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number-of-overtakes-in-the-refuelling-era

This is a repost from several months ago, which in my view shows that refuelling is detrimental for Formula 1. However, considering the recent news about this subject and that it’s the summer break, I think that it’s more relevant now than then. Still, I’ll understand if the mods take it down.

Now, for the common counterarguments:

The number of overtakes isn’t a measure of the quality of the racing.

This is true, but without very specific rule changes (like DRS), it is a good indicator of the number of FIGHTS for position. Given roughly the same tracks, more fights equal more overtakes, and vice versa (there are outliers, but they even out over the course of a season). That is what most people want to see.

This means nothing because of the DRS, Pirelli and the changes in the aero rules, which is what caused the increase in overtakes.

This is true…from 2011 onwards. 2010 had no refuelling, but they still used Bridgestone tyres and there was no DRS. The aero changes were done in 2009, which was the last year with refuelling.

Correlation doesn’t equal causation.

True. However, when the correlation is strong you should really analise the facts. And the facts are:

  • The year refuelling was introduced (1994), the number of overtakes went down dramatically. Granted, the same had happened two years before, so it could just be the aero.

  • Throughout multiple rule changes, only once (2003) did the number of overtakes match that of 1994. It was the highest point in over 15 years which included from 20 to 26 cars on the grid, from slicks to grooved tyres, from utter domination by one team to breathtaking competition between 3 or 4 of them. It then went downhill from there, even excluding the 2005 outlier (which probably was due to the tyre changes ban), and it included 2009, which introduced a new formula that was supposed to reduce the dirty air problem. 2003 was, by the way, the year race fuel qualifying was introduced.

  • Then came 2010, where the only changes were the refuelling ban and the addition of 4 cars to the grid. And BOOM. Overtakes doubled. Not only that, but they almost reached the levels of 1993. Which was…the last year without refuelling. It’s a sample of 1 year (that includes 19 races), yes, but…is it a coincidence that for 15 years they never came close to those levels, and then the year they banned refuelling (and nothing else) they finally reached them again all of a sudden? (I mean, it could be, but it would be very unlikely)

2010 is a sample of 1.

…which is actually an average from a sample of 19. While the tracks are different when it comes to overtaking, outliers should (mostly) even out.

There were 24 cars on the grid in 2010 compared to 20 in 2009, which could explain the increase in overtakes.

And there were 26 in 1994, 24 in 1995 and 22 in 1996-2002 and 2006-7. The first full year in a very long time with just 20 cars on the grid was 2003, and it was the year with the highest number of overtakes in the entire period. It’s something that doesn’t seem to have much of an effect.

I just enjoy the strategies.

Around 80% of the races in that period were won with a two-stop strategy. Using Hungary 1998 and Magny Cours 2004 as examples for the excitement of refuelling strategies is cherrypicking, and could be answered (also cherrypicking) by pointing out that last Sunday’s race was won thanks to the strategy. However, unlike in the first two examples, there was actual action on track.

The Y-axis shouldn’t start at 10, it gives a false impression.

I agree.


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