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Fans Forum – Chapter 2: The Overtaking Question
Fans Forum – Chapter 2: The Overtaking Question
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Jul 2010   |  8:31 pm GMT  |  88 comments

Formula 1 fans had the chance to meet face to face with leading figures from the sport at the FOTA Fans Forum, powered by Santander.

The event was a unique opportunity for the fans and the sport to come together and exchange ideas.

The panel for the Forum, held in London on July 1, was led by Martin Whitmarsh, FOTA chairman and team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and featured Tony Fernandes, team principal of Lotus Racing, Jock Clear, Senior Race Engineer, Mercedes GP Petronas F1 team, Luca Colajanni, Head of Motorsport Press Office, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and Paul di Resta test and reserve driver, Force India F1 team.

The second chapter looked at ‘The Overtaking Question”, an issue which always comes up in discussions about the sport. Is there enough of it, should there be more and what is the best way to encourage overtaking while staying true to what F1 is about?

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

F1 is not broke and does not need fixing.

We have exactly the right amount of overtaking at present. Too much more and we devalue the battles we do enjoy…. but I guess in this X-factor culture in which we live people have lost sight of quality over quantity.

The only problem is with the circuits. Less of the oil money and more stands full of fans.

Ted Rolfkopter

On the subject of pass-assist technology/gimmicktry, I think in an earlier post it was discussed bringing the rev. limit down to 17,000 rpm, and utilizing the standard ECU to unlock the rev range up to 18,000 for an agreed-upon specified duration of time to implement a ‘push to pass’ system. It could be in the regulations for next year, and it might as well be called ‘KERS’, for the same effect with arguably cheaper implementation.

For those concerned with ‘the pinnacle’, we could keep calling it KERS complete with battery graphic on the onboard speedo/tach/gear-o-meter. This all seems to point back to the debate over opened regulations and the engineer’s paradise it could reintroduce into Formula One, or the increasing regulation to keep costs manageable and the racing closer.


The main problem with all these overtaking devices (kers, f-duct) is that they can be used to defend against overtaking as well, so they lose their effect. So adding adjustable rear wing is nothing new – it’s just one more device of the same type. The real problem teams have to solve – is how to make these devices usable only for overtaking and not for defending. And the current plan of allowing to use it only when following other car closely seems very hard to policy and a bit artificial. I wonder why teams are not discussing the solution used in some other series – to have only finite number of uses per race or only one use per lap. For example allow to use kers or adjustable wing only once per lap – all the drivers will pick the longest straight to use it, because it will give biggest effect there. But then the car trying to overtake could unexpectedly use it in some other place and gain position. Or wait till the leading car has already used it and then use yours. This solution will give opportunities to overtake without any hard to control conditions.



Firstly, you did a great jog organising the event

It would be great if you could post the whole event, let people see the banta between the team members.

Even though I had a great time and the panel were open to all our questions and seemed to agree with most points, it seems FOM want to keep F1 in the dark ages and the F1 teams have little or no say ultimately, therefore rendering the whole forum process redundant, and a bit placebo for us public making us think we make a difference when actually we don’t


The problem for overtaking is that on most tracks there is one clean line and the penalty for going off that onto the dirty side is huge. The last great overtake on the outside of a corner I can think of was Villneuve on Schumacher round the last corner at Portugal in ’96 – 14 years ago. So something needs to be done about the tyres to reduce the marbles. Also do you think that drivers and teams have learnt a lesson in that it is better to settle for third and pick up points rather than risk everything for an extra place. The management of risk seems now to be heavily weighed towards don’t jeopardise what you have.


“The problem for overtaking is that on most tracks there is one clean line “

Yes and thats just plain geometry. Almost any design you could come up with would have *1 optimum line.

The only place I ever saw a truely multi-line circuit was (is?)the Champcar track on the airport in Cleveland. The massively wide runway leading into the hard rt hand turn 1 made for a bunch of different lines. Even though there was only one optimum path, in the presence of other cars it got weird.


Totally agree. You see marbles within 30 cm of the racing line. It’s practically like a train track on the corners of circuits.


I will sort the problems in 1 second about overtaking. Have 20 races at interlagos lol. Cheers bernie i will take my 10 mill in 100s pls


… or better still, the Nordschleife. If there were 20 Grands Prix there, they could afford to make it non-lethal.


This is great. can we have the rest please?



