Start, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2018

IndyCar claims 366 passes in yesterday’s race – F1 averaged 22 in 2017


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IndyCar’s season-opening race in St Petersburg yesterday featured 366 overtaking moves according to the championship, a figure which dwarfs the total seen in a typical F1 race.

Sunday’s race was the first for the IndyCar’s new, lower-downforce aero kit on its standard-specification Dallara DW12 chassis. The series credited the new design for producing a lively race.

Sebastien Bourdais, Coyne, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2018
Video highlights: Bourdais wins IndyCar season-opener
“The new car produced incredible racing throughout the field, as there were a record 366 on-track passes to break the old race record of 323 set in 2008,” said the championship in a statement. Yesterday’s raced was run in dry conditions whereas the 2008 race was affected by rain.

Last year Formula One saw an average of 21.75 passes per race and a total of 435 for the entire season according to data published by Pirelli.

Part of the difference between the two figures arises from the different approaches taken in counting the number of overtaking moves.

IndyCar told RaceFans it counts a pass as “an overtake made on the racing circuit” which “includes position passes, overtaking made when a car is lapped or unlaps itself and on the opening lap.” The figure counts all passes made under green flag conditions on every lap of the race but not those where a car had pitted or retired from the event due to contact or technical failure.

F1’s official tyre supplier 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.

There were 24 cars on the grid for yesterday’s IndyCar race, four more than there was in F1 last year. Overtaking fell 47% year-on-year in F1 last season, a change which was widely blamed on new regulations which led to higher-downforce cars.

The first IndyCar race of 2018 was won by Sebastien Bourdais after long-time leader Robert Wickens was eliminated in a crash on the penultimate lap of the race. Wickens led 69 laps of the 110-lap race.


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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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73 comments on “IndyCar claims 366 passes in yesterday’s race – F1 averaged 22 in 2017”

  1. I’d prefer quality to quantity.
    So, were there good passes worth watching and enjoying? That’s the true indicator.

    1. The race was exciting and competitive with dramatic looking and difficult cars. It was edge of the seat stuff which is exactly what I want from a motor race. F1 is great if ‘dirty air’, ‘tyre drop off’ and ‘engine management’ are the kinds of things that you enjoy.

    2. I bet out of those 366 passes, the number of quality passes still surpassed the average number of F1 passes, which were themselves probably not comprised of the quality passes you were looking for.

    3. @phylyp – couldn’t have put it better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’d rather watch 1 stunning overtake than 100 DRS passes.

      366 overtakes is an astonishing figure though. It’s definition would be interesting. There were a lot of crashes near the front; if the leader crashes out from a field of 20, were there 19 overtakes that lap? I’d say not and “position change” does not equal “overtake”. Clarification from the figure-maker would be good (as the article has mentioned).

    4. @phylyp Having watched it live I would say yes – it wasn’t as if there were loads of tediously inevitable passes like you get with DRS. But I would like to know how the figure of 366 was arrived at as it seems way too high. I have asked IndyCar for an explanation. That said they did have a lot of caution periods (seven) which did lead to more passing as well. I expect this may turn out to be a peak and in subsequent races we see a drop in the amount of overtaking, as the potential for variability is going to decrease as teams get to know the new-style cars better.

      1. I thought the same… It’s surely a mistake. Maybe 50?

        1. Is an Indycar a vehicle with a feather stuck on it’s engine cowling
          and do the drivers make funny whooping noises as they drive…….

          1. IndyCar has replied and explained how their figure is calculated. This has been added to the article. As you can see there are some significant differences.

      2. Nice to hear from those who watched it @skylab @keithcollantine
        So even if the number is dodgy, the racing & overtaking was good, that’s great stuff for IndyCar. Let’s hope F1 moves towards that.

      3. There aren’t DRS passes but I learned recently that drivers are limited when it comes to defend the position, is that right?

        1. That’s right. No “blocking” allowed in Indy.

          1. @johnmilk @osella-alfaromeo Yes the rules are a bit different. Drivers can move off-line to defend but only proactively, not reactively. For example if Driver A is leading Driver B, Driver A can move off-line to cover the inside of a corner, but not if Driver B has already made a move to go down the inside.

        2. They might not have DRS, but they do have “push to pass”. Not that dissimilar

          1. that is just a mode, they can use it to defend as well

          2. And is that not just as gimmicky as DRS?

          3. Yeah I think each driver has 120 seconds or so of push to pass gadget time per race, and they can’t engage it for more than 15 seconds at a time. I think they are also restricted on a few other occasions like at the very start, but not entirely sure. Nothing prevents two drivers racing each other with this boost engaged, not unlike the possibility of several cars in F1 having their drs open if they had all been trailing each other going into a zone.

