Overtaking doesn’t always equal good racing – Brawn

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In the round-up: Ross Brawn says Formula one mustn’t have the kind of overtaking which doesn’t create good racing.

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Looks like @StefMeister, writing in response to yesterday’s overtaking statistics, agrees with Ross Brawn:

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

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

Falling back on gimmicks and 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 and that is the thing that so many overlook because there so obsessed only on quantity.

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

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65 comments on “Overtaking doesn’t always equal good racing – Brawn”

  1. Let’s look at it the other way: no overtaking does always equal bad racing.

    1. fantastic response

    2. @theodorium It depends.

      If you have a situation where there wasn’t any overtakes & there also never looked like there was going to be then yes that isn’t good. However if you have no overtakes but you had fights over position where there were some good overtaking attempts & where there was always the possibility that an overtake could occur then I think that is good racing.

      Instead of putting the focus on just creating more overtaking, I think the focus should be on creating a situation where overtaking is at least seen as been possible but is not too easy or guaranteed.
      Create a situation where a car behind can at least try & out-brake the leading car, Can at least get alongside to try & pull an outside pass or something or where there is a possibility that the 2 (Or more) cars are pushing each other hard enough that there is always the possibility of a mistake (Which is a part of why I was against high-deg tyres, Drivers not able to push hard due to too much tyre management reduces chances of mistakes been made).

      1. @stefmeister No it doesn’t depend. Like you said, there needs to be the possibility of an overtake, doubt and for that to happen there needs to be overtakes, to prove that these can happen, might not be that the race had a race winning overtake but it means that we believe there might be one. DRS fails show-wise because we already know that there’s going to be an overtake.

        1. @peartree ”DRS fails show-wise because we already know that there’s going to be an overtake.”
          – Most of the time that isn’t the case, though, i.e., even with DRS an overtaking move is far from guaranteed to happen most of the time these days.

        2. “for that to happen there needs to be overtakes, to prove that these can happen”

          I disagree. As the previous post stated, you can have a very exciting race with no overtakes, as long as there were plenty of potential overtakes and battles.

          Unfortunately that’s not going to happen while you need an insane delta just to reach someone’s rear wing…

          1. @jerejj If you are not against a Mercedes engine or you are on a Mercedes car, it’s guaranteed, as if guaranteed that a Honda can’t pass a Mercedes, so I don’t see predictable on the “overtake thesaurus”

            @drmouse Of course you can have a great race without overtakes and potential is the right word, but what I was saying, is that potentially and realistically matter. “There might be an overtake” but there’s no conceivable way this can happen through racing only, to prove it might, there needs to be proof, other races can constitute for proof. If an event has never taken place, obviously the possibility of it ever happening can only be determined as none, 0, almost as if the notion of an event (overtake), it’s existence was unknown. Sure the universe has a seemingly infinite number of possible outcomes. Hypothetically, there’s never been an overtake on the last sector of the Abu Dhabi circuit which it hasn’t, but it might happen because of the seemingly infinite possibilities that are beyond our human scope. Machines fail, people fail, there you have your “overtake” but an f1 driver is not going to overtake, overdrive another there, if so prove it.

        3. @peartree ”If you are not against a Mercedes engine or you are on a Mercedes car, it’s guaranteed”
          – If that really were the case then, for example, Hamilton would’ve passed Alonso straight away when he caught him and got to use the DRS for the first time against him in Mexico. He also would’ve overtaken Wehrlein straight away earlier in that race and Kimi in Brazil if overtaking was automatically guaranteed when using DRS, so your logic is flawed.

      2. @stefmeister I think that is very well said.

    3. Yes, I’d agree with that. There used to be an expression used in F1 circles, “Trulli train”. It came from the line of cars that would appear behind Jarno Trulli at the start of a race. He was very good at Qualifying, so he’d start the race close to the front of the grid, but his race craft was less good, so lots of drivers would be stuck behind him and be held up compared to the drivers at the front.

      1. @drycrust, Nothing wrong with Trulli’s race craft, he was just hard to pass, he would have loved todays tyre and fuel management.