I really think that whatever options to improve overtaking are made, they should be universal across the grid at all times and not offered to only selected drivers.

Penalising the leader for being in front is something that wouldn’t be allowed in pretty much any other sport.

The idea of a team seeing their goal get bigger each time they score to help their opponents would (rightly) be laughed out of the door.

F1 should do the same with selective push to pass options or adjustable rear wings.

Paul Di Resta mentioned something which is quite key to overtaking – tyre degradation in dirty air.

Perhaps the FIA should ask the single tyre supplier to focus on making sure tyres don’t go off when they slide around in dirty air rather than manipulating the number of pitstops in a race through mandating pitstops or asking for softers tyre compounds to be brought.

It’s time to let drivers choose their tyres rather than the FIA!


Once fixed the dominance of aero downforce, if You want to give more chances to overtaking then tyres must offer a much bigger grip, or engine power has to be drastically cutted. An opposite solution is to reduce drastically the corners grip while keeping the power, just like it happens when it rains. Random watering of corners surely gives a lot of show, and it’s very cheap to realize.

More seriously, when only a single path exists to make corners at maximum speed, there’s only a place where drivers can put weels, I mean just before the corners. This is why we see less overtakings and why a very efficient F1 can’t easily pass a much slower one.

In 2008 arised the good idea do cut downforce then, in 2009, someone in FIA had the very bad idea to allow a trick which was anyway out of the rules spirit, I mean the so called “double diffuser”.

Not counting this decision produced a championship whithout thrills, the big downforce joined tho bigger weight due to refueling ban, lead to the present situation. Now, increasing max speed on straights, is basically useless if everyone has this chance. Here comes’ the very complex rule stating that the back wing can be set nearly flat only to try attacking and if who’s ahed is less by one second. It may happen only and in specific places, and it’s not allwed to defend, if you touch brakes it’s disabled.

Again, and wrongly (my opinion) FIA makes things more complicate, for sure expensive, duels even less fair (who attacks benfits a trick) and rules will be more subject to grey zones.

This new rule, thought to get “more show” has still to be verified effective, meanwhile it’s sure it makes cars more complex (fly by wire commands) and expensive, moreover putting driver’s ability one more step behind aero efficiency.

F1 has never been a race plenty of overtakings, therefore, the lack of close up dueals between top drivers isn’t what we really miss. The problem are instead cars where downforce still plays the biggest role. In a such situation it’s a big trouble to overtake slow cars which can’t be passed easily even by top ones, driven by top drivers. Therefore, actual F1 is a race which get decided after the first two corners, later, only because of chance.


Martin covered the issue, and the summary is that tyre (mechanical) grip does not make for racing. He also was very clear that an F1 race is about tension, not overtaking. For me Valencia wasn’t over until Vettel finally emphatically responded to Hamilton – Hamilton hadn’t given up so it wasn’t until the last 5 laps or so that the winner was determined, even though Vettel had led for so long.

However, it is clear that consensus is that tricks to make life more amusing is not what F1 should be about.

F1 has evolved into a sport where you have a strategy evolved the previous season; strategic reviews based on careful analysis of likely race scenarios; on the fly tactics based on unfolding events. If the race turns into an unpredictable lottery, the race itself might appear to be more amusing, but the strategic side which fuels the in-between race speculation and intrigue is lost.

If you look at other motorsports you would have to ask why A1GP and IndyCar have failed spectacularly to gain a fan base even with push to pass and generally more overtaking. The answer is that the racing is unsatisfying, even though there is/was more overtaking.

BTCC is thrilling close quarters racing, but there is not a lot of overtaking – that again is slow pressure building up into moves – and the changing characteristics of handling over a race, but overtakes have to be stolen rather than gifted.

The most interesting comment to come out for me was that the teams are really interested in opening up the race data to keep the geeky fanbase happy – recognising this is a second level that need not bother the casual viewer.


I totally disagree there’s not a lot of overtaking in BTCC, there’s plenty and mostly encouraged by the enclosed wheels.


There is plenty of overtaking is not necessarily the same as a lot of overtaking – cars don’t switch position with each other lap after lap. It is not unusual to see a train of BTCC cars for a number of laps, where the pressure builds up and then all of a sudden there is a flurry of moves where one mistake causes a major reshuffle.

