Le Grand Retour
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Buemi the pass master in new look F1
Posted By:   |  23 Nov 2011   |  10:57 am GMT  |  76 comments

Heading into the final race of the 2011 Formula One World Championship we are able to reflect on how overtaking has changed through the installation of DRS and the new Pirelli tyres, as well as the return of KERS, thanks to data from Mercedes.

And Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Buemi turns out to be the pass master, the driver who has done the most overtakes.

With a deliberate focus on increased overtaking 2011 was set to be, at the very least, a very interesting experiment aimed at producing a better spectacle for fans.

The overtakes can be split down according to certain criteria. They are classed as follows: Normal/DRS/Slower cars (HRT, Team Lotus or Virgin)/Team-mates (team orders may occur)/Damage/Lap one.

The season has already consisted of almost 1500 maneuvers, however excluding lap one and passes due to damage this number decreases to 1180. This takes out any anomalies such as the first corner incident at Monza.

There have been 804 Normal/DRS moves (441 normal and 363 DRS) which accounts to 55% and 45% respectively. In addition to this there have been 300 moves on slower cars and 76 between team-mates.

On average we have seen 45 overtakes per race (25 normal, 20 DRS) with the most occurring at Turkey (85), Canada (79) and China (67).

If we are to look at the ratio between DRS and normal overtakes during the season then it is no surprise to see that Abu Dhabi (89%), Europe (81%) and India (78%) have the most DRS-assisted passes in relation to normal passes. These tracks each had two DRS zones.

The overall top overtaker during the season (adjusted to account for retirements) is Buemi (112) who is shadowed by Schumacher (111) and Kobayashi (95). However, looking at passes between the start-line and the end of sector-one on the first lap then we have Schumacher (34), Buemi (29) and Kovalainen (28). Unsurprisingly Vettel has the least overtakes in the first sector due to his dominant qualifying pace.

When the race is underway Perez and Buemi have shown very good ability at moving through the field, each with 82 overtakes between the end of lap one and the chequered flag.

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That was to Jonathan, #40.


DRS adresses neither of your problems. It is an ATTEMPT at a work around, rather than fixing or solving the underlying problems themselves.

Agree on KERS though.


Surely the reason why overtaking is such an issue these days is because the cars are so fast?

Even the longest straights are no longer long enough because the cars all get to the end so quickly.

If the speed of the cars was reduced somewhat, there would be more time, more space for wheel to wheel racing, don’t you think?


I find the anti DRS brigade very strange. For years they have complained about a borefest and that we need to see more driver input. Now we have DRS addressing both issues directly they don’t like it.

Certainly we should look at tweaking the implementation of DRS but we should be grateful for seeing a driver activated device being used.

Personally I would like to see either more DRS zones forcing drivers to be more careful about where and when they make can overtaking work for longer than the next zone. OR we see them allowed to use DRS whenever and however they like during free practice (and quali?) so why not turn the whole thing around and make it so that they can add downforce only when they need it. Tune the cars to this and a driver might want to add it to get better traction out of some corners or even under braking only.

Oh – and KERS should be completely unlimited in size and use. I would love to see say a known reduction of 5 litres per year for each of the next 5 years – over and above any reduction for the introduction of the new engines.


The current generation of drivers are maybe the most talented there has been in the sport. However, in my opinion, the rules have never been worse. A single engine specification with development forbidden despite the need of mass production car manufacturers to push engine design as never before to meet legislation. Hopefully the development restrictions will not be reintroduced after 2014. Unlimited aero design which has no other relevance and prevents cars from following another closely. No testing. Thereby making the best car out of the box harder to catch. No such thing as a racing incident. Tyres designed to degrade. DRS to eliminate the skill of defending a position. Having to use two tyre types during the race. Too much grip relative to the power available.


I think there should be a Kers zone and forget the DRS, and if you happened to have not charged the system enough then tough luck. This would also cause the drivers to push at all times.


Any truth to the stories that Kubica is going to need at least 6 more months of recovery and will definitely miss the start of the 2012 season?


Seen a lot of complaints about the double DRS zones and that the overtaken car can just pass back at the next zone. What I don’t understand is why wouldn’t the drivers wait until the 2nd zone before overtaking so that they cannot be taken back


DRS is absolute junk and if they keep it up I won’t be watching for much longer. Why oh why does Interlagos need DRS? Bin the wings and lets have beautiful racing cars again, low downforce and more driver input.


I think that passes need to be divided and counted for several groups: group1 = top 1-5 drivers, next group = 6-10, etc …

And the most important, I think, is to count only passes within the group and if someone made a particular overtaking for a driver from the higher group.

Then we will see several pass masters.


Hello James,

Are there stats on who has gained or lost the most positions in relation to their grid position this year (excluding retirements)?

And also in terms of racing and qualifying aginst their team mate?


Yes, look at the bottom of my race preview story on Brazil


is there any chance you could post the full rankings? curious to see how everyone stacks up.


