One of the most important aspects of the F1 spectacle is overtaking. Overtaking is important in any race, but it has been lacking in Formula 1 in recent years. Some races see fewer overtakes than others, as some F1 tracks are worse for overtaking.
The 5 worst F1 tracks for overtaking are:
- Circuit de Monaco
- Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola)
- Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
- Albert Park Circuit
Overtaking has been average in recent years, but Formula 1 has altered the rulebook in an attempt to improve overtaking in the sport. New aerodynamic regulations were brought in to help the cars follow each other more closely. Below, we’ll discuss the worst tracks in F1 for overtaking.
Although overtaking has been difficult for modern F1 cars over the past decade, there are other external factors that contribute to the lack of overtaking that the sport has seen. The last few seasons have proved that a revamp was needed for the cars, but the tracks also have a role to play.
Some racetracks are simply not great for overtaking. There are some important elements that each track needs to have in place for it to provide decent overtaking opportunities. Every single track in Formula 1 is unique, which means they all have different sections that make overtaking possible.
Modern racetracks built in the 21st century are often designed with the overtaking element in mind. While the tracks still need to be challenging for the drivers, most of the tracks also need to have elements in them that allows the drivers to overtake during the race. This keeps both the drivers and fans engaged.
One of the most important elements of the racetrack that can make overtaking difficult is the width of the track. If a track is narrow, there’s less space for the cars to overtake each other, because going side by side with another car for too long creates more risk of an incident occurring.
While it’s still possible to overtake on a narrow track, it depends on the runoff area that’s available. If there are tarmac runoffs, there’s less risk involved for the driver, and they are more likely to go for an overtake. However, with walls or gravel, the driver might be more hesitant to take risks.
Wider circuits have more space going into the corner for the cars to be side by side, but they also have more space for cars to be side by side at the apex of the corner, which creates ideal overtaking opportunities for the drivers.
The track surface plays a pivotal role in the number of overtakes we see throughout the race. A slippery track surface can cause more overtakes in some cases, as drivers struggle for grip. However, it requires a lot of skill for drivers to overtake one another.
Abrasive track surfaces can also promote some overtaking throughout a race. There are two elements to this. The first is the more abrasive the surface is, the more grip the cars have, which means drivers can pull off overtaking moves from further back, or even around the outside of a corner.
The second element of abrasive surfaces is they wear the tires out faster. As the tires wear out, the driver will begin to lose grip and naturally begin setting slower lap times. This creates an opportunity for the cars behind, assuming they have fresher tires. With faster lap times than the car ahead, overtaking will be easier.
Even though there are some strict rules as to how circuits get their FIA Grade 1 rating, there are some circuits that have poor surfaces. Cracks in the tarmac, rocks, and dust can cause drivers to lose grip, which is bad for overtaking. Drivers will have the most grip on the racing line and going off the racing line to overtake will lead to dirty tires and less grip.
The track layout plays an important role in overtaking as well. If a track does not have a layout that promotes overtaking, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a lot of overtakes during the race. Many of the older circuits have layouts that are poor for overtaking.
Many of the modern circuits (also known as “Tilke” circuits, named after the famous circuit designer Herman Tilke) are designed with major overtaking opportunities in mind. These are circuits like Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, where we often see a lot of overtaking.
Circuits good for overtaking need to have slower, more technical sections that allow the cars to close up to one another. They also need to have long straights followed by tight corners like hairpins. The long straights will provide a slipstreaming opportunity, and a heavy braking zone will allow the drivers to overtake.
There are some other factors involved, but the focus is on the types of corners used in the track layout. Fast corners are naturally worse for overtaking because cars don’t gain much time or close the gap between them as much when they’re all going flat out through fast corners.
Monaco is the F1 track that consistently sees the fewest overtakes every year. The historical circuit serves as one of the most famous races of the season. The circuit is so narrow that driving a Formula 1 car through it has been described as being like riding a bicycle in your living room.
With walls only a few meters apart, the modern two-meter-wide Formula 1 cars struggle to make their way through the streets of Monaco, especially side by side. There’s almost no space at the apex of the corners, and one small mistake can put your car in the wall and out of the race.
On top of that, the longest straight on the circuit is not much over 500 meters long and the cars can only hit 180 miles per hour before having to brake for the next corner. This does not create a good overtaking opportunity for any driver. The bumpy track surface also makes it difficult for drivers to go off the racing line to overtake.
1. Circuit de Monaco
The Monaco Grand Prix might be one of the most glamorous venues on the calendar, but in terms of racing, it’s been poor in excitement. Unless something goes drastically wrong, or the weather plays a role, it’s highly likely that the pole sitter will win the race. This makes qualifying absolutely crucial.
