & seeing an overtake occur should be something exciting & memorable rather than something that is so common & made so easy that everyone can do it & where most of them don’t mean anything anymore anyway.

    1. Totally agree with this. Overtaking does not automatically equate to great racing for me. I have no interest in seeing cars breeze past their competitors on the straights with their rear wings open.

    2. @stefmeister +1 to this.

      Reading the headline, my first reaction was “Really? So the ones that did happen must have been pretty decent”. Looking back, I have enjoyed this season a lot, probably the best since 2012.

    3. For sure. I hope the less conservative tires for next year are also less finicky in terms of their operating temp window. We need to see drivers able to follow more closely for more laps. Hopefully they won’t have too much more downforce next season compared to from 2016 to 2017, and the less conservative tires can start to swing the ratio a bit more in the favour of mechanical grip. Aero remains the bigger enemy to closer racing.

      I don’t know what body of people they were considering when they decided more passes, even at the expense of the integrity of the sport, was the way to go. Had I been asked I would have said passes need to remain rare and special. Had those who were asked (if anyone actually was) been told the solution for them would be fake passes via a defenceless opening rear wing, I wonder how the ‘voting’ would have gone.

      I’m not sure if there is an understanding in today’s smart phone era of the difference in quality vs quantity in passes. But I do think that closer racing without DRS is the only way forward anyway. Driver vs driver on the track is always what they should be striving for. The driver vs defenceless driver tact is not enthralling and the audience that needs to see that is a fickle one. Driver vs driver F1 is what creates life long fans.

    4. Spectators car about the number of on-track battles, not so much about the number of overtaking moves, so that’s why only few people like DRS. However, due to the more durable tires, there weren’t too many on-track battles, and therefore there wasn’t too much overtaking.

      1. They’ve had tire competitions in the past (I refuse to call them ‘wars’ unless we call all aspects of competition within F1 a ‘war’) and the resultant durable tire eras had processions as well. We have processions now, unfortunately with DRS present as a bandage. Over the modern era of years, the underlying enemy to close racing is cars too dependent on being in clean air, drivers too handcuffed to do what we want to see them do, when in said dirty air.

        Aero dependency for speed is the enemy…DRS is not the solution. Tires can be made to be a pain to get operating well, as they have been in these recent years, or they can be made rock steady and dependable and predictable with wide optimum operating windows. We’ve had both and processions with both. The common denominator is clean air dependence and that’s what we still sit with today. I’m hopeful that a gradual swaying toward ground effects and less aero, combined with tires that just let the drivers drive on them rather than having to also be artists at tire management when we need to see them be artists at passing, is in the works, in a steady deliberate way that won’t catch the lesser teams behind due to their lesser resources for reacting to abrupt changes in the regs.

        1. As usual, @robbie has nailed it.

          The tire wars are not the answer. The high number of passes because one driver’s tires were worn down is as fake as a DRS pass.

          Aero is the enemy of good racing here. Get rid of the HUGE, complex front wings. Make them narrower, limit them to 2-3 elements with a total of ~250cm^2 on each side.
          Let them have more fuel and higher rev limits. Add another 50kW of power to the KERS and double the energy per lap from 4MJ to 8MJ. Make both the front and rear tires another 50mm wider.

          The lap times would be similar to what they were this year and the cars would be able to follow each other much more closely….and the drivers could race! We could see passes in turns rather than waiting for DRS passes on the next straight. And we’d get to see who could DRIVE their car and handle the curves the best rather than which car had the most downforce gluing it to the track.

    5. COTD stuff right here

      1. +1 Got my vote!

    6. @StefMeister – That is a big, fat, 100% agree from me

  3. It’s really not about quantity. I can barely remember a ‘classic’ overtake since the introduction of DRS, as every pass essentially has to have an asterix next to it.

    I’m fine with there being less overtaking, but I think we can all agree we’re a bit fed up with one driver struggling to follow another.

    It’s really interesting to see Liberty entertain the idea of modifying some circuits. As a circuit designer, this is obviously potentially great news for our industry, but it’s perhaps an indication of what a tightrope Liberty is having to walk. Standardised aero parts/cuts in aero staff don’t seem to be on the agenda, as this would upset many of the manufacturers and/or potentially damage the ‘DNA’ of F1, so perhaps this is their compromise in finding a means of ditching DRS while opening up opportunities for overtaking, all while retaining the complexity of F1’s aerodynamics?

