Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Albert Park, 2018

F1 drivers say overtaking is even harder this year

2018 Australian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Formula One drivers say overtaking has become even more difficult this year following a substantial drop in passes during the 2017 season.

Lewis Hamilton was one of several drivers who was frustrated by how hard he found it to follow another car closely after dropping behind Sebastian Vettel at the end of the race.

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Albert Park, 2018
2018 Australian Grand Prix in pictures
“My best friend was on the edge of a cliff and I couldn’t get to him to save his life today, that’s how hard it was to overtake,” said Hamilton.

“I couldn’t for the life of me, with all my abilities, all my tools, I just couldn’t get close enough to be in fighting range. I was catching him in the corners but he was quicker on the straights. Maybe the next races it’s going to be different.”

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas gained the most positions from the start of the race to the end. He said the effect of turbulence coming off other cars has become even stronger.

“You already feel some losses when you are three seconds away,” he said. “Once you get within one second to a few tenths it just ramps up.”

A third DRS zone was added at Albert Park in a bid to make overtaking easier. “It helped a little bit but very small difference,” said Bottas. “This year it’s again more difficult to follow so maybe it plus or minus zero with that.”

Esteban Ocon said his Force India showed strong pace in the race but he wasn’t able to use it. “We couldn’t come back because it was hard to overtake,” he said. “I got Lance [Stroll] at the start and that was basically it.”

One of the race’s few passes was made by Daniel Ricciardo, who got past Nico Hulkenberg on lap five. But he spent the latter part of the race stuck behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.

“It’s not often I sit behind someone for most of the race but it’s a tight track and one of the more tricky ones for passing,” he said. “There were a couple of times I had a look at turn three but Kimi was wise to that and could see what I was planning.”

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

2018 F1 season

Browse all 2018 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

40 comments on “F1 drivers say overtaking is even harder this year”

  1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    26th March 2018, 12:24

    Looks like this overtaking problem is here to stay until the next aerodynamic update

    1. GS (@gsagostinho)
      26th March 2018, 12:48

      What’s heartbreaking is that it is not only here to stay, but actually getting worse year by year. This last Australian GP was absolutely terrible regarding this…

      1. But we already knew that of Australia, and we know other tracks will provide a different show. Other example, we already know what to expect at Monaco. But that is far different from Monza where we see slim wings and the teams not nearly using all the downforce available to them.

      2. As I remarked yesterday, the aero situation in F1
        is the decomposing remains of what F1 once was.
        When you examine the complexity of this years
        front wings and all the other bodywork tweeks;
        and which everyone seems to be pretending is a
        non-issue, isn’t relevant….and the unpleasant
        smell isn’t really there at all……hmmmmmmmm !
        So one wonders what the numbers attending races
        will have to fall to, for some big team to start
        doing something serious….like withdrawing from F1
        completely, for example.
        To change the analogy, the writing on the wall is
        big and bold and a very bright shade of red……..
        And until F1 starts doing something very serious about
        this monster problem, the racing spectacle is simply going
        to get worse and worse.

    2. That was what “they” said prior to the last update.
      From comments, it sounds like they can’t even get into DRS range.
      Can we expect that the teams will reconfigure aero (like Ferrari seems to have) to increase straight line speed at the expense of downforce and cornering.? Redbull comes to mind.

  2. I hope the FIA and Liberty take a hard look on this. F1 becomes even more boring and predictable. This great sport becomes less interesting rapidly.

  3. “My best friend was on the edge of a cliff and I couldn’t get to him to save his life today, that’s how hard it was to overtake,” said Hamilton. Really?

    1. Yeah bit of a drama queen.

      1. @hatebreeder @johnrkh So Seb killed Lewis’ best friend. What a sad story.

        1. And he did it with a smile on his face …

          1. “I killed him with this finger

        2. Hamilton’s best friend is the victory ofc!

  4. The sport needs make it easier for cars to follow each other closely during races:
    1, F1 needs less dirty (turbulent) air 2, Cars have to be less sensitive for turbulent air. 3, Cars should be narrower (they are too wide nowadays) and lighter. 4, So F1 cars need more mechanical grip and less aero downforce.
    5, There are some tracks where overtaking is very difficult.

  5. Great !!
    20 more processions to go. Cant wait for Monaco…

    1. Monaco hasn’t really been the pinnacle of wheel to wheel racing since ever.

  6. The amazing aerodynamics that make these cars so quick around corners is killing the sport. But will Liberty take the route of reducing aero or will they go for the US fix, of one car 20 paint schemes.

    1. @johnrkh If you’re talking about IndyCar, they have both reduced aero, and are one car with 20 paint schemes. I predict that F1 will reduce aero, but will not become a spec series. They will continue to strive to hit that difficult balance between trying to keep costs to compete somewhat reasonable, while inviting innovation below a level that keeps only the have teams in the game.

