Way back when high degradation tires and the Drag Reduction System were being considered for Formula 1, I made the case that passing for passing’s sake wasn’t really something I felt was as critical to F1 as the multitude of fan survey’s seemed to suggest.
I would often mention that while NASCAR may have 400 passes in a race, the only one that matters is the last pass on the last lap for the win. A terrible analogy as NASCAR is a completely different beast but the point is, prolific passing hasn’t always been a hallmark fo F1. The incisive or critical pass has.
Pirelli announced that the 2017 saw a reduction in passing by nearly 50% and while many folks seem concerned over that fact, I’m not actually one of them. That reduction is against the previous season but it is, as they say, what it is.
At the time, I was not a fan of DRS or HD tires and I am still not so I felt that adding them to the series was a construct. While I am less frustrated but the tires, the DRS is very frustrating as it is not the same for everyone. The car in the lead gets the penalty of being in the lead and I found it a less elegant way of handling the situation.
The fact is, DRS is there because aerodynamics are such a major part of the series. Nearly every fan I’ve spoken to or read says the same thing, reduce the aero grip and dirty air left by these cars so people can slipstream and pass. I haven’t heard many teams or the FIA suggesting the same. There’s a reason for that but that’s a different story.
If I had to put my finger on all those fan surveys that said they wanted “more passing” in F1, I guess I would say that what they really meant was that they wanted to ability for equal or relatively equal cars to actually be able to pass.
I think of the pass in Austin that Lets Hamilton made on Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and the lack of any defense due to the sheer speed difference the Mercedes had gained in the DRS zone as a simple example. Could See have held Lewis off or defended more? Possibly if DRS didn’t exist but we’ll never know.
So how important is passing or prolific passing in F1? IS it ok to have a boring race from time to time? IF there is one thing F1 has always had, it is the boring race from time to time. Is that bad? Not according to Vettel:
“Wishes for next year is that everybody calms down,” said Vettel.
“Some races are boring, so what? I don’t see the problem in that.
“I don’t think we need another record, another record every race, to have more overtaking and more overtaking.
“It’s true that [difficulty in] overtaking sometimes, especially if you’re behind and you’re fast and you can’t get past for those reasons, it annoys you.
“But then again if you make the move there is a massive reward inside the car, sometimes out of the car.
“What I want to say is that overtaking should be an achievement and not handed to you. “Sometimes just relax and calm down and accept a boring race or a boring two races in a row and then there will be another great race after that and another one.”
I agree with Seb that the more frustrating part of the issue of passing is really the inability to do so even when you have a better car due to the aero wash from the leading car or your tires get chewed up from running in the dirty air. Again, if I had to put my finger on the pulse of fans requests, it is this issue with passing that they would like addressed, not simply more passing for the sake of passing.
F1 fans understand that F1 is not synonymous with prolific passing. There have been times when it had lots of passing and times when it had nearly none. There is this element of F1 that is the long game. It’s played out in the short game each race weekend but if you’ve been a fan of F1 long enough, you can recall titles won or lost by one key pass or one key passing opportunity missed. Think of Alonso’s inability to get around the Renault of Vitaly Petrov in Abu Dhabi back in 2010 as a key pass that didn’t happen and title was impacted in Vettel’s favor.
So as not to marginalize those who feel more passing in general would be better, I understand that notion as well as there are terrific non-championship winning passes happening that mean big bucks to those teams in the Constructor’s Championship. The ability to pass midfield would surely be solved by solving the ability to pass up front, no?
If there is a incredibly compelling case for not reducing aero downforce and cars design to disturb trailing cars, I have not read one yet. There may be a team who has advocated this aero reduction and perhaps they’ve made a compelling case why F1 should but if there is, I’ve not read it or even seen it. If you know of one—not written by a journalist or blogger—that is a from a team perspective as to why they would advocate removing their aero advantage and design to disturb air behind them, I would love to see a link if you could share it.
Until such time as the technical regulations are changed with what would be presumed opposition from the teams, we’ll have to get used to a boring race or two and to be honest, that’s not all that unusual. Just ask Sebastian.
Hat Tip: Autosport