      2. Sundar Srinivas Harish
        6th December 2017, 10:08

        Trulli was a baws defender and an even better qualifier. The Trulli train only came into existence because he drove dogs for the larger part of his career, qualified them way out of position, and then others were stuck behind a slow car on Sundays.

        1. It was called the Trulli train not becuase he was hard to overtake, but becuase everyone was hard to overtake. He just heppened to be the guy in front becuase he was very good at qualifying (or he spent an excessive ammount of attention on a qualifying setup). The turbulent air effect was perhaps even worse then.

    4. And here is the exception that proves the rule: 1981 Spanish GP

    5. Sometimes no overtake is more exciting than an overtake. In ideal situation overtaking is a test of skill and not just press of a button followed by anticlimatic change of positions. But when it is a test of skill the chance of overtake happening itself becomes exciting. There is anticipation, doubt and hope for the spectators. There is uncertainty but also the knowledge that the one who drives better usually comes on top. It also puts both drivers into high pressure situation which is something best any high level sport can offer. The driver in front can use his skill to defend and the car behind can use skills to try to get into position where he can try a move.

      In current day f1 this never happens. If a car is catching other car you either see a button press overtake or not even an attempt. It is either easy pass where the car in front can do nothing because of drs or it is impossible. There is no excitement nor pressure. Just an anticlimatic procession.

      1. @socksolid ”It is either easy pass where the car in front can do nothing because of drs”
        – Don’t try to blame DRS alone for easy-looking passes. I’m not really either in favor nor against it. The point, though, is that people always seem to think that it’s the only factor behind easy-looking passes although it actually isn’t. On most of the circuits, it makes zero difference basically, while on some circuits it might have a more significant impact, but still far from being the only factor. For example, in the case of Hamilton’s charge through the field in Brazil: I’d say his easy-looking DRS-assisted passes into turn one were much more down to the fact he had a fresher engine than the drivers he overtook on his way through the field than DRS. That was my impression at the time as well, for example, when he made his moves on the Renault, and Toro Rosso-drivers. People are always eager to blame DRS alone for easy-looking passes that are completed before the braking point for the approaching corner without thinking about the possible other aspects that could very well have more influence on making them look easy than DRS.

        1. nah, it was DRS.

          of course he was inherently quicker than everybody else given he’s driving a mercedes, but i doubt a fresh engine gets you 20+kmh on a straight.

          1. I would think it could. A new engine near with only 2 races to go would mean they could turn it up. While others having to save their engine will need to turn theirs down to make sure it lasts the required number of races.

            The way I see it there are 3 issues in F1 with regard to good racing.

            1) The cars struggle to follow closely due to the aero.

            2) Many of the tracks just do not lend themselves well to overtaking. This is due to narrow hairpins etc. Look at Canada and USA. They both have at least 1 tight corner that is really wide. This allows a number of lines through and enables a reasonable chance to overtake. The key is to have corners with multiple viable lines.

            3) The restrictions mean that the drivers are spending too much time managing their cars and not enough pushing the limit. Pushing at the limit lap after lap is what leads to small mistakes and therefore opportunities to overtake. How many times have we seen a quick burst of speed from drivers for 3-5 laps, attack a few times then have to drop back to manage the car again… The engine rules are ruining the sport. This part is only going to get worse next year with the ludicrous 3 engine rule!

        2. Hamilton was driving tier 1 car with tier 1 engine. That alone guarantees anyone a top 5 position no matter where on grid a mercedes or ferrari driver starts. All the tier 2 and tier 3 cars were just roadblocks he could effortlessly pass in his super engined mercedes.

          The brazilian gp is perfect example of how f1 fails to deliver on track. Track that has always provided great racing was now nothing more than drs anticlimax. Hamilton breezed by all drivers until he catched an equal car and after that he was totally powerless to even try an overtake (when he catched raikkonen). Without drs hamilton would have at least had to fight to get there which would have made the race better.

