Formula One - On And Off Track Week 30

By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Story Highlights

  • 2011 Overtaking statistics
  • Formula One visits Russia again
  • The silly season is in full swing

2011 Overtaking statistics

With the 2011 season now nearing its halfway point Mercedes Benz published ahead of the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, some interesting statistics about overtaking, most notably about overtaking with the Drag Reduction System or DRS wing. At the start of the season a number of changes were introduced, DRS being the most significant one, and along with the reintroduction of KERS and the launch of a new Formula One tyre supplier, Pirelli, the statistics indicate overtaking has improved dramatically.

623 overtaking moves in nine Grands Prix this season
623 overtaking moves in nine Grands Prix this season

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The total of overtaking maneuvers during the first nine races of the season is 623, which includes passes between team colleagues and also includes the overtaking of slower cars like those of the newest teams. It does not include overtaking on the first lap after the start, or the overtaking of cars with mechanical damage, for instance cars being overtaken on their way to the pit for a front wing replacement.

Of those 623 passes, 175 or 28% were overtaking maneuvers of faster cars on the slowest cars on the grid, those of Marussia Virgin, Team Lotus and HRT. There were 43 passes between team colleagues, which is 7.7% of the total. DRS was responsible for 180 passes, almost 29%, and the rest, 225 or 36%, were normal passes.

So in fact DRS assisted overtaking is second on this list with 29%, while normal overtaking still tops the list with 36%. But on four occasions DRS overtaking has outnumbered normal overtaking: during the Chinese GP (33%), the Turkish GP (41%), the Spanish GP (35%) and the European GP at Valencia (50%).

The most (overall) passes were recorded during the Canadian GP (136), and the Chinese GP is second with 97 passes. At the bottom of the list we find the Australian GP (30), the British GP (29) and the Monaco GP (22).

And if we break down the number of DRS passes, the Turkish GP is on top with 50 DRS assisted passes, China is second with 31, and Spain is third with 29. The fewest DRS assisted overtaking maneuvers were recorded during the British GP (6), the Australian GP (5), and the Monaco GP saw only 2 DRS-aided passes.

What does this mean for the effectiveness of the DRS wing? It varies from circuit to circuit, remarkable to say the least is the difference between the two real street circuits on this year’s calendar: Monaco and Valencia. In Monaco 64% of the overtaking maneuvers were normal passes, and only 9% of the passes were contributed to DRS. At Valencia it was the opposite: the number of DRS passes outnumbered the normal passes, as 50% of the passes were DRS assisted, and only 11% were normal moves. One of the fastest circuits on the calendar is Silverstone, where 55% of the recorded passes were normal passes, and 21% of the passes were DRS-aided.

However, these figures give no clue as to how many DRS overtaking maneuvers would have succeeded in normal circumstances as well, without the use of the DRS wing. Another interesting question is in what way the new Pirelli tyres have influenced the statistics of overtaking moves. The Italian company had promised an aggressive approach and kept its promise by allocating tyres that had a huge lap time difference, which in some cases was as much as four to six seconds per lap.

Record number of pit stops this season
Record number of pit stops this season

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Mercedes Benz calculated that 55% of the normal passes occurred when the difference in tyre age between two cars was less than five laps, thus 45% of the normal overtaking was done when the tyre difference was more than five laps. The same trend is seen under DRS overtaking, 52% was on tyres with a tyre difference less than five laps, and 48% when the difference was more than five laps. During the Spanish GP 69% of the overtaking was done on tyres older than five laps.

The new tyres certainly had an impact on the number of pit stops, most races saw an average of three pit stops as a result of the relatively fast degrading Pirellis. During the last nine races there were a total of 560 pit stops, including 11 drive-through and four ten-second stop-and-go penalties.

On average 62 each race, but the figures tell that the most stops were made during the Turkish GP (82), Spanish GP (77) and the Canadian GP, despite the rainy conditions, is number three on the list with 76 stops. Further down the list are the British GP with 54 stops, the Australian GP with 46 and the Monaco GP is at the very bottom of the list with only 43 stops.

So in a nutshell, overtaking has improved dramatically, and the new Pirelli tyres have certainly contributed to more pit stops and more overtaking compared to the 2010 season.

The silly season is in full swing

The summer is traditionally the time for the start of the silly season, the gossip about who goes were next year, or who doesn’t. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has also traditionally and unwillingly been the focus of attention about his future at the Maranello-based team for several years now, and according to some, the fact that he still pilots the scarlet red car, is no guarantee he will be with Ferrari next year.