            I find myself with a little more understanding of the push to pass gadget in Indycar because of their very spec nature of the series. But I do wonder if now, with so much less downforce, they need it to promote passing, or if the lack of negative dirty air effect could make the push to pass option unnecessary to have in the cars.

          4. they are totally different. push to pass is sort of like the original KERS system in F1.

          5. @kgn11 so the inumerous amount of modes in a F1 car are gimmicks to you as well?

      4. Push to pass or drs not alot of difference really

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          13th March 2018, 12:36

          It is though. DRS has to be used in a certain place on the track, PTP can be used wherever. DRS can’t be used to defend whereas PTP can. You can’t waste DRS because it’s unlimited if you are 1s behind – PTP is limited so you have to make it count.

          They are both buttons in the wheel that make the car a bit quicker but they are quite different.

      5. Have to agree Keith
        I watched the race 3 times now and can only account for 365 overtakes. That’s 2 overtakes less than JB did when he won in the wet in Canada :)

    5. Super exciting, fun racing. If you like open wheel it’s great to have another series to watch in addition to F1. It is possible to be fans of both. Pick a few drivers to follow and root for and it gets much more interesting.

    6. There were indeed– But I watched that race, and I didn’t see 366 passes. Was a pretty good race, although the St. Pete track has never impressed me.

  2. Also, how long was the indycar race in total km? Not that it matters too much but still

    1. Same as F1.

    2. Approx 200 miles, cars took 3 or 4 pit stops for tyres and fuel.

  3. I don’t believe it… That’s an average of more than 15 passes per driver… On a street circuit??

    1. maybe they are counting overtakes when someone DNFs, for example they added 20 overtakes when the leader crashed out

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        12th March 2018, 18:07

        I think that must be right because there weren’t 300+ overtakes. It was a really exciting race though – nothing ever felt inevitable which is rarely the case in F1.

        1. sure it’s not an inevitable result when the leader is taken out by the 2nd place car giving the win to the 3rd best guy on the day, but that doesn’t make it a good race. I saw lots of mistakes, and to be blunt, amateurish driving that didn’t impress me. How many yellow flags were there as a result of driver error?? I’m trying to give Indy a chance this year which is how i got into F1, but I didn’t see anything that will keep me around as a fan yet.

          1. Keep in mind that the cars lost a large chunk of their downforce this year, which led to a lot of sliding, and high degradation on the tires.

            At the very least, make sure you catch the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports. It’s a fun little track.

  4. Neil (@neilosjames)
    12th March 2018, 16:35

    So that’s something like 3.3 overtakes per lap, from a field of 24 cars. That seems insanely high, so either the race was a confusing mess or they’re counting overtakes in a creative way.

    Sadly I don’t know which… would love to be able to watch Indycar, looks quite good fun.

  5. I believe the race duration was 2:17:48, which is 8268 seconds. So there was one overtake every 22.6 seconds. I find it interesting to see Indycar averaged one overtake every 22 seconds, while F1 averages 22 overtakes every one race.

  6. Hard to believe that. I tried to watch the Grand Prix – missed the start and started watching while they had their first caution. Pretty much nothing happened on track to be fair and I stopped watching when the leader was on lap 50 or something. I’ll surely watch another IndyCar race this season as St. Petersburg is a rubbish track and it might give negative view for IndyCar-newcomers. It’ll get better when they visit places like Detroit, Mid-Ohio, Long Beach etc.

    1. Really? Calling St Pete rubbish but then throwing up Long Beach and Detroit????

      Do you actually watch racing at all, as in even seconds of it? Detroit is a TERRIBLE track with little to no action on track except who will hit the wall attempting the inside line at the fountain, similar to Long Beach except the outside line. There’s little to no real passing at either track, and Long Beach has only been retained as a ‘crown jewel’ of open-wheel and Detroit cause Chevy foots the bill and Penske behind the scenes works it out. Long Beach may have BEEN a decent race once but it has been a snoozefest for close to 20 years now, and the sportscars make it look even worse. Especially with the terrible driver standards through the hairpin. And Detroit might not last long anywway, it’s in a park and the usage lease is up soon; looks like there’s little chance of it being renewed without some court battles.

  7. Between 366 and 22, I stick with 22.

  8. I watched the race yesterday & I just don’t see how they get to this figure.

    There was a decent amount of passing but I just don’t see anyway there was that much…. Not unless they were counting starts/restarts, Passing that occurred in the pits, Passing due to cars suffering damage/technical problems etc… & maybe even cars been lapped (All stuff that F1 doesn’t count).

    1. lead car gets spun around in first corner – 20 overtakes right there

  9. The first thing I thought when read the opening few paragraphs is “how have they defined a pass” because the low F1 number is partly linked to the Pirelli definition which seems to actively try to keep the number low by not taking into account overtakes on the lap most likely to produce overtakes and overtakes/re-overtakes.

