Why there is no overtaking in Formula One motor racing. jpoc opinion
Almost everyone who is interested in F1 constantly bemoans the lack of overtaking. The exception of note being FIA top man Max Mosley. He asserts that the current situation, where pit stops are the main means for one driver to pass another, adds an extra dimension of race strategy.
Meanwhile, the technical experts keep making proposals to change the regulations in a way that will increase overtaking. Few of their proposals are implemented and those that are seem to have little effect.
The reasons for the lack of overtaking are well understood as are the ways in which the situation could be changed.
I will examine those reasons and propose changes which would have an effect on the situation in a later article but now, I want to explain why, despite the protestations, there is no real desire to change the current situation.
Circumstances usually deal us a glorious exception about once a year (Hockenheim 2000, Magny Cours 1999 etc) but most F1 races fit into a predictable pattern.
The vagiaries of qualifying and the randomness of the start often throw up one or two anomalies of position in the early laps. A fast car outside the top ten or a lucky back marker in the top six. The potential then exists for some interesting racing for the first half a dozen laps. Also, we get to see the position at the front between the leading cars. Are the gaps between the front runners increasing or staying steady? Does anyone appear to be running a low fuel load to make up positions? All of these issues will be resolved in the first seven or eight minutes of the race.
Matters will then settle down and little will happen until the first pit stops. We then have the perfect time for the first advertising break.
A typical race might last for ninety minutes and see each team stop at around the thirty minute and one hour mark. So, a return from the adverts after twenty minutes of racing will allow the commentators time to pick up on any missed incidents and focus the viewers on the likely tactics for the first round of stops. There then exist slots between the pit stops and after the final ones for further advertising breaks.
Safety car outings give additional opportunities for advertising breaks. Often, on the race track commentary, or on those channels uninterrupted by advertising, you hear the commentator wondering why the safty car is staying out for an extra lap after the trouble has been cleared. It is not because the race director is not paying attention and nor is he being overly cautions. He must allow time for the TV stations to prepare to resume their coverage by breaking the advertising stream.
Does this matter? Is it an outrageous violation of great sporting traditions? Remember, the advertising is what pays for the sport. Of course, teams receive sponsorship money and the circuits have their own on-track advertising and ticket income but TV advertising provides a huge income stream. The team's share of this money is not insignificant and indeed, many of the smaller teams rely on this as a major source of their income.