          1. I mean even hamilton himself said there was nothing special in his overtakes he did on brazil.

    6. petebaldwin (@)
      6th December 2017, 16:23

      STRONGLY DISAGREE. Imagine the closest fight you’ve ever seen with stunning defensive driving… Hamilton vs Rosberg at Bahrain for example. No overtakes but WOOOOW what a fight!

      Compare that to a race with 100 DRS-only overtakes. I know what I’d rather watch!

  2. Michael Brown (@)
    6th December 2017, 0:52

    Glad Brawn has the right mindset!

  3. “Old F1 logo was not iconic”, “Overtaking doesn’t always equal good racing”… someone is loosing it…

  4. A good race isn’t always defined by the overtaking count, but a race should provide options. If a fast guy cannot even follow because someone designed a piece of crap of a racing circuit, then you don’t even have options to change the order. Not even mistakes forced an overtake, or at least someone going side by side at Abu Dhabi.

    That track will never provide excitement with 2 similarly paced cars and drivers. Even Spain provided entertainment at the top of the leaderboard and that’s not a track famous for overtaking.

    We should avoid mistakes like Abu Dhabi in the future. That’s not a race which will leave the calendar anytime soon but we should learn from the mistakes and try not to replicate them. Save what’s good, minimize what’s bad.

    1. @fer-no65 ”If a fast guy cannot even follow because someone designed a piece of crap of a racing circuit”
      – No, a driver with a faster car has difficulties to follow because of how the downforce (most of it) is generated. That’s the real reason behind the ‘following another car closely problem,’ not the circuits.

  5. Brawn and Di Grassi have both summed up something I completely disagree with. Brawn started off well, then said that wide corners produce better racing

    Overtakes on wide circuits are not exciting when there is 10 metres between the cars fighting each other. Compare that to the second chicane at Monza, where the track is narrow, overtakes are a spectacle, even if they are more rare. Most Tilke circuits are designed with these massive wide entries and the overtakes are mostly textbook and not exciting.

    The best solution would surely be to not use hairpins for all the overtaking spots, and making use of positive camber to increase cornering stability for cars on a wider line. Also, they need to get away from the obsession of every corner being an overtaking spot. You don’t need more than two or three per circuit for it to be exciting, and the rest of the lap should flow to build up to it. Austria and Belgium are perfect examples of this.

    1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      6th December 2017, 7:45


      1. @strontium Absolutely nailed it.

    2. I’m not sure Di Grassi is depicting cars passing 10 metres apart from each other though. His image shows three different racing lines but they all converge at the apex. So it’s just a variety of ways to enter and to exit a corner. Surely that can’t hurt in terms of making for closer racing. Surely that’s better than one line for all, which would greatly increase the odds of a procession. Some tracks, the ones that tend to offer the most odds of processions, at least with these cars so clean air dependent, are the tracks where most corners offer only one racing line for all. And I haven’t picked up on any urgency or obsession from F1 to make every corner a passing spot. I don’t see where Brawn has implied that, and I agree two or three good spots per circuit would be fine. I would think Brawn likely feels the same.

      Perhaps it can be argued that the wide Tilke circuits with their wide corner entries make for routine passes that are not exciting…however, realistically, how often did that happen…and how different can that be as cars get tweaked for closer racing via aero and tire work.

      I envision that they could change even just a handful of corners here and there across the whole season worth of venues, and combine that with other aspects of F1, to help improve the spectacle. Just pick on 6 or 8 corners amongst all the circuits where it is most feasible and most effective to change some of the more procession prone tracks into more exciting ones, and combine that with track surface materials, aero work, ground effects work, and tires…ie. a little bit here, and little bit there, nothing too drastic that causes any one team some massive locked in advantage for 5 years, but rather the racing closer, heading more towards driver vs. driver. Eg. as we’re discussing, let the driver have a say in his racing line at a few more corners than there are now.