    Indycar races are mad at the best of times, but I think their definition of “a pass” must just be “a car passing another at any point from green flag to chequered flag for any reason” to get a number that high.

  10. I watched the race and enjoyed it very much. Maybe they count overtaking a car that is in the pits…?

  11. Knowing the Indycar systems I can pretty much guarantee that they literally counted any car passing another regardless of circumstances.
    Cars been lapped, Cars going slow due to tech issues, The initial start & all subsequent restarts as well as cars been passed having spun, pitted or retired.

    The timing/tracking systems they have are not as detailed as what FOM have, It see’s a car passing another & registers it regardless of circumstance. The systems used in F1 can pick out every detail so can differentiate lapped cars, cars that have pulled off or pitted, DRS/Non-DRS passes & so on.

  12. I watched the race, I wonder if they actually mean position changes (however that happened).
    i.e, you are in the pits… technically you were passed by the other cars.
    You crashed? You were passed by everyone else.

    That said, it was a great, tense and exciting race. Would have been as good as one of the top F1 races from last season.

  13. I do not know if comparing overtakes in a spec series and F1 makes any sense. To me it does not. F3 has lot’s more overtakes as well. I love to glance at it every once in a while, but not too often.

    Above that: no use in comparing numbers if you do not know how they are made up…

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      13th March 2018, 9:16

      I think F1 has an overtaking problem. Non-DRS overtakes are amazing when they happen and unfortunately a little bit too rare. From that viewpoint the comparison to F1 makes sense. F1 can learn from Indycar (just as Indycar can learn from F1). The two series have always been compared and they always will.

      Indycar used to be a non-spec series just like F1, but in terms of cost there is only room for one F1. That’s why Indycar went down the spec route. F1 has gone a suprisingly long way down the spec route with big performance differentiators such ECU’s and tyres (and rules so tight they are effectively spec). It may need to go further, it may not, but the comparison to Indycar will always be relevant for this and many other reasons.

  14. So IndyCar has a 30 minute review of the race on their website. A great review if you didn’t see the race!

    Tons of over takes in just 30 minutes of highlights.

  15. I watched the entire race and the last thing on my mind was the number of passes.
    I found it highly entertaining — there was some good passes, but I think small mistakes by everyone but Wickens made the most difference in deciding the final standings.

  16. For those wondering about the 366 passes… the number is inflated for many reasons, not the least the fact that they had 7 caution periods, and they counted every single pass (i.e. changes in position, even if it was just somebody crashed or on the pits). That being said, even after removing all of the excess, this was a fantastic race. I’d say no less than 50 proper edge-of-the-seat overtaking moves. No Formula 1 should not seek to be more like Indy in most ways that matter. However, when it comes to aero… I think that the lesson is obvious. It’s been obvious for at least 5 years of drivers complaining about how difficult it is to follow another car.

    1. @ajpennypacker The difficulty of following another car has existed in F1 for far longer than just approximately the last five years, though.

      1. @jere Agreed. I just think the problem has gotten worse in the last decade. I don’t recall hearing the complaints as often about following other cars in the past.

        1. @ajpennypacker problem became apparent when refueling is banned! during refuels, tyre changes were not much problem as fueling took longer! also not as limited as tyre count before… so yeah, cars were driving at the edge as long as they liked but that doesnt mean they were less effected! People just didnt bother as much due to refuelling and tyre limitations were not an issue

  17. The legacy of the race was 3 experienced American’s doing dive-bomb moves taking out 3 innocent drivers, and a rookie outclassing them all.

    Comparisons to F1, what about the bad-side of Grosjean’s F1 career in a single INDY race

    1. That’s what I saw too. Not to mention the very slow corner speeds when compared to F1; it just feels like watching the MLS when you know the Premier League is out there…

      1. what is worst is that some “expert” racer blaming wickens for rossi crashing leader! i had argument about but those guys just feel superior…. dive bombing is not an open door opportunity if it is done the way rossi did, he would no way got along side if he didnt dive and braked so late to the point he couldnt control car! shame, and like american wrestling, these things are allowed in american racing… nascar anyone? silly bragging about overtakes that are just passing cars stopped or crashed… really funny

  18. Let’s compare basketball scores to football scores and say one is better!

    They’re different. I’m happy with F1. Lots of passes does NOT make a race inherently exciting. Few passes does NOT make it inherently boring. It’s what’s at stake. It’s the fight. I’d like to put forward that lots of passes in a race can also make it boring because they become rather meaningless and too common.

    Achieving something hard is better than achieving something easy.