What encourages overtaking in the BTCC? Tyre wear differences due to the different characteristics of the car means that some are better at the start of the race than later on; artificial devices such as the reverse grid and the weight penalty, and the use of previous finish positions to define the next grid, where cars which have failures are massively out of position. What BTCC doesn’t have is an artificial device that makes a car able to overtake at the push of a button – not quite true – the tolerance for the “nudge to pass” and deliberately forcing cars off track amounts to an artificial overtaking move.

Anyway, the fundamental is that BTCC overtakes still have to be earned.


If anything, I think the cars should have more power; it would provide the drivers with a car that is more difficult to control and a much higher probability of cracking under pressure by spinning the tires exiting corners.

Bring back the 1000 horsepower monsters. 🙂


On the discussion about about blocking.

ChampCar ran a system where drivers were unable to deviate off the racing line at all to defend your place & we saw a bit more overtaking but far less racing so overall the races became less intresting.

One of the things I love about MotorSport is the ‘Racing’, One driver defending his position & the other trying to find a way past.

Overtaking should be made more possible but not at the expence of racing & I believe that adjustable wings, KERS Etc… only for the car behind will take away from the racing & make overtaking easier than it should be.

The problem we see today isn’t that overtaking is difficult as it shoudn’t be easy, The problem is that its less possible that in should be.

Outside of F1 other series are looking at ways to make overtaking more possible without resorting to Adjustable wings Etc… Swift for instance have developed a ‘Mushroom Diffuser’ on there Formula Nippon cars which makes following cars closer more possible. Indycar are looking into there 2012 Chassis formula & have a series of proposals from various chassis manufacturers which all feature intresting designs which would allow for better racing.

Thats the direction F1 should be going, Looking at ways to improve the racing by design & not ways to mask over the problem by giving big speed boosts to simply get more overtaking on straghts.


Good call on the Mushroom Buster design. Perhaps a good rule would be to have a mandatory spec diffuser (or add-on to the diffuser) that would create the same effect.


Definitely a brilliant job in the two we’ve seen so far, perhaps the full session would provide an even greater experience for those who aren’t in the UK.

Oh man, if you could get one of these set up in Australia, I would definitely be there *hint hint*


This is great, very encouraging. Only one mention of “the show” in the whole thing. Let’s make sure we drag it back nearer towards a sport, rather than a show. I’m really pleased Whitmarsh and Di Resta were so firm about overtaking being fundamentally unlikely, and that it’s always going to be comparatively rare. And please, for God’s sake, let’s not have any more of this video-game nonsense where they’re only able to use the capability of the car in certain arbitrary circumstances, like we had with KERS.



sorry if my English are not that good, but I would like to make a question to you, regarding overtaking, that I have never taken a good answer.

Why don’t they freeze aerodynamics and free other parts?

And by freeze I mean, each team to have their aerodynamics department closed in the racing season time. Each team to develop their car aerodynamically from November until the first race and then stop until the next November. That way, if you free for example engines, gearboxes etc, each team who would like to find some more performance for their car, should develop their engine, their mechanical grip, gear shifting, brakes etc. Wouldn’t this means, more overtaking?

Teams will depend less in aerodynamics and more in parts of the car that will increase overtaking.

I would like to have your say on this, since I can’t ask that in a team principal.

Kind regards,


The problem is that the cars would still be designed the same way, with the same aerodynamic concepts. If your theory was correct, then the first race of the year (Bahrain) would have been the most exciting, and then each race after that would have been less and less interesting.

If they want to reduce the aero wake, they need to attack the aerodynamic concepts being used, rather than attacking aerodynamic development.

John Krouskas

Why I think that the first race would be the less exciting and when the updates of the teams would take effect in engine, balance, gearbox, brakes etc in the middle of the season, then they will be more and more exciting?


Any chance of more video of the event becoming available ?


People seem to forget that there has never been a surfeit of overtaking in F1 and I tend to agree that I’d rather see a close battle as one driver tries to out-think and out-maneuvre one-another.

My concerns about a non-defensible ‘push-to-pass’ scenario are that it will either lead to and endless procession of overtaking, or, in the case where two cars/drivers are equally matched (as we’ve seen with McLaren & Red Bull over the last few races) will run round in formation until the last lap and the ‘push-to-pass’ is used at the last possible overtaking point leading to a somewhat manufactured result.