But although Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has criticized the performance of the Brazilian, he also seems to be his favorite driver, as he today in an interview with Sky Sports Italia has made an end to the speculations. “Alonso is super, Massa is coming back: I think the drivers are not a problem. This is the time for gossip, but next year's drivers will remain Alonso and Massa,” Montezemolo said. Which also means the rumors Sauber rookie Sergio Perez would replace Massa next year will not materialize.

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari and Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari
Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari and Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

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Both Toro Rosso drivers Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari also had reasons to fear for their future at Red Bull’s Italian sister team as team principal Franz Tost and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko had several times criticized their performance. But with their main competitor Australian Daniel Ricciardo out of the way and now in the HRT cockpit, they have certainly less to worry about. Alguersuari today stated he was never afraid to lose his seat, and has upped his performance with three consecutive point finishes.

All the more to worry for the HRT drivers, Narain Karthikeyan lost his seat to Ricciardo, and his HRT team has recently been sold to the Spanish investment company Thesan Capital. Today it was reported the Indian will drive the HRT at Friday morning for the German GP, but not a word about the future of Karthikeyan, who apparently lost his seat because his sponsors didn’t pay in time.

Vitantonio Liuzzi isn’t sure of his race seat for the rest of the season either, Thesan has announced they will gradually turn the team into an all-Spanish team, and the name of Javier Villa has been mentioned as a possible replacement for the Italian. Team principal Colin Kolles could also be replaced, the name of the son of the Jose Ramon Carabante, Jose, has been mentioned, and it is also rumored Spanish ex-Formula One driver Luis Perez-Sala could be involved in the team in the future.

There are also happy team bosses, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is happy with both drivers, Jenson Button has signed for 2012, while Lewis Hamilton got an extra week off as he feared he was on the verge of a burn-out. Peter Sauber is also happy with his drivers, and hinted both Perez and Kamui Kobayashi will be driving for his Swiss team next year, which, combined with Montezemolo’s statement, means Perez will not go to Ferrari despite the fact he will be testing for the Italian outfit together with Ferrari protégé Jules Bianchi later this year.

Williams is also happy with their drivers and Adam Parr expects Williams will keep Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello and defended the choice of Maldonado, who joined the team thanks to his Venezuelan sponsors. “His record in GP2 certainly earned him a place in Formula One and you could see the speed. What I think he's begun to show is a degree of consistency and maturity that perhaps people didn't expect as well,” Parr said at Silverstone.

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India F1 Team
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India F1 Team

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Maldonado’s dollars were the reason German Nico Hulkenberg lost his Williams seat, despite some excellent results, including his maiden pole position in Brazil last year. Hulkenberg, who won about every series he participated in, is now test and reserve driver of the Force India team, but the young German wants a full race seat next year. “The test driving is not much and it's frustrating, but it's better than nothing,” he said. “Luckily I can at least drive on Fridays. This one season is not fatal to my career, but next year I have to have a race seat. Otherwise it's difficult for me.”

Jarno Trulli’s seat at Team Lotus is also in doubt, as the Italian has been outpaced by his Finnish colleague Heikki Kovalainen, not only this season, but also last season. However, Trulli expects a major improvement when he gets his long-awaited power steering system, which according to Trulli is the main reason he is slower than Kovalainen.

Red Bull driver Mark Webber was not happy ‘to maintain the gap’ with Sebastian Vettel at Silverstone, but nevertheless it is expected he will sign for the Austrian team for another year, as it is highly unlikely he can find a better car than the by Adrian Newey designed magical RB7.

Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula One has been difficult to say the least, and according to Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, the decision to stay next year is ‘entirely his’. Nico Rosberg has, like Webber, not really any other option than to stay with Mercedes, but has warned he wants his team to make the new 2012 contender a lot faster than this year’s car.

Plenty of problems for Michael Schumacher
Plenty of problems for Michael Schumacher

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Force India boss Vijay Mallya indicated he would like to see more Indian drivers in the sport, but at the same time doesn’t want to hire an Indian driver himself. Adrian Sutil has after his ordeal with Eric Lux, who is suing him for hitting him with a broken champagne glass in China, has been given the benefit of the doubt, but if found guilty, could lose his job at Force India.