    I think modifying the tracks is a decent idea, perhaps on the proviso we leave the current versions unchanged and simply create a few ‘F1-only’ sections as add-ons.

    Interesting times ahead.

    1. @ecwdanselby I’d be very nervous about seeing them change corners/circuits in the name of better racing because I don’t like the prospect of good, challenging corners/circuits been modified into something that isn’t as good.

      Many circuits for instance have already changed corners in the name of creating better racing. Turn 10 at Barcelona, The Bus Stop at Spa, Variante Alta at Imola, The final few corners at Magny-Cours, The final chicane at Suzuka, The new loop at Silverstone, Rascasse at Monaco, Turns 1 & 12 in Hungary, The 1st corner at Nurburgring & the 1st 2 chicanes at Monza.

      Those were all changes done to promote better racing & while in many of those cases the changes worked, I don’t think the corners/sections we ended up with were better. The old Turn 10 at Barcelona used to be a medium speed, long left hander where getting on the throttle was tricky yet now it’s a nothing hairpin. The old Bus Stop at Spa used to be a fun little challenging corner where you could lose/gain a lot of time where balancing the car over the kerb was vital yet now it’s just another fiddly little slow chicane.

      If there is a corner or section of track that currently isn’t especially good or challenging & it can be changed for the better then fine. But taking a currently good section of track that provides a good challenge for car/driver & changing it purely in the name of racing & ending up with something worse (The proposed alterations to Melbourne for instance) then I don’t see that as a positive.

      1. As mentioned in my previous statement, a compromise could be to [i]retain[/i] the current sequences, while providing an extra ‘route’ for the F1.

        Whether this is cost-effective is another question, and ultimately a question for Liberty and the circuit owners.

    2. It’s really not about quantity. I can barely remember a ‘classic’ overtake since the introduction of DRS, as every pass essentially has to have an asterix next to it.

      I thought Max overtake in Japan on Vettel was classic AND without DRS (ok it was in the first round but at turn4)

  4. Hamilton did only 2 overtakes for all season, are you kidding ? Look at Mexico and Brasil?

    1. No, you’ve got that backwards…

  5. To bad they do not provide statistics for overtakes/passes… DRS is the bleeding wound of F1, another is poor ability for a faster car to catch up and overtake within a wake of another car.

    Oh well, we asked for this, some of the overtakes were quite nice, and there was more racing going on than last year. Quality of racing improved (IMO) by 47%.

    1. I didn’t ask for this. And I’m not sure who did but I wonder if it was the suits at CVC. I wonder if those who had input, if anyone actually did, would have agreed with DRS if they were told up front fake and meaningless passing was going to be the result. Or, might those who were supposedly asked, have thought by asking for more passes, less aero was going to be the solution, not temporary less aero from an opening wing that leaves a driver ahead utterly defenceless, thus taking away the art of the overtake completely.

      1. We – the fans, asked for this 2011 or 2012 or so… racing was boring, Red Bull dominated everything, overtaking was impossible.. narrow rear wings and wide front wings failed to result in proper racing…

        Thus DRS was introduced… we asked for good close racing… they gave us DRS… :p *facepalm*

        1. Hmm…don’t recall getting the questionnaire…just teasing. Interesting you cite 2011 and 2012, the two highest bars on Keith’s average number of passes graph.

          I think we also have to consider, with RBR’s run, that fans always tire after too many years of one team dominating, so rules get changed to try to upset the dominating team as they hope another team does a better job with the new regs and starts to make inroads on the dominant team. RBR had their rear diffuser work curtailed to the point of Newey feeling neutered.

          The current regs jump from 2016 to 2017 had a bit of positive effect on Mercedes dominance, especially earlier on, but ultimately that didn’t last and they still won the WCC by a mile. At least Ferrari did a good job getting much closer to Merc than they (et al) have been since the new power units were introduced, which completely shot down RBR and promoted Merc to what many complained would be years of domination from them, due to the token system of holding back development on Pu’s. One wonders if that is still at play, but at least with stability in the regs for now, Ferrari and RBR may be advancing. Mercedes will still be extremely strong next year. And with the dirty air effect ever present, ‘all’ a team needs to do is quali high, and then they likely will rarely be passed.

