Formula 1 sporting director Ross Brawn wasn’t the only one to notice a lack of overtaking during the Australian Grand Prix. Albert Park is one of the more difficult circuits to find an exploit a gap, but even the addition of a third DRS zone did very little to change promote passing. Brawn said,
“One vital ingredient was missing, namely overtaking, as there were really very few passing moves in this opening round. It’s vital that the cars are capable of getting close to one another and racing wheel to wheel.
When there is only a small speed gap between two cars then it’s almost impossible for the pursuer to get close enough to mount an attack. We saw that yesterday with Hamilton and Vettel, Verstappen and Magnussen and again the Dutchman and Alonso and with Ricciardo and Raikkonen. Think of how much wheel-to-wheel dicing we missed out on. And, for the very first time, we even had a third DRS zone specifically to increase the chances of overtaking.”
This was foreseen in various technical F1 publications and articles that aimed to highlight the negative impact an aero-centric formula could have, and it looks like we’re stuck with it for the moment. It is being addressed for the 2021 regulations though, with Brawn saying:
“One of our aims, which we are looking at with the FIA and the teams is that, for 2021, we want to have cars that allow drivers to really fight one another on track. To that end, the FIA and F1 are carrying out an aerodynamic research programme with two car models, both in the windtunnel and using CFD.”
The venue of the first race does skew the picture slightly and it might be better to reassess the overtaking “problem” after a few more races. Not everyone subscribes to the idea that lots of overtakes are needed for a great race, but there’s definitely is a middle-ground between the lack of overtaking at the last weekend and a couple of rounds of Mario Kart.
It’s clear that those directing the sport recognize an issue but this lends itself more to post-2021 regulations minimizing chunky aero than resolving anything in the immediate future. Whether you’re a fan that wants to see more overtaking or not, your best bet might be waiting to see how the grid gets on in Bahrain, to allow the picture to come into focus a bit more.