  6. Ross is both right and wrong, yes, overtaking per se is not the be all and end all, IMO it’s the number of (skilfull) overtaking attempts ie. getting a wheel alongside, that make for a great race. But, oh dear no no no, we don’t want sitting duck passes caused by artificially crap tyres wearing out, IMO (there is nothing humble about my opinions, nor yours).
    Tracks where guile and skill allow a driver to force the driver ahead into error (without melting his tyres) as RB describes are a joy, tracks that consist (mostly)of straights and angular corners are a bore.

  7. The perfect race from an engineer’s point of view is a boring one! It means they are all getting it right.
    Ideally a train of cars, in team order, slowly pulling gaps, no overtaking as each driver will have the optimum set-up, each driver responding well to radio coaching, information on other teams and strategy calls, so they can’t make bad decisions that might make the race exciting.

    So any deviance from the ultimate (boring race) will be a driver not having the optimum set-up, engineers making mistakes, or bad calls on strategy or other team info passed over the radio, other teams bluffing them, and lasty (yes I believe this comes last) a driver with better race craft might make the difference in catching the faster team in front.

    So never mind changing the tracks or watering them, how do we bring in chances of more mistakes being made by drivers? Or evening the cars up so race-craft stands out more?

    1. Well as the article starts off by saying, they are working on tweaking aero for closer racing. We know the tires will be a little different next year. Could easily be different the year after that too. The new talk now of changing some circuits is just something they are considering right now, and may only result in a few corners being changed here and there. I think the changes Liberty will employ will be multi-faceted and well thought out.

  8. The thing you have to be careful of is that overtaking isn’t good racing.

    E.G DRS.

    You have got to start to think about what is good racing – and it is two cars fighting each other

    I think they know that this is no easy fix. But if they are doing as they are saying and looking at making changes to circuits hopefully that will be a step in the right direction.

  9. No, the circuits don’t need changes, but rather the cars regarding how they’re designed Aerodynamically, i.e., how the downforce is generated.

  10. They could change every single circuit on the calendar into whatever they wanted, and tweak every corner to make it theoretically better for ‘fighting’… but as long as the value of a natural slipstream is utterly trivial compared to the damage caused by dirty air in the corners – like now – gimmick-free fighting between similar-paced drivers isn’t going to happen.

    The circuits (except Monaco, Melbourne, and a few others) aren’t the problem.

      1. I get the impression they know exactly that which you have stated.

  11. As long as f1 has drs there are rarely any real overtakes. Most of the time you just press a button and change positions.

    1. @socksolid It has to stay at least as long as the way the cars are designed Aerodynamically makes following another car closely very difficult. Furthermore, most of the time it makes zero difference in aiding overtaking these days, and that has been the case since 2014.

      1. F1 cars will always be extremely aero dependant because to go fast you need lots of power and big aerodynamics. This means no matter what kind of aero regulations you have the dirty air effect will be significant. They to better racing is to make sure that at the current downforce levels the designs don’t unnecessarily add to the dirty air effect (see the banning of wheel caps) and make sure all other systems on the car don’t make passing more difficult either (fuel saving, massive unparity in engine performance, engine wear saving and tire management).

        People don’t like degrading tires but that is the best way to create real overtakes. But the key is to make sure the tires don’t degrade too easily or otherwise there is too big punishment even for trying a pass because your tires melt isntantly when you try to driver. They key here in my mind is not really degradation but unpredictability. We need tires in f1 that the teams have far less time to study and understand. An extreme example of that would be to use one set of tires for all practise and then another set for qualifying and race. Going into the race the teams have very little info about the tires which would make it harder to get the optimal strategy right. Creating unpredictability.

        1. Can’t entirely agree here. I do agree that aero will always be present. But I don’t agree that no matter what, the dirty air effect will always be highly significant, or at least it needn’t always be the overwhelming factor. They haven’t nearly tried all the different combinations they could wrt wing sizes and shapes, floor work and diffusers ie ground effects. In other words I think they can have their downforce, but more efficient downforce that also creates less wake, and emphasis more from ground effects than from wings. There’s tons of work that can be done in those areas alone.