So, after excluding “Damaged Cars”, “Slower Cars”, “Team-mates” and “Lap 1”, Mercedes think that :

55% of all overtakes (25 per race) are deemed to be non-DRS related

45% of all overtakes (20 per race) are deemed to be due to DRS

Is it just me or does anyone else find this “data” to be inconsistent with recollections ?

Surely this data couldnt have been prepared in such a way as to attempt to push an agenda ….? Stats never lie do they ?


Craig in Manila,

That’s the beauty of statistics.. memories and recollections are often faulty and clouded by individual driver preference.. Stats give us the cold, sober truth for us to analyse.

Looking at the 55/45 split as an average some of us may feel this is wrong – those who believe DRS to be too “artificial” and those who point to races like Turkey.

But for every Turkey there was an Australia where most were agreed that the DRS had virtually no impact..

So then it becomes a question of emphasis and which races are quoted and recollected the most..


Seems like simple counting to me. Pehaps recollections are a bit more prone to error…


I reckon this just indicates who has been underperforming in qualifying, not necessarily the best overtakers.


To all the DRS hackers:

To some extent, I agree that the DRS is a bit contrived and artificial. But this in only year one of DRS. Surely things will improve next season when the FIA has a yardstick by which to measure the correct amount of drag reduction is needed at each circuit? At tracks like China and Spa, the length of open DRS will be shorter than this year?

Also, in terms of aero. Some have called the DRS a ‘cover up’ of the underlying aero-reliance of current F1 car designs. Which must also certainly be true. But what would you have the FIA do to stop this? They and the teams’ working committee’s have looked at this problem ad-nauseum to find a better way but nothing useful has been found. Shouldn’t we go with the best solution currently known, and tweak the current rules so it works more effectively? Like reducing the length the DRS can remain open? Or make the gap in the rear wing smaller?


I believe stipulation on number of times DRS can be used in a race rather than permanent DRS zones will make things spicier. That way, it will be down to driver ability and judgement to use his share DRS in every race. Might even see a change in strategy.


I’m sure the stats look good but not sure if the DRS overtaking looks good. I can only recall a couple of memorable passes executed this year (Vettel on Alonso – Imola; Webber on Alonso – Spa; Button – Canada)

A better statistic might be to filter out passes executed by a driver on another driver or team who is placed higher on the championship ladder (or only 1 or 2 places lower). No big deal if Buemi, Schumi, etc. overtakes a HRT or Virgin. Actually the more I think about it, overtaking a HRT using DRS is more of compliment to HRT and Virgin.

Don’t know why F1 is relying some much on aero – what aero technology is being transferred to road cars? Are we going to see DRS buttons on AMGs & Infinitis?


We’ve had DRS this year, and like it or not, there is nothing we can do about the past…

Looking forward, as the FIA have been fairly responsive this year to adapting the zone length, dual zones etc, I think we can assume that the worst examples of it being too easy, Montreal, Yas Marinas etc will be reduced . I’m not convinced at present, but given time to perfect, it can add to the show.


DRS overtaking should NOT be classified as overtaking. The way I see it, real overtakings in 2011 only occurs on the 1st two laps at the start. This is where every driver is uncertain of the grip level. All drivers must adapt/defence/attack the same piece of track. Schumacher happens to be consistently better than all the young guns and this marks him as a real champ and Mercedes knows it. This is why Mercedes will have no problem renewing his contract if he wish to continue.


Button is 3rd with 77 overtakes. This info is on the official F1 site aswell, in more depth.


Buemi and the Toro Rosso have performed well throughout the year. As always James your articles are superb in being about the sport we love, and not the usual ‘fan boy’ nonsense we see elsewhere on the net.

Thanks again for a great job.


These stats say more about who’s done a bad job in quali relative to their car’s pace than anything else.

They tell very little about the actual overtaking skills of the driver – particularly in the of cruising past on the straight with an artificially advantaged car using DRS.


Last year we had a close championship, but races over after 1st pit stop. Ths year we have had a one sided championship, but better races. Let’s hope for close races and championship in 2012.

I like DRS and applaud the teams and FIA for bringing it in. It could be better, but has improved the majority of races for me.



wasn’t it on this very site that you, James published an overview proving that tyres were more decisive in overtaking than DRS?

Demonstrating that more overtakes were due to big speed difference between new and old tyres than to DRS? Hence also the well known “undercut” phenomenon.

Also, this year for some drivers it might have make sense to tune the car for the race, instead of qualifying. If the driver knows that because of the tyres/DRS he will be able to overtake, and if he is willing to take this risk vs. qualifying high and then struggling with tyre wear, it could be the winning strategy. Seems to me Buemi and Shumi (lately) are operating exactly this way.

Sure, you will not see Vettel or Alonso on top of this list. But then, this is not the “most successful drivers of the year” listing, it’s “most overtakes” :).


Where doe Button rank up with overtake numbers, it wasnt that long ago that everyone was saying he was leading the way.

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