How F1 calculated Vettel is leading the chase for its new Overtake Award

2021 F1 season

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Yesterday Formula 1 announced it will award a new prize for the best overtaker at the end of each season.

It revealed Sebastian Vettel is leading the chase for the new Overtake Award, having made the most passes over the 11 races so far.

On the face of it, that may seem surprising. Vettel has only finished higher than he started five times this year – less than half of the races. More than half of his rivals – 11 in the 20-strong field – have done better than that.

On average, Vettel has gained 1.2 places in each race. Again, 11 drivers have done better than this. Therefore, if Vettel has made the most passes this year, he can’t have kept all the places he gained until the chequered flag.

This is the question Formula 1’s methodology for calculating passes seeks to solve: How many places did a driver gain during a race, regardless of whether they held them until the end?

To do this F1 has used the positions of each car at every ‘mini-sector’ on a lap throughout a race to determine when passes were made. Each circuit is divided into approximately 20 to 25 of these mini-sectors, depending on its length.

In order to identify when a pass has occured, F1 scrutinised the data from each ‘mini-sector’. If two drivers changed positions between consecutive mini-sectors, it credited the driver who moved ahead with a pass.

Several exceptions were put in place to filter out false positives. If one driver spun, crashed, went into the pits or slowed for some other reason, any drivers who gained places from them were not deemed to have overtaken them.

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The analysis has therefore been largely automated. It does not rely on GPS data or video footage. However F1 has also applied “a level of manual oversight”, a spokesperson confirmed, to verify the results.

Passes on the first lap of the race are also counted. Vettel is performing well by this measure, having gained 18 places on lap one, though not as many as his team mate Lance Stroll (19) or Kimi Raikkonen (30).

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Hungaroring, 2021
Vettel was disqualified in Hungary – but keeps his pass stats
By relying on the position of mini-sectors to identify overtaking moves, the system may not perfectly account for failed passing attempts. If a driver passes a rival but runs wide and loses the place, the system may either record no pass has occured or that both drivers made a pass, depending on the positions of the mini-sectors.

Formula 1 also confirmed to RaceFans that passes deemed illegal by the stewards are still counted as overtaking moves. So a driver who passes a rival off-track and is given a time penalty still counts the move towards their total for the season.

Similarly, if a driver is disqualified from a race, any passes they made during it are also counted. This is significant, as at the last race Vettel rose nine places to finish second on the road, only to be disqualified. In the apparent discrepancy between Vettel’s official results and his exploits on-track this year, that may count for a lot.

The full ranking of all 20 drivers will make for fascinating reading once they emerge. Not only for the insight they offer into who is the sport’s pass master, but as an illustration of the challenges involved in defining what counts as an overtaking move.

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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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38 comments on “How F1 calculated Vettel is leading the chase for its new Overtake Award”

  1. Is there a table somewhere, with the driver ranked to the number of overtakes? to see how many overtakes vettel made, who is number 2 and 3 and by what margin vettel os leading for example?

    1. The full ranking of all 20 drivers will make for fascinating reading once they [SIC] emerge.

      1. I kmpw fams will count the overtakes with f1tv onboard footage and compare itnwith the count of their favo driver for sure

  2. The very fact that Sebastian Vettel leads the field in a category that is intended to honour the very best wheel to wheel racers shows how extremely flawed this is.

    1. I don’t think it is to show the best wheel to wheel racer, but the driver who loses most places (error, misfortune, out of sequence pit-stop) and then has to overtake slower cars.
      But it still is what it says it is.

      1. @jff

        Do you really think that it is going to be marketed that way?

    2. I agree. The judges ignore the fact Sebastian was Disqualified from the race results and say he did wonderfully. Also, Sebastian’s over the grass over take on Lewis a while back fits perfectly into “passes deemed illegal by the stewards are still counted as overtaking moves. So a driver who passes a rival off-track and is given a time penalty still counts the move towards their total for the season.”
      Basically this award comes across as a joke. It doesn’t reward merit, it rewards cheating. If an overtake was done by going exceeding the track limits then it shouldn’t count, nor should any overtakes be considered if the driver was Disqualified from the race results.

      1. Also, Sebastian’s over the grass over take on Lewis a while back fits perfectly into “passes deemed illegal by the stewards are still counted as overtaking moves.

        Opps … I just got reminded by Emma (@emma) that my recollection of the facts was flawed. Sebastian had maintained track position but did blatantly exceed track limits and did nearly collided with Lewis who hadn’t violated track limits. My thanks to Emma and apologies to anyone affected by my comment.

        1. And no animals were harmed in writing your comment.

      2. @dry-crust except there’s no “reward” for the award at all. Drivers aren’t going to change the way they drive in an attempt to boost their overtake count. There’s absolutely zero championship value in it (and rightly so, as I’m sure you agree).

        It’s simply another “stat” for fans to follow (or not) and another way for Liberty to get some extra cash from the sport (without wringing it dry per the previous administration).

        I for one am for anything which can generate cash for the sport (keeping it healthy) but doesn’t actually change the sport—which is exactly what this is.