Marussia Virgin has had their share of problems this season, which resulted in the dismissal of Nick Wirth, builder and designer of the car. Both Timo Glock and rookie Jerome d’Ambrosio are happy with the team, although less happy about the performance of the car. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs has tested the Marussia Virgin last week for the second time this year, and Formula One teams simply do not test drivers just for the fun of it.

Lotus Renault is still wrestling with another problem: they still don’t know whether their star driver Robert Kubica will be fit again to race this year, or even next year. After his terrible rally accident in February, his race return has been postponed, first from August to September, and later until the Brazilian GP in October. But in a recent interview the Pole indicated his return is scheduled for 2012, the truth is that neither he, or Lotus Renault team principal Eric Boullier or his manager Daniele Morelli know when he will have recovered sufficiently to race a Formula One car again. We sincerely wish him all the best from here.

Formula One visits Russia again

Ahead of the inaugural Russian GP in Sochi in 2014, Formula One once again visited Russia and last weekend the cars raced on the Red Square in Moscow. The city of Moscow, one of Europe’s most beautiful and impressive capitals, provided the backdrop for the annual Bavaria City Racing tour, this time with Jenson Button for McLaren, Giancarlo Fisichella for Ferrari and Karun Chandhok for Team Lotus.

Karun Chandhok, Lotus F1 Team
Karun Chandhok, Lotus F1 Team

Photo by: Frits van Eldik

An estimated 100,000 spectators, which is more than the number of spectators that turn up for the Turkish or Chinese GP, witnessed their heroes making donuts and burn-outs around the Kremlin, a treat for the eyes and especially for the ears. Although it was wet in Moscow, the fans loved it, and the number of spectators are a good indication the Russian love Formula One too.

It was Button’s second demo in Moscow and was once again impressed and more than happy to please the crowd in Moscow, “I'm very glad that thanks to Mobil 1, the technology partner of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, I have been invited back to Russia and had the chance to race a new track in the very center of Moscow.”

For Ferrari it was the first time they participated in the event, and Fisichella was certainly impressed. “It is a great circuit with the Kremlin and the Red Square in the background, it was a great honor to represent the Scuderia on such a special occasion, the first time a Ferrari Formula One car has been driven through the streets of Moscow, the crowd went wild and that's what it's all about,” commented Fisichella.

Also a new experience for Team Lotus, as they were also the only one of the newest teams to ever participate in such an event. Chandhok had the pleasure and honor of driving the Lotus through the streets of Moscow, and the Indian was certainly impressed. “Russia has a Grand Prix coming up and there seems to be a lot of excitement among the public here, which is great - unless you can get a crowd, there's no point in having a race," he said. And added, “But there seems to be a lot of interest for Formula One in this country. It's been an eye-opener for me, it's a beautiful city with amazing architecture. To drive down the long straight alongside the wall of the Kremlin was pretty mega!”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Scuderia Ferrari
Giancarlo Fisichella, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Frits van Eldik

At the same time, Marussia Virgin had made their own Russian arrangements, Glock and d’Ambrosio drove their Formula One cars through the city of Sochi, situated at the Eastern shore of the Black Sea. Team principal John Booth commented, "This is our first trip to Russia as a team and we are very excited about it. Marussia Virgin Racing’s first Russian connection was made at the team’s inception in 2010, when Marussia Motors became one of our sponsors.” D’Ambrosio was equally enthusiastic, “I know that we have a loyal following in Russia that is getting bigger every day. Marussia Virgin Racing will be key to opening the hearts of the Russian fans to Formula One.”

All in all, a tremendous experience for drivers and the Russian fans alike, and the fans are already looking forward to the first Russian GP in 2014.

Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

Formula One - On and Off Track week 29

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Fernando Alonso , Luca di Montezemolo , Narain Karthikeyan , Ross Brawn , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Luis Perez-Sala , Peter Sauber , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Karun Chandhok , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Pastor Maldonado , Sebastian Vettel , Eric Lux , Kamui Kobayashi , Adrian Sutil , Colin Kolles , Nico Hulkenberg , Sergio Perez , Daniel Ricciardo , John Booth , Adrian Newey , Adrian Quaife-Hobbs , Jaime Alguersuari , Jules Bianchi , Javier Villa , Martin Whitmarsh , Adam Parr
Teams Team Lotus , Sauber , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams , Virgin Racing , Lotus F1 Team
Tags bouman, mercedes, moscow, overtaking, russia, silly season, sochi