Spectators at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix were left disappointed as the entire race saw just one on track overtake (and even that was a result of pit stop strategy coming out of the pit lane). This has put Monaco’s position on the modern Formula 1 calendar under threat. However, strategy plays a crucial role here, and cars can make up positions in the pits.
The problem with Monaco is not necessarily the circuit itself, though. After all, the circuit featured many overtakes during the 1980s and 1990s. The main issue is the fact that modern Formula 1 cars have outgrown the narrow street circuit.
With potential plans to make the cars smaller in the future, there is still some hope that Formula 1 purists will win out and keep the famous Monaco Grand Prix on the calendar. Simply watching the drivers push the limits of their cars through the tight street circuit is a spectacle in itself.
The Hungaroring is another circuit loved by many drivers because of the challenge that it brings with it. However, the circuit itself provides very little opportunity to overtake during the Grand Prix, making qualifying (and the start) absolutely vital.
The main overtaking opportunity is into turn one. The Hungaroring has a long straight that goes downhill into a heavy braking zone. This elevation change can catch some drivers out when they’re under pressure, leading to lock ups and drivers running wide.
Apart from that, the only other real overtaking opportunity that drivers have is turn two, where we have seen some brave drivers attempting to overtake on either side of their opponent. The off-camber nature of the corner allows two cars to race side by side through it.
The rest of the circuit is tight and twisty, making it difficult for other cars to follow one another. The final sector also makes it difficult for the attacking car to stay close enough to the car ahead of them to get a good run down the long straight.
3. Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola)
Imola is another historic circuit on the Formula 1 calendar. It’s a real challenge and many drivers love racing at this incredible track. However, for the most part, the Imola circuit does not offer great overtaking opportunities.
Turn one is a chicane to slow the cars down, which offers a good overtaking opportunity at the start. But when the drivers head into the corner at 200 miles per hour, it becomes much more difficult to get alongside the car ahead and overtake them.
Overall, the circuit is relatively narrow, and it seems like none of the straights are long enough for drivers to get close enough to overtake. The main straight is much longer, but the trailing car needs a massive top-speed advantage in order to overtake.
The one thing that Imola does have going for it though is the unpredictable weather in the area. As we’ve seen in recent years, this circuit can provide some overtaking opportunities when it starts to rain and the track becomes slippery. However, without DRS activated in the wet, they’re still rare.
4. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain is the circuit every driver on the grid knows like the back of their hand. This circuit is almost always used for preseason testing, so the drivers have done thousands of laps around this circuit.
The circuit itself is a challenge, with a good mix of fast and slow corners, which is great for testing a car. However, when it comes to racing, this circuit does not produce much in terms of overtaking.
Catalunya has a long straight that allows drivers to get into a slipstream and make an overtake into the heavy braking zone at turn one. However, aside from that, overtaking is extremely difficult throughout the rest of the track.
There is a heavy braking zone after the fast right hander of turn seven, but the straight is too short to get in position alongside the car ahead. We’ve seen some incredible overtaking moves around the outside of turn three, but these are rare.
5. Albert Park Circuit
Melbourne is another street circuit, and although it’s not as tight as Monaco is, we still see very little overtaking during this race. The main problem that Melbourne has had over the years is the track layout, because the tight middle section and fast-flowing corners create little opportunity for overtaking.
The main area where cars can overtake is into turn one, but even then, drivers must ensure their car has the perfect exit out of the final corner as they power down the relatively short main straight. The rest of the circuit is tight and twisty, which presents very little overtaking opportunities for the drivers.
The Melbourne circuit layout was altered in 2022, with a tight right-hand corner being removed from the middle sector and remodeled into a curving straight. This potentially gives the cars more opportunity to overtake going into the chicane, but it remains a difficult feat.
The 2022 aerodynamic regulations were altered to make cars easier to follow. This would, in theory, make it easier for the cars to overtake one another. With the previous generation of cars, the drivers would lose downforce (through dirty air) up to three seconds behind another car.
In other words, for the attacking car to match the pace of the car ahead of them or go even faster, they would need to be two seconds or more behind them. They would then have to close the gap to under one second to overtake with DRS.
However, the 2022 rule changes reduced the amount of dirty air in the wake of the cars in two ways. The first is that the cars now use the ground effect and produce downforce using the floor of the car as opposed to just over body airflow.
In addition, the cars have a beam wing (a smaller wing underneath the large element). The beam wing is used to direct most of the turbulent air up and over the car behind, meaning that there is more clean air being funneled into the Venturi tunnels in the floor of the trailing car.
Most of the worst F1 tracks for overtaking are older, historic tracks that modern F1 cars have grown too large to pass on. While arguably the most famous circuit in F1, Monaco is the worst track for overtaking and some critics speculate the track may be left off the F1 calendar in the future.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.