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Does F1 Have Push To Pass? (Full Explanation)

Over the recent decade, Formula 1 has given its drivers a number of overtaking aids. From ERS to DRS, elements have been put in place to help increase the number of overtakes that happen during a race. One element present in IndyCar is called Push to Pass, or P2P.

F1 has a type of push to pass, however it is different from that used in IndyCar. Formula 1 currently uses DRS and a hybrid system to give the car an extra boost. DRS is the main overtaking tool, where the car’s rear wing opens up to reduce drag and increase top speed.

Push to pass has been successful in IndyCar, and many fans have been wondering whether Formula 1 should also implement push to pass into the sport. It would add a new strategic element for drivers to consider, and we take a closer look at this below.

What Is Push To Pass In IndyCar?

Push to pass is an overtaking aid in IndyCar that is used to help the cars overtake one another more effectively. Pushing the button will give the engine a small horsepower boost, but only for five seconds.

Five seconds might not sound like much, but in terms of overall speed it makes a big difference, especially if the driver ahead doesn’t use their push to pass button. That five second boost can therefore allow the car behind to overtake.

Push to pass needs to be used strategically. If the driver uses it too early or too late, they may not be able to gather enough speed to pull off the overtaking move. On the other hand, a driver can also use push to pass to defend against another attacking driver.

How Does Push To Pass Work?

Push to pass works by allowing the driver to gain a horsepower boost in the engine by pressing a button on their steering wheel. This adds more pressure to the turbocharger, allowing it to boost the engine’s power output for 5 seconds at a time by up to 60 HP.

A driver can use their push to pass system at any point throughout the race except for race restarts. Push to pass is only available on road and street circuits, so the cars can’t use push to pass on an oval circuit.

Each car has a total of 200 seconds worth of push to pass to use throughout the entire race. Each press of the button provides 5 seconds worth of extra power. This means that drivers need to use their push to pass advantage sparingly to make sure they don’t run out before the end of the race.

On the other hand, they can’t completely abstain from using the push to pass system because that would mean they are wasting power and going slower than their opponents. This makes the push to pass system simple, yet tricky to master.

What Is The Overtake Button In F1?

The overtake button in F1 makes use of the two ERS systems on the car, namely the MGU-H and the MGU-K. These systems harvest energy from the turbocharger and brakes respectively, and when the driver presses the overtake button, some of this electric power is sent to the rear wheels.

The overtake button in Formula 1 might sound like the same thing, but there’s actually a big difference between the overtake button and the push to pass button. The overtake button also gives the driver an extra boost of horsepower, but there are some risks to using it.

Power Limits

While there is no limit on how long the overtake button is pressed in Formula 1 like there is on the push to pass button in IndyCar, drivers still need to take care with it. There are power limits though, namely that the ERS system can’t give the driver an extra 160 HP for more than 33 seconds per lap.

It’s worth noting that F1 cars have various different “modes” for ERS, meaning that just because the driver isn’t pressing the overtake button, it doesn’t mean the car isn’t benefitting from this extra electrical power. However, pressing the overtake button simply drains the battery faster than if they were just “passively” making use of the extra power.

The Tradeoff

So, when the driver presses the overtake button, they can be thought of as “draining the battery.” To build battery charge back up, the driver must change their driving style for the next few laps to “harvest” more energy. This usually involves a bit of lifting and coasting into corners, or staying on the brakes a little longer than usual.

Effectively, it means they need to go slower in order to build up more charge to be able to use the battery again. During normal racing, the driver will deploy their battery charge efficiently using the overtake button at several defined spots throughout the track where it benefits their car most. This usually allows them to keep the battery at a fairly constant level of supply.

However, if they’re defending against a DRS assisted overtake, or indeed performing one themselves, they may use overtake for longer than they normally would on an average lap. It is in these situations that you’ll normally see drivers then try to harvest energy in the following laps, to top up the battery once again, to prepare for more attacking/defending.