        For all those hating on it: for goodness sake, you can just ignore it.

      3. Agree with you fully. This is a joke if it includes illegal passes too.

    3. Don’t waste your time trying to find merit in the award, it’s just an advertising money grab.

  3. In F1 everyone gets a prize.

  4. So if Haas decide they want this award all they got to do is tell their 2 drivers to let their team mate past every corner corner right????

    1. They can do one better. If it is possible to drive more or less in a straight line without damaging the car instead of going around the corner, then the one behind should do that. Maybe the Race Director won’t be happy about the blatant violating of track limits, but the judges of the overtaking award aren’t worried.

    2. But then there is the dilemma of who the eventual winner would be within the team.

      If Mazepin was almost willing to crash into Schumacher for 13th place, what would he be capable of for the Overtake Award?

    3. Ahaha, I’m guessing the next article will be:

      Steiner: we WILL go for the overtaking award!

  5. The Sprint, now this. You can’t argue that Liberty Media hasn’t already left their mark in F1. They also have done a lot for social media side. We don’t know how many ideas are on the table waiting for a release. I wouldn’t be suprised if sometime in the future F1 will have Indycar style points system. That could mean all the other FIA racing series would also use that system. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I bet there are many other things just they have planned for F1. I don’t want to say they are all bad (which they are not) but I have a feeling that this is just the beginning.

    1. Me too @qeki. I think a lot will depend on the FIA president election as to how much power Liberty will have over F1. Hopefully not too much.

    2. I think they have created this to make the Sprint look better by comparison :)

      1. Ahah, good point!

  6. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    25th August 2021, 10:53

    I really hope some team with nothing to lose asks their drivers to keep switching places with each other and sticks both fingers at liberty when their driver receives the award.

    1. Indeed, steiner should go for it!

  7. This is pathetic. It’s basically an award for the driver that really should have qualified higher up the field. I’m sure Vettel doesn’t want to win this, he has a brain.

  8. Also: How F1 announced something we’ve never wanted at all.

  9. Racefans’ posters are to blame for this award. They are always rating races on the number of overtakes. I don’t have a problem with the award as it doesn’t affect anything. A better idea would be to award 3-2-1 points each race based on the top 3 overtakers.

    1. That means if someone has a car superior enough he could let people past and re-overtake, it only works this year maybe cause top cars are pretty even.

  10. I believe that until now overtaking stats have tended to ignore the first lap, Only counted position changes at the end of the lap, Discounted passes later deemed illegal & passes conducted by a driver who was later disqualified.

    By counting those things it seems that they are just trying to produce as big a number as possible.

    It’s not quite as bad as Indycar though who were displaying as overtaking graphic during races which was later found to be counting every time a car passed another car which included cars been lapped, pitting, slowing, spins/crashes etc…

    1. My thing with this award isn’t simply that I think it’s irrelevant, meaningless & will be quickly forgotten… It’s also that they are talking up this award like it’s going to go to the bravest, boldest, best overtaker in F1 when in fact it won’t as it’s a thing that is been based purely on quantity rather than looking at who is actually the best overtaker pulling off the best, most exciting moves.

      If they were doing an overtaking award which was looking at each overtake & giving some recognition to the driver who had pulled off some brilliant overtakes during the year or something then while I would still see it as a bit of an irrelevant thing I would at least see more merit in it.

      But just looking just at the number of overtakes, Especially when you have things like DRS which can make passing too easy at times it’s not really highlighting the best overtaker & that is why for me it comes across as nothing more than a marketing exercise.

  11. Thanks for this explanatory article, I was just wondering yesterday what is counted as an overtake.

  12. The explanation just underpins how meaningless this award is.

    Only thing I can think is that somehow some marketing person at Liberty went “hey I’ve got this great idea for you to sponsor” to the suckers over at

  13. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    25th August 2021, 14:26

    I had no idea that Kimi had made 30 overtakes on race starts. If anything, I expected Alonso to be leading that. On top of that Stroll and Vettel are close seconds which is news to me.

    In that regard, this is great information. I wish F1 created a table through the season with that information like soccer does with goals, assists, headers, penalties etc. so we can look at it.

  14. Have the betting places already listed this and posted odds? Stuck in US where legalized gambling is restricted and yet they still refer to it as land of the free.

  15. it is a pointless and good for nothing exercise the driver who leads from start to finish at the end of the race gets just win. Without any overtakes.
    and vettel has been overtaking to wins etc.and no advantages gained at all.its like overtaking the guys in position of last 5 places good for anything..i dont think so

  16. Just pure coincidence that (of the Overtake Award) just happen to be an Aston Martin sponsor?
    Next week – the Petronas Whoops We Dropped A Wheel Nut Award to be awarded to …… Mercedes…

    1. Ahah, indeed.

  17. The illusion of overtaking with DRS and cyptocurrency are surely a match made in Heaven…

  18. Fun stat – mazepin is currently in a better position to win this than bottas, who has never overtaken anyone on track in his f1 career, and only has a job in f1 cos his manager was owned by toto

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