How DRS has skewed Formula 1's overtaking records

Max Verstappen broke a 32-year-old record this season by clocking up 78 overtaking moves but is it as impressive as it sounds?

How DRS has skewed Formula 1's overtaking records

Before we answer the question, it's important to outline the criteria in which the data has been collated.

An overtaking move is classed as one that takes place during complete flying laps - so the opening lap is discounted - and is maintained all the way to the lap's finish line.

Position changes due to major mechanical problems or lapping/unlapping are not counted, nor are place changes made during pitstops.

Verstappen ended Niki Lauda's reign at the top, with the Austrian having held the record since 1984 with 60 passes.

Now, as the table below shows, Lauda is one of only two drivers - Michael Schumacher the other - in the top 10 to have achieved his best tally before the DRS overtaking aid was introduced in 2011.

Top 10 F1 drivers with most overtakes

Based on overtaking statistics from 1984-2016

Driver Year Overtakes Av.erage per race
1 Max Verstappen 2016 78 3.71
2 Daniel Ricciardo 2016 61 2.90
3 Sebastian Vettel 2012 60 3.00
4 Michael Schumacher 2003 60 3.75
5 Niki Lauda 1984 60 3.75
6 Felipe Massa 2013 59 3.10
7 Mark Webber 2013 59 3.10
8 Jean-Eric Vergne 2012 58 2.90
9 Sergio Perez 2016 56 2.66
10 Kimi Raikkonen 2013 56 2.95

Verstappen's form this season has been undeniably strong, with his performance in Brazil particularly impressive as he clocked up 13 passes under the criteria.

But like his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who moved into second place in the table this year with 61, 17 passes behind Verstappen, both had the benefit of DRS.

They also achieved the feat in the longest F1 season on record with 21 races and in an era when Pirelli has been asked to produce high-degradation tyres.

That compares to just 16 races when Lauda set the previous record, while Schumacher's tally of 60, just one fewer than Ricciardo, was set over the same number.

If the table was reshuffled based on average passes per race, Lauda and Schumacher would share the record with 3.75 passes per race, with Verstappen dropping to third with 3.71.

Meanwhile, Vettel, who jointly held the previous record, would drop to sixth overall.

The impact of DRS is even more stark when you compare the total number of overtakes per year since 1990.

F1 overtakes per season

Full data from 1990-2016

Year Overtakes Races Av.erage per race
1990 494 16 30.9
1991 495 16 30.9
1992 406 16 25.4
1993 392 16 24.5
1994 289 16 18.1
1995 297 17 17.5
1996 186 16 11.6
1997 265 17 15.6
1998 207 16 12.9
1999 260 16 16.3
2000 279 16 16.4
2001 230 17 13.5
2002 235 17 13.8
2003 303 16 18.9
2004 287 18 16.2
2005 207 19 10.9
2006 291 18 16.2
2007 270 17 15.9
2008 267 18 14.8
2009 211 16 13.2
2010 452 19 23.8
2011 821 19 43.2
2012 870 20 43.5
2013 760 19 40.0
2014 636 19 33.5
2015 509 19 26.8
2016 866 21 41.2

When DRS was introduced in 2011, the number of passes nearly doubled from 452 to 821 and was nearly four times of that of seasons during the late '90s and early '00s.

It's also notable that when a regulation change has been introduced, such as in 2009 (pictured) and '14, the number of passes has fallen compared to the previous year.

Various factors influenced the overtaking figures, such as pitstops, particularly when tyre changes became more common in the early 1990s.

Average number of passes per race 1990-2016

NB. F1 races featured refuelling from 1994-2009

When refuelling was introduced in 1994, the figures took a further tumble and they stayed low through the early part of the 21st century.

When F1's rulemakers started tinkering with the qualifying format from 2003 the figures increased slightly but remained low.

They then rose dramatically when DRS and Pirelli's tyres with higher degradation were introduced.

Using the criteria, there have been 14,914 passes since 1983, with nearly a third of those - 4462 - occurring in the last six seasons when DRS has been available.

Statistics compiled by Michele Merlino

shares
comments
Ex-Williams F1 test driver Susie Wolff made MBE in New Year Honours

Previous article

Ex-Williams F1 test driver Susie Wolff made MBE in New Year Honours

Next article

Horner: Mercedes still favourite for 2017 F1 titles

Horner: Mercedes still favourite for 2017 F1 titles
Load comments
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Plus

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

Formula 1
Jul 28, 2021
How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021
The signs that point to F1's rude health Plus

The signs that point to F1's rude health

OPINION: Formula 1's calendar might still be facing disruption as the pandemic affects travel but, says MARK GALLAGHER, the business itself is fundamentally strong thanks to the epic rivalry taking place on track and the consistent arrival of new sponsors

Formula 1
Jul 24, 2021
The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat Plus

The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat

OPINION: Formula 1's sprint race trial at Silverstone drew mixed feedback on Saturday, but there remained the true test of how it would impact Sunday's Grand Prix. While fans were busy marvelling at Fernando Alonso's progress, a key lesson was being learned that would directly contribute to the dramatic lap one clash at Copse the following day

Formula 1
Jul 22, 2021
The off-track considerations that led to F1’s Hamilton/Verstappen Silverstone shunt Plus

The off-track considerations that led to F1’s Hamilton/Verstappen Silverstone shunt

OPINION: Formula 1’s 2021 title fight turned ugly last weekend when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided at the start of the British Grand Prix. Verstappen thankfully walked away unharmed, but this had been a clash long-since coming

Formula 1
Jul 21, 2021