Both IndyCar’s push to pass and F1’s overtake button are fairly similar. They both provide a power boost for the driver, and while they use very different systems – air compression versus battery power – they serve a similar purpose. But what about DRS in F1? It’s a different beast altogether, but is it more effective than a push to pass or overtake button?

Push To Pass vs DRS

IndyCar’s push to pass has some clear advantages, but so does Formula 1’s DRS. The DRS, or drag reduction system, is an element on the rear wing of a Formula 1 car that allows part of the wing to open and allow more air to pass through, reducing drag and increasing the speed of the car.

Formula 1 cars are only allowed to use DRS if they are within one second of the car ahead of them, and usually if the track is dry and there hasn’t been a safety car/race start/restart within the two laps prior.

The driver activates DRS by pushing a button on the steering wheel. As soon as the driver brakes or comes off the throttle, the DRS flap closes again to give the car normal levels of downforce (as open DRS decreases downforce) and stability while braking.

Which Is More Effective?

In terms of which device is better for overtaking, Formula 1’s DRS system takes the win. The drag reduction system combined with a slipstream is extremely powerful, and cars can sometimes gain more than 10 mph on the leading car on a long straight with this combination.

On top of that, DRS is even more powerful because the car in front is not allowed to use theirs unless they are within one second of the car ahead of them. This gives the chasing car a significant top speed advantage down the straight for an easy overtake.

On the other hand, the push to pass system is only available for five seconds at a time, which is not as powerful as the DRS, but is still effective. Push to pass is also limited, so it is possible to run out of this boost, and both the leading and the trailing car can use it at the same time as long as they have some available, which effectively cancels out the advantage.

Which Has The Most Entertainment Value?

It’s not always about which system is better for overtaking though. The DRS system has had a lot of controversy around it since its introduction in 2011. This is mainly because it feels to many fans like overtaking has become artificial.

It’s almost as if the FIA wanted more overtakes, so they gave the cars an overpowered system that will guarantee overtakes during a race. There’s also the possibility of having a “DRS train” which is when there are several cars all within one second of each other using their DRS systems, yet no one is able to overtake because they are all on equal grounds again.

The push to pass system offers much more entertainment value than the DRS system because of the strategic element involved in using it. Drivers must decide for themselves when they want to use it and how much they are going to use it during a race. There’s also the possibility for drivers to defend using the push to pass system, but there isn’t that option with DRS.

Should F1 Use Push To Pass?

F1 shouldn’t have push to pass as it already has the overtake button, which makes use of the hybrid components of the engine. This is used in a similar way to push to pass in IndyCar, but it does actually run out if the driver isn’t careful, while IndyCar’s push to pass is artificially limited. 

Many Formula 1 fans have been calling for DRS to be removed, or at least altered in Formula 1 because of how powerful it is. The complaint that it has made racing artificial is fairly valid, because many modern Formula 1 races rely heavily on DRS to make overtaking manoeuvres possible.

The Effect Of Dirty Air

This is a result of the cars being very downforce-heavy in terms of their design. When cars rely on downforce, they also produce a lot of “dirty air” that impedes the downforce of the cars behind them. This makes following cars more difficult through the corners, meaning the trailing car relies on the speed boost of the DRS to “catch up” with the car in front on the next straight.

Whether push to pass is a viable alternative is still under debate. On one hand it would add a new strategic element to the sport, similar to what we saw with the earliest versions of KERS, where drivers only had 10 seconds of battery deployment per lap.

On the other hand, Formula 1 is does not often copy from other branches of motorsport. If anything we would see some form of adaptation of the push to pass button in the form of a new ERS boost, but there would be restrictions to it. Plus, F1 just already has its own overtake button, so it’s more likely that they would just adapt that instead of adding a new system.

Final Thoughts

F1 does not have push to pass, but it does have its own overtake button. This system relies on the two hybrid components of the current F1 engines, and while it works in a similar way to IndyCar’s push to pass, it relies on battery power rather than air compression in the turbocharger.