Too many pit-stops, too much overtaking in F1 2011?
13 May 2011
It is rare that there has ever been cause to lament too much overtaking or action during the course of a grand prix, but four races into F1's brave new era with Pirelli tyres and DRS (Drag Reduction Systems) in 2011, that is precisely what some paddock members are beginning to hint at.
Last weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul matched the 1983 United States Grand Prix West around the streets of Long Beach in California – when McLaren team-mates John Watson and Niki Lauda scythed their way through the field from 22nd and 23rd spots on the starting grid respectively to take the chequered flag one-two – for the most overtaking moves over the course of a race distance in the top flight at 79.
That takes the total tally for 2011 to-date past the 200 mark – or, to put it another way, more than half the number that were seen during the entirety of the 19-race 2010 campaign. Despite many lauding the excitement and unpredictability that the radical new regulations have provided, Virgin Racing ace Timo Glock wonders if passing has now arguably become too easy...
“When you get to within one second of the guy in front [to be able to deploy the moveable rear wing], the chances to overtake are very big,” the German told Sport1. “In Istanbul, it was almost guaranteed. Perhaps it would have been a bit more exciting if the zone in which you can use the wing was a little smaller.”
Team Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne countered, however, labelling the naysayers 'whingers' and writing in his column for British newspaper The Daily Telegraph: “There are complaints about too much overtaking, which is actually great to hear. You can't please all the people all the time, but we are here to race and, most importantly, we have had some cracking races.”
It was not only overtaking for which F1's recent visit to Istanbul stood out, however, with the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix similarly setting a new high for the number of pit-stops to be completed during a race, surpassing the previous record established during the chaotic, rain-affected 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington Park.
Mercedes Grand Prix star Nico Rosberg confessed that he was unsure as to what position he was actually in until the very closing stages, and both defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel and former double title-winner Fernando Alonso have opined that the flurry of trips to the pit-lane – 82 in all – will likely have left spectators scratching their heads. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has raised safety fears, too.
“Four pit-stops I think is too much, personally,” the Italian told Diario Sport, “especially for the safety in the pit-lane. In Istanbul, it is not such a concern, but in other grands prix there will be more difficulties. We will have to be very careful.”
Domenicali was rather more enthusiastic, by contrast, about FIA President Jean Todt's suggestion that a moderate amount of in-season testing should be reintroduced to F1, most prominently to help young drivers to prepare for graduation to the grand prix grid.
“It was extreme to go from so many miles of testing in the past to an absolute prohibition,” the 46-year-old reflected. “I have always thought that a compromise was more sensible.”