      I hope to see them still able to innovate with pu’s and aero, but with aero regs that limit their downforce, and with different shapes of wings and floors to create much less wake.

      I think F1 knows this but for now they are stuck in a mode they inherited, and a new way of thinking must come. They just have to get their way out of this mode in a deliberate manner. Changing things too much too quickly only keeps advantaging those who can react the quickest.

      Perhaps if this year is bad enough and becomes a turnoff, which I think is far from a given yet, they will start to make some wing reg changes, but of course the real opportunity will come for 2021, which gives all teams plenty of time to prepare.

      1. I predict that F1 will reduce aero, but will not become a spec series. They will continue to strive to hit that difficult balance between trying to keep costs to compete somewhat reasonable, while inviting innovation below a level that keeps only the have teams in the game

        I hope you are correct.

  7. Suddenly that idea of a 4 wheel drive F1 starts to sound better and better

  8. lack of overtaking is not the problem, its the way the cars cost around when they are not “attacking”.

    early 2000s hardly had any overtaking, other than in the pits. But when someone got onto the gearbox of another car,
    they would quite often be stuck to each other nose to tail, lap after lap, with the possibility of the pass being made on each lap. Thats how they “put pressure” and tried to force a mistake from the lead driver.

    Now unless they’r substantially faster than the car in front, they maintain a 2-3 sec gap and put “pressure” and wait for the pit window. And the passes which do happen, the driver catches up and blasts past, with the duel lasting a few corners at best.

  9. Just some more good news for Mercedes. All these engine modes make more sense as time go by.

  10. I am more worried that F1 will try to increase the number of passes than I am about the current lack of overtaking. Knowing that F1 has been rather terrible at managing this art (it was widely predicted that overtaking would become more difficult with the post-2016 rules), I am afraid that they will simply try to make the DRS more powerful. That again will lead to even more highway passes where the driver in front does not even try to defend his position. No thanks.

    1. That may well happen, but I certainly expect things to change for the next era, post-2020. I take heart that everything Brawn has spoken on shows that he knows exactly the lay of the land from all aspects.

      1. @robbie Yup, Brawn is certainly a very smart guy and I also like a lot of the things that he has said since becoming part of the F1 management. So there is some hope that post-2020 F1 will not turn into a Jurassic Park and will be enjoyable at the same time.

    2. @girts DRS can’t really be made more powerful, though.

  11. I have had a couple of things kicking around my brain now regarding overtaking. The first is to almost invert DRS usage. Give everyone free DRS use until they get within say 0.7 sec of the car in front. This number can be fine tuned but essentially the system is used to close the cars up and then the following driver has to pass the car WITHOUT DRS assistance…..

    The other is during wind tunnel tests it is mandated that upstream there must be a ‘generic’ F1 car that disrupts the flow (as in real life). The engineers then need to work around that dirty, turbulent air being presented to their wind tunnel models rather than perfectly clean air. I think this could benefit all the cars in the pack, clean air only benefits the car at the head of the pack.

    1. I really like the second idea you have suggested. Why use a generic car? They can use a model of the previous season’s car and then test the affect of the dirty air. I am sure this can be done although I am not sure if the wind tunnels can handle two cars at the same time.

      1. I suggested the generic F1 car because every team’s car leaves a different wake. I would suggest the FIA somehow converge all the designs of last years’ cars to create a middle ground generic car shape. Then position this ‘X’ meters upstream in the wind tunnel. Yes I can see this being a problem in a physical wind tunnel as I’m not sure how long the working area is on them. Another option is to release more CFD time specifically for this purpose. It has been said before that CFD is critically limited in F1, other aerodynamic/hydrodynamic sports are way more advanced/free in that specific aspect.

  12. Would be interested to see the overtaking stats for 2017 vs 2018.

    It looked no worse than last year to me and we saw some great moves that had to really be earned last year so lets not write the season off just yet.

  13. The solution is a simple old racing slogan, more power than grip. Right now F1 has this “formula” completely out of whack, like IndyCar had during aero wars. F1 will have to follow IndyCar’s lead and reduce down force / turbulence and the ridiculous wings, winglets… and make the drivers DRIVE the cars. You do not want more circuit corners taken flat because of stupid levels of downforce, you want drivers struggling to control the car moving / sliding, earning their wages. That creates mistakes, uncertainty, opportunities to pass, excitement. Adding more and more downforce, turbulence and speed will continue to increase the boredom.

  14. Robert McKay
    26th March 2018, 15:51

    Not that I’m a fan of DRS at all (still think the sticking plaster analogy is threatening to dwarf into “patient on life support”), but whilst it is used, at what point does (or potentially should) the FIA start considering DRS activations at more than 1 second gap?