As others have said, the reduction of aero wake needs to be the priority to allow close racing and the possibility of better overtaking opportunities and a further reduction in driver aids. By far the biggest of which is the semi-auto gearbox – a manual shift gives the opportunity of more driver errors and greater opportunity for overtaking as a result.


Karl Sciberras

The problem of overtaking lies in the frustration that builds in a driver, when he is unable to pass a clearly slower car due to a number of factors, including circuit design. This results in cars stuck behind one car (example the Kobayashi train at Valencia) and separates the drivers in a way, in which they wouldn’t risk fighting for an extra point, because there’s not much on the table worth risking for, like if one was racing for first or second. A system of meritocracy in overtaking is needed, because it isn’t allowing the race to go ahead flowingly and let the best battle it out between themselves.


Excellent stuff so far – please put up the full 90 minutes as a podcast!


When you have a qualifying that put the fastest cars in the front and slower cars in the back then overtaking will be very limited.

When qualifying is messed up then there is a lot of overtaking.

Look at qualifying, if you want to change something.

But I like the races as they are now.


James, firstly many thanks for yesterdays entertaining event

There were a couple of points raised that I would like to comment on though in this area.

Following Webber’s horrific crash at Valencia at the weekend, I was alarmed to hear Martin seriously considering a “proximity sensor” based overtaking device to determine when to give a following car a speed boost – this would surely increase the likelihood of Sunday’s accident. I also don’t like the idea of a system that rewards a car for sitting in second place the entire race just so they can use an artificial overtaking boost on the final lap which the car in front is unable to defend against.

The panel were at pains to point out that overtaking is now at such a premium due to the high skill levels of the drivers, and the fact that they make so few mistakes that would offer a passing opportunity.

However, I felt Paul misinterpreted a later question about tarmac run off areas vs. gravel trap areas – and whilst obviously driver safety is paramount, the tarmac run-off areas inflict relatively little penalty on cars which slightly overstep the limit. If these run-off areas significantly slowed down any cars straying off the race track, it may increase the impact of these now infrequent driver errors, and enable trailing car(s) to pass.


Overtaking is a very complex matter and as we have seen in Valencia, marginal tyres could be the answer.

Moveable wings will be a good experiment but I am sure the deployment and the usage should be looked at, I understand and agree with Paul di Resta point of view.

To be frank, this season has been one of the most exiting and looking back at Bahrain, we all thought that we were going to have a very boring season.

F1 should be the pinacle of motorsport engaging with car production therefore we should have a look at solutions that could be implemented in road car production, will we see adjustable wings on a family hatchback, or F ducts, or blowing exhausts.

We might see small engine turbocharged with Kers.

It is complicated and I guess what we thought last season was very bad for this season it turned up to be pretty special so far


james, you should have a like button here like facebook.

amazing forum! glad to see a great interaction between different stakeholders in formula1 including us, the fans!


Would be good to have a 3 day test at Barcelona using 2 ‘test bed’ f1 cars. Each team in FOTA could come up with a component to run on both cars for around 10 – 20 laps. The goal is to come up with components that can help the two cars follow each other minimizing dirty air plus other issues with today’s cars that need sorting out.

Funding the project may be difficult and also the FIA readdressing the testing ban etc. Wind tunnel numbers are one thing but to have 2 F1 cars on track physically testing components would be really interesting, instead of waiting for winter testing and finding out that any new changes need rolling back due to being ineffective.


I cant help but repeat myself: the new rule doesn’t say adjustable “rear wing”, it says “bodywork”.

WHile everyone says “rear wing,” it *could mean almost anything – floor, barge boards, radiator flaps, front wing bits, etc etc etc.


I think aside from the issue of aerodynamics and the dirty air issue, the fragility of modern F1 cars has got to play a role here. All those little winglets pop off with the lightest touch. Front wings also can be dislodged with relatively little contact. Perhaps getting rid of some of these bits and pieces, and making the cars just a tad sturdier would embolden the drivers to take more risks? Just a thought.


I really like the videos James –

Are the full 90 minutes recorded? If so, is there a chance of that being put up?

Thank you


I’d like to add that I don’t mind if it’s just the audio.

I see these videos are edited (which is nice!) but I’d much rather have the full session unedited than 10 minutes edited.

This isn’t meant to come off as a complaint or anything, please don’t take it the wrong way!

Thanks again 🙂


Me too.

BTW – you got a mention on the BBC blogs I see, good to see that they’re not afraid to give credit where it’s due.

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