Where it all changed - Imola 1994

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
Last night I'd been looking at several tracks in the overtaking spread sheets and I noticed a trend that we haven't looked at in the analysis so far. As I worked on it I noticed that as a rule it worked for almost every track.

Let's start with a league table of current/recent F1 tracks in order of average dry number of overtakes:

Fuji Speedway - 25
Monza - 22.75
Silverstone - 22.38
Interlagos - 22.36
Hockenheimring - 21.18
Spa-Francorchamps - 20.73
Imola - 20.05
Canada - 18.64
Nurburgring - 18.62
Istanbul - 18.40
USA (Indy) - 17.43
Bahrain - 17

Suzuka - 15.88
Hungaroring - 15.7
Albert Park - 15.29
Sepang - 14.22
Shanghai - 13.67
Magny Cours - 11.31
Singapore - 10
Monaco - 9.41
Catalunya - 8.41
Valencia - 4

The circuits in Blue are the more recent additions to the calendar.

After Senna and Ratzenbergers death at Imola in 1994 the first response from the FIA was to fix huge planks under the car to reduce the cars grip due to spoiling the airflow under the car. In addition within the next two years there were some major changes to most of the circuits then on the calendar. So this next league table shows the dry average of the circuits prior to Imola 94 in relation to the dry average of the post Imola circuits.
I think the results say it all:

Imola - 36.40
Silverstone - 34.25
Hungaroring - 33.12
Monza - 33.09
Hockenheimring - 31.11
Magny Cours - 31
Interlagos - 28.33
Spa-Francorchamps - 27.14
Suzuka - 25.40
Fuji Speedway - 25
Canada - 23.11
Istanbul - 18.40
USA (Indy) - 17.43
Bahrain - 17

Catalunya - 16.33
Monaco - 15.67
Albert Park - 15.29
Sepang - 14.22
Shanghai - 13.67
Singapore - 10
Valencia - 4
Nurburgring - N/A

As you can see, while modern circuits are constrained by modern car designs etc etc. There is still a notable jump in the average dry overtakes before 1994. Just look at how high up the table Hungary is for example. Magny Cours and Catalunyas position in the table is a litte odd due to there only being a couple of races at each circuit prior to 1994. In the case of Catalunya there was a major alteration of the cicuit in 1996 so I have used the 93 - 95 figures for that track. The Nurburgrings figures I have considered to be not applicable to this table because the only data pre 94 is from 84/85 so other factors may account for variations in overtaking average.

In the next table it highlights just how hamstrung modern tracks have been made by the addition of the post 94 mods such as the removal of faster corners and the addition of chicanes. When the addition of the "Plank" and the attempts at controlling grip are included