        2. We weren’t directly asked. We were, however asked if we wanted more overtaking (and it was low enough at the time that it was a problem) and we said “yes” on three different surveys – 2005, 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be had decided before the 2010 survey was even released that they knew exactly how to get more overtaking, and foisted DRS and blancmange tyres on us (along with banning refuelling, which has been moderately more successful, partly due to the tyres). They were wrong, but only this year has there been any suggestion that they realised it was the wrong way to fix the problem..

  6. These statistics have to be taken with a big pinch of salt. Apart from the obvious lack of differentiation between DRS and true passes, there is the other factor of a good car starting with penalties and scything through a good chunk of the field – e.g. any of the big 3 making up over 10 places even after the first lap.

    Red Bull … were also the least-overtaken team, along with Ferrari, as each was only passed 11 times.

    Now this is interesting – since both these teams were contesting the #2 spot behind Mercedes, it just goes to illustrate how little challenge the top 3 had from behind them.

  7. ”Overtaking was widely expected to be more difficult in 2017 because of the changes to the technical rules which resulted in cars producing more downforce.”
    – The problem isn’t the amount of downforce, though, but how it’s generated.

    1. I get the gist of what you are saying and assume you mean more can come from ground effects and less from wings. Ground effects theoretically are less affected in dirty air, but I seem to recall a post on here over the last year or so that refuted that, and it seemed convincing.

      I am of the belief that the science is complicated but also that F1 teams have been able to do what they prefer more so than have they been motivated to do it right for F1 overall. I think there are many combinations they have never tried, in the way of shapes and sizes of wings and floors and diffusers all combined at the same time, with close racing in mind. The teams have had too much power to vote for what would suits themselves, which I think is usually with the thinking that they want the guy behind to not be able to pass. Other side of the coin of course is that they themselves struggle to pass in others’ dirty air, and the end result is little apples to apples close racing, and DRS.

      1. The teams have had too much power to vote for what would suits themselves, which I think is usually with the thinking that they want the guy behind to not be able to pass.

        Yes, I’d agree with that. A car that produces “more” turbulence is harder to overtake than a car that produces “less” turbulence. So the question is could designers be encouraged to design cars that are easier to overtake?
        I suspect one consequence of the original open wheel format (I’m not sure whether it was deliberate or not) was a car that was ahead of another had 2 front tyres producing drag, while the car behind, which was in the turbulent air, had the equivalent of 1.5 tyres of drag, so it was easier for the car behind to get close enough to immediately punish any mistakes the driver in the leading car made. To counter this, car designers were encouraged to produce cars that left a wake of clean air behind the car, so the car behind had less turbulence, hence more drag.
        Straight away, we can see this is exactly the opposite ethos of the modern car designer who wants to leave a wake of dirty air behind the car. Why so? While the modern car leaves more dirty air, which should help the car behind to be in a position to punish a mistake by the car ahead, the modern car needs downforce, and dirty air impairs downforce, i.e. it’s a hindrance to the performance of the car behind.
        As far as I know it isn’t possible to measure the exact amount of turbulence produced by a car, or at least in the situation that happens at a Grand Prix, because you need something like a wind tunnel to do it safely. If it was possible then one could have rules that limit the amount of turbulence. I’m sure there are arguments between teams and stewards over things like half a millimeter, so if one was to measure the turbulence one would have to be able to do it quickly and precisely.
        Besides drag, the other significant effect of an open wheel in clean air is lift, exactly the same as a bird’s wing, where the air going over the surface of “twice the actual speed” top of the tyre generates lift. So the question becomes are turbulence producing wings and ground effects the only way to counter the lifting effect of open wheels, or is there another way?

  8. I believe the biggest problem of Formula One is not the number or quality of overtakes but the sense that there is almost no chance of overtaking in many cases. Once the pit stops were over, I know that the one in the lead will win the race except for Catalunya with the obvious tyre difference.

  9. Good. This metric means next to nothing.

  10. My only wish to Pirelli, and I’m going to put it on my Santa’s letter, is for them to make racing tyres.

    I think that if Formula 1 wants to keep a tactical aspect to its races, the only way is to allow for different fuel strategies, and we all know what that means. But we need proper tyres instead of hundreds of different compounds that don’t bring anything to racing, instead of forcing teams to converge into an optimum strategy, essentially removing the only aspect of their implementation, in fact ripping off all the rules related to tyres would be a step forward. Always talking about road relevance, I don’t see road cars changing tyres to approach short/long travels differently

    If we ditch DRS also, I would be a happy man

    1. There’s probably a lot of potentially different strategies open to teams and their car designers, but only certain combinations of those “a lot of potentially different strategies” are actually worth pursuing, meaning eventually you end up with lots of teams doing more or less the same thing. If there were ten choices of tyres then most teams would probably select similar ones. As much as I detest refueling, if it were allowed then you’d end up with teams using it mostly the same way.