          We have had rock steady tires, and we’ve had gadgety tires, and we had the unpredictability from, help me here what year was it that we had 8 different winners in the first 8 races? Something like that? Sure the unpredictability ‘worked’ for the first half of that season, but many complained the tires were simply a joke, became explody, and were too much the overwhelming factor.

          So assuming not that aero will always be as negative as it has been this year and others, but that it can be improved for closer racing, combined with tires that the drivers can actually race on without fear of ruining them, so that we get driver vs driver action rather than driver vs disadvantaged driver, which is less enthralling, is to me the way to go.

          Aero will always be present, but F1 can be shaped such that aero is less a
          part of the grip ratio than it has been, with more coming from ground effects, and from the mechanical grip of good tires. Dirty air will always take away from the car behind, but it needn’t absolutely ruin a trailing cars chances of running up close and making passing attempts, including without DRS.

          1. Dirty air is not something that will go away once you find the perfect sweetspot. It is a physical phenomena that happens when the air is disturbed by a car that goes through it. There are ways to reduce the effect but it will always be there. In some cases it is even beneficial effect that can aid overtaking. Like slipstreaming where you drive in the dirty air behind someone else and can go faster because your aerodynamic drag is lower. But that same effect what helps overtaking on straights is what hurts you in corners.

            The thing is the dirty air will always be there. The key is to make sure all other factors work towards making overtaking and racing more possible instead of less. Currently f1 just has so many bad things that hurt overtaking. The aero is the worst but overall many other things are the worst.

          2. @socksolid Agreed and I think I have said the same. Even with smaller wings, floor work etc etc. cars that do better in clean air will always be negatively affected in dirty air. But that negative effect needn’t be handcuffing. It can be made relatively benign by for example giving the drivers good reliable tires that don’t require so much management that that is all they do all day is manage tires and rarely push on them. As long as a driver has more confidence in his car in dirty air than they currently have, things can be better.

            It varies depending on the track, but sometimes a much faster car can’t get by a much slower one. I’m fine with a faster car being held up, but when they can’t even get close due to the tires, and rather have to hang back to preserve them, well, that’s just anti-racing. That’s discouraging racing.

            Yes aero isn’t going away, but I fully believe it can remain integral to maintaining speeds in the pinnacle of racing without handcuffing the drivers overwhelmingly. Mechanical grip, and ground effects, can go a long way to taking something away from the degree of the negativity from the dirty air. And of course smaller but more efficient wings could help. As could regs that help the cars create less wake.

            So for me the ‘sweet spot’ includes dirty air that, while present, is not a big detriment to close racing, just a minor one that the driver can deal with rather than it handcuffing him.

  12. If the cars perform in the race exactly as they do in qualifying, and no driver makes a mistake in qualifying, then there will be NO overtaking, ever, because the fastest cars are already in front of the slower cars at the start of the race. Although having thought about it this is not true as the different tyre compounds are a way to artificially make one car faster than another car. I would love to see a reverse grid race added to the F1 weekend, one qualifying event would determine the starting order for both the reverse and normal start grid. To stop teams from gaming the system you can award a small amount of points for qualifying well.

    1. Make the reverse grid race a rolling start to prevent ultimate chaos at the first corner.

      1. @aliced or, take the car differences out of qualifying and have 20 identical cars for qualifying. Then the grid will not artificially/unfairly be decided, but the best driver gets to start first, who may or may not be in the best car. It will put more emphasis on having the best drivers in the cars.

        Maybe, for the sake of getting to see an F1 car at full capacity (which I know I would miss if they did the above) they could do an average of two qualifying sessions, one with identical cars for the driver, and one with the F1 cars as normal.

        1. @madman But it isn’t artificially/unfairly decided now.

          The fastest car/driver starts at the front & the slowest starts at the back (Penalty’s aside).

          Having them qualify in there non race cars or playing around with multiple sessions & averages… That is artificial & unfair.

          1. @StefMeister I know it is not artificially/unfairly decided at the moment, but like @aliced said, if the fastest car qualifies first and all down the order, then there won’t be any racing just a procession of cars getting further away from each other (In theory as obviously strategy comes into it).