    1. @selbbin I see your point. However, I think comparing Indy to F1 is not totally an “apples-to-oranges” comparison the way it would be with basketball/football. The frustrating thing in F1 is when there isn’t much of a chance to even fight, because of too much turbulence and cars can’t follow each other. Or when it all becomes about managing tyres. I do think the headline is quite suggestive, but that’s fine. It got us reading :).

      Formula 1 doesn’t need to have too many more overtakes than it has had in years before 2017. However, we do need more quality overtakes. Tyre differential/DRS kind of overtakes tend to be boring, and n 2016 made the bulk of overtaking moves.

  19. I wonder if a situation when someone spun, lost 20 positions but continued is taken into account as an overtake. It would have explained such high number.

  20. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    12th March 2018, 20:15

    I’m really glad RaceFans is giving Indycar this much attention because for me personally it’s exactly what I want to watch. They’ve got it just right this season. A few less cautions would be nice ha but can’t have it all.

    1. Agree. Sadly…just like F1, most (all) Indy street circuits suck. Almost as much as the ovals.

  21. @selbbin, the concept of DRS fully contradicts your last thesis, unfortunately.

  22. So no close racing or lasting battles at all.

    Rather give me Imola 2005/2006 any day of the week.

  23. Great race, really fun to watch, really nice battles, spins, contacts, plenty of overtaking manouvers and some goood moves. Maybe there were too much FCY but safety is first. The technology in F1 is truly amazing, but the Indycar show is way better.

  24. Some days Indy is better. Some days F1 is better. Depends on the track, on the competition, on the weather, etc. Its pretty much been that way since the 90’s from what I can recall. I quite like following both. The fact that one has gone with high downforce rules and one the opposite, just will highlight each series’ strength.

  25. Wayyy more passes, better sound, no flip-flops, and a really nice looking car again?

    Im going to watch some Indycar this year. Seems like the drivers make the difference and above all else, no stupid Halos.

    PS, This is the first time I’ve seen an open wheel forum complain that there were 300+ passes in a race… then somehow say 22 is better because they are quality… Is DRS quality?


    1. So is having different compounds of tyres artifical racing as well then? After all if one driver is on worn out hard tyres and another is on freash softies, that can be way more of an assist then the DRS. Garuntee if you took DRS away in a matter of races everyone would want it back again because of all the Trulli Trains that would start appearing.

      1. Well I think different compounds would be an excellent addition to Mario Kart, they could take away some of the weapons.
        Nintendo should seriously think about it. Force pit stops and the running on tires that don’t suit the chassis. They could also code races using tires that become unpredictable, Baby Park would be more entertaining, especially for Indy Car fans, bunch them up with a safety car, cold tires and dive-bomb moves down the inside, who needs a red shell?

  26. I still take F1 over Indy. Sorry.

  27. F1 is not basketball.

  28. 366 sounds a fine figure doesn’t it, but if you take into account that Indycar class lapping as a pass whereas F1 do not then you must realize that you are comparing two totally different numbers.

    St Pete had 22 classified finishers of those 14 were on the lead lap,
    3 were 1 lap down,
    2 were 2 laps down,
    2 were 3 laps down
    and 1 was 10 laps down
    Ignoring any passes made on lapped cars by another lapped car, lead lap cars passing lapped cars alone accounts for between 218 passes (assuming all lapped traffic finished the race directly behind the winner) and 322 passes (assuming all lapped traffic finished at the back of the pack). The reality is obviously somewhere in between those figures, that’s a huge percentage of the 366 figure quoted by indycar.

    Also if a car passes a car and is subsequently re passed on the same lap Indycar classes that as two passes, in F1 it is not classed as a pass at all.

    I have looked at this in as simple a way as I can and know that there are better people with numbers out there than me but I really do not think the two figures can be compared in a meaningful way.

  29. To be clear, I think it was 22 total passes in the entire F1 season.

  30. IndyCar’s season opener must have been the best ever in history.

  31. More power than grip on a narrow, bumpy street course makes for full contact racing, especially when turn one is full of painted lines for the airport runway. Things will be cleaner on the road courses.

  32. 366 total on-track passes at St. Pete by driver

    Alexander Rossi 31
    Marco Andretti 25
    Scott Dixon 25
    Josef Newgarden 24
    Spencer Pigot 22
    Will Power 22
    Ed Jones 21
    Ryan Hunter-Reay 20
    Sebastien Bourdais 17
    Graham Rahal 17
    Hinch 16
    Takuma Sato 15
    Tony Kanaan 14
    Zach Claman Demelo 13
    Jordan King 12
    Gabby Chaves 11
    Zach Veach 11
    Simon Pagenaud 11
    Charlie Kimball 9
    Rene Binder 8
    Robert Wickens 8
    Max Chilton 7
    Jack Harvey 6
    Matheus Leist 2

    1. Thanks for that Don.

      Couldn’t help but notice Leist = least…

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