      1. @drycrust don’t agree. Refuelling is more unpredictable and offers more variants strategy wise that might work instead of the optimal tyre strategy that we have at the moment.

        Of course this would be effective if F1 changes to proper racing tyres, which isn’t the case.

        We could see 0, 1, 2, 3 even 4 stops strategies work. Cars starting light and charge through the field (with no DRS preferably) or cars starting heavy and go all the way (I can see a FI doing this at Monaco for example)

        If the tyre concept manages to be consistent, and the variable is fuel, stoping 10 laps from the end or the start would be exactly the same, what happens in between would dictate the finishing result. Nowadays we know what they all would do, with a couple laps difference at best when teams gamble on undercuts, which usually don’t work, because basically the rivals get to know their plan and cover for it. At leats with refuelling we would have some intrigue.

        In my opinion it is the best way to maintain a tactical aspect without resourcing to gimmicks, races would be decided by pace. Also with the added plus on aesthetics, no more boats!

        1. I wouldn’t even mind a mandatory minimum pitstop time, for safety reasons.

          1. @johnmilk Refueling is too dangerous to be rushed, so there’d have to be a minimum refueling time. I believe there would need to be an automatic clutch that disengages the gearbox as well when the refueling hose is attached to the car because there have been cases in the past when the driver was told it was safe to go when the refueling hose was still attached to the car.
            The other problem with refueling is the cost of preparing the equipment for conveying from one location to another. The rig has to be stripped down and cleansed of all petrol before it can be put onto an aeroplane. I’m not sure how the teams currently manage, maybe they still do take their own refueling rig, but in theory there’s no reason they can’t refuel using a bowser hired locally.
            The current system works well, so why change it?

        2. Again we come back to the problem that if the best option is to do “X”, then that is what all the teams will do. Actually, you do see a difference in strategy in that the cars at the back of the grid tend to start on a more durable tyre while those at the front tend to start on a better gripping tyre.
          As I recall, one of the arguments against racing refueling was the racing on the racetrack is what should decide the outcome of a race, not racing in the pitlane (in the wider context).

          1. As I recall, one of the arguments against racing refueling was the racing on the racetrack is what should decide the outcome of a race, not racing in the pitlane (in the wider context).

            Totally agree with that argument.

            I often watch “F1 Classic Races” on Sky and refuelling-era races are almost without exception one of two things… boring as hell because ‘he’s got five laps more fuel’ or very difficult to follow (this is for a huge, experienced F1 fan, who watched it live as well) because of different strategies.

            I’d like to say that refuelling is great for strategy, but dismal for racing. But… in the supercomputer era, it probably wouldn’t even be good for strategy.

  11. This season shows why we can’t judge quality simply by quantity.

    Take Spa. Vettel failing to pass Hamilton doesn’t detract from how good a battle that was. And then take Brazil. Hamilton cruising past everyone doesn’t provide one iota of entertainment.

    That said, the actual racing this season wasn’t as good as 2014. The less complex aero then permitted even equal cars to battle. If we can get racing like that, and the closeness of the top three on the grid of this year we’d have the perfect recipe.

  12. Sad statistics to see, but let’s be honest… I and everyone else knew before the season even started that the new regulations were going to make close racing more difficult, so we could probably have got pretty close to drawing that graph in March.

    Just shows what a horrible, necessary evil DRS is. Can’t begin to imagine how dismal F1 would be without it…

  13. It’s the typical European Socialist answer to everything. Heavy Regulation. Freedom of rules, experiments by car manufacturers. This is what creates competition. Not an expensive spec. car series. Just SAD!

  14. its the lack of innovation individually. F1 = Spec. car series.

  15. Pirelli tends to mistake drive by’s where on car is 3 seconds faster on fresh and/or faster rubber than the other car on worn or slower tyres.

    People keep blaming DRS for these “overtakes”, but DRS gives only a few meters benefit. 3 seconds a lap difference is what the tyres can give.

  16. Who’d a thunk it !

  17. If anyone could compare overtakes per race vs. rate the race rating and see if there is any correlation..

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