            Personally I like the strategy side of things and don’t think overtaking is a necessity for a race to be good. There have been several times on here I am bewildered at the rate the race score and how negative F1 ‘fans’ are on this site. I want to see the best engineering and driving that is out there and if the best car drives off into the distance and doesn’t race or overtake for the win then I am still perfectly happy watching the race and enjoy watching the cars just fly around and marvel at how amazing they and the drivers are. It is then interesting to see how the other teams react and gain on the best team.

            However, given the premise of needing a mixed up grid for overtaking to occur and thus for it to be an exciting race, I am just trying to come up with a solution that is still merit based that may enable a grid in which the best cars are not necessarily at the front (in what I would consider a fair way as it is still based on the drivers’ results and the driver is part of the team).


      2. @aliced I can honestly say that if F1 ever did reverse grids I’d stop watching immediately as i’m just not interested in F1 lowering itself to that level of gimmickery.

        You have them qualify & then the fastest starts at the front slowest at the back.

        1. I agree. The concept of reversing the grid is simply a bandage to try to mask over the problems F1 currently has with dirty air. Let’s focus, as Liberty is doing, on real solutions, not more gimmicks that would just make
          F1 a laughing stock rather than the pinnacle of racing. There are many many combinations of wing use, floor use, diffuser use, and tire makeup they have yet to try that can make for real and enthralling racing, with no gadgets.

  13. Yes and faster cars don’t mean better racing either.

    Better racing requires stability of rules, a central decision maker, not the teams- unless its by majority and over car aero reduced to an absolute minimum. The rest is dirty air.

  14. More interesting to me is Ross anticipating Mercedes’ dominance to continue. He is ‘worried’ and ‘strongly suspects’ that problems they experienced this season won’t happen again. Consequently, more races like Abu Dhabi 2017 in the next season.

  15. With all due respect to Bottas he is dreaming. Rosberg took an entire career to pip Hamilton to the title and lets be honest, without the grossly lopsided reliability on car 44 in 2016 it never would have happened even then.

    Add in Ferrari and Redbull closer than they ever were in 2014 – 2016 and his title chances are a solid 10-20% at best.

    1. Yes he’s dreaming. LH always has another gear. As you say they had to swap LH’s mechanics and NR had to have a whole career run up to beat LH. ONCE !

      I wouldn’t put money on Alonso beating LH. Having said that I wouldn’t put money on LH beating Alonso either but Bottas is nowhere near their class.

      Engineers will love him though, no problems, does what he’s told, small ego – for F1, quick enough. Doesn’t unduly ruffle the No 1

    2. Indeed, it took Rosberg a decade and all he could bring. It would be quite a feat for Bottas to really be close enough and have a fighting chance against Lewis in at least some races where they are really fighting for something. Although we can hope that AbuDhabi helped Valtteri to find the motivation to go for it.

  16. Completely agree with Brawn. 90% (if not more) of the overtakes generated by Pirelli’s idea of high degradation tyres are just drive-by’s on the straight. No one cares if a car drives past another with zero effort.

    I get why Pirelli tries to keep vindicating how their (and Ecclestone’s) idea was great all along, but it just isn’t.

    Also, F1 (FIA, FOM, Liberty etc) should not try to increase the number of drive by’s, but they should work on reducing the lap time difference needed for overtaking. ie cars should not be stuck behind another if they are a second or more faster per lap.

    That’s when the real overtaking takes place. Cars reasonably closely matched and then struggle to get past. Now they try to get close and then when they get within 2 seconds of the car ahead they start drifting off due to a loss of downforce.

    1. Agreed. Well said.

  17. Wasn’t the first time, but it will be the last. Deleted my comment? F1Fanatic is no longer in my faves and will be no longer visited by me. Censoring = fascism. Nuff said. Never again.

  18. Surprised nobody has mentioned the proposed LMP1 change, I think that is a great idea. Nice to see a driver giving a detailed opinion on it too.

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