    If it’s a – say – 2 second gap, how does that pan out in simulations? Is overtaking much easier, or is overtaking still really difficult but it is (at least) easier for the car behind to stay reasonably close? If you have to work your tyres much harder just to stay within that 1-3 second gap behind another car, let alone actually get within the DRS zone, let alone actually make a pass, how beneficial is it to make it easier to stay in that dirty air zone so that at least you’re not also shredding your tyres faster than the guy in front?

    Is that sort of thing also track dependent, that e.g. a 2 second gap in Australia is needed whereas 1 second is more than fine in China or Belgium?

    The idea might be complete rubbish but have the FIA considered that sort of change, as opposed to just adding more new DRS zones? I’ve no idea.

    1. I’m no fan of DRS either, but given the situation that we find ourselves in, more flexibility in the DRS rules makes sense. As I recall, this was one of the main selling points of DRS in the first place, that the FIA could tune it to each individual track so that we could ensure it would be neither ineffective nor produce overly artificial overtaking. I’ve been dismayed as the years have gone on that the FIA has stuck to the same old, two-zone-per-track approach with no change in the activation rules.

      A more flexible approach would also mean that we could get rid of some DRS zones that we don’t need—like the one on Baku’s front straight. It’s long enough that not only do you not need DRS to pass, it seems the driver who is passed might even have a chance of slipping back into the tow and repassing—but that tasty prospect is neatly prevented by DRS.

  15. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    26th March 2018, 16:27

    I think the FIA will read this and will make the right choice which is obviously to reduce the engine allowance from 3 engines for 21 races down to a single engine. After all, Jean Todt has been driving the same car for 5 seasons and it came with 1 engine!

    Last year, Honda and Renault proved beyond reasonable doubt that the engines were nearly indestructible and tests during the off season showed that even when hit by a double decker bus full of elephants, the engines never failed!!!

    Of course, the real questions the FIA will focus on researching and answering in 2018 is where they found the elephants
    and how they were able to make them fit into a double decker bus. This will consume all of the FIA’s efforts in 2018.

    The FIA will also investigate the possibility of replacing F1 cars with elephants which should eliminate all mechanical problems and reduce budgets. They are still undecided on the need to add a halo around the elephants although sketches of elephants with halos on their heads have received positive feedback.

  16. I couldn’t for the life of me, with all my abilities, all my tools, I just couldn’t get close enough to having a clue what Lewis’s analogy about his friend on a cliff is supposed to mean– that’s how hard it is to understand what he’s saying.

  17. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    26th March 2018, 17:11

    Lol, still not as hard as it is to understand Paul Di Resta on Sky Sports:-)

  18. This race reminded me how it’s not just about overtaking, it’s also about defending. Ideally one should be able to overtake, but one should also be able to defend.

    This track was way too hard to overtake on, but the focus shouldn’t be all about overtaking. It shouldn’t be too easy. It should be very hard in order that a proper defense can be put up.

  19. Has anyone counted the overtakes up with indycar rules? It wont be as high as the St Petersburg race but both HAAS cars dnf’ed when running high up so thats a good number of ‘passes’ right there.

  20. I have to say:

    Having the HALO in Formula 1 is as stupid as demanding all normal drivers to wear helmets in their street cars;

    How stupid is a rule (VSC – VIRTUAL SAFETY CAR) that was meant to immobilize the race, but allow drivers to go faster, by going through the pit lane instead of the start/finish straight? This is for safety?! Not!


  21. I don’t necessarily want easier overtaking. But I want the possibility to follow close back in F1. If they can make that possible you don’t need DRS but you have a tow on the straight making a true fight between the leading and following car.

    I think that when this kind of overtaking is possible different strategies can be deployed, knowing having a quicker car might have an advantage above track position.

    Currently track position is key on a lot of tracks.

  22. Califormula1fan
    27th March 2018, 10:49

    This is almost laughable. The problem is teally that the tracks are too narrow for these speeds, braking distances, and electrical assist acceleration out of the turns. Coupled with the sophisticated aero packages that really only work in clean air, passing opportunities have been reduced to relying on artificially created advantages: tyre wear rates and grip balance AND the rediculous DRS. First ultimate track quickness needs to be balanced against competitive racing when nose to tail; and second either widen the tracks or slow down the cars; lengthen the braking zones and reduce the impact of electric assisted acceleration: in other words roll back the technology to an era when racing was evenly matched cars that could race nose to tail, side by side, lap after lap.

    Pulling back on aero and widening tracks would be an alternative solution to achieve the same result.

    Fans and drivers want to see racing; and while qualifying is entertaining; we want to see some parity in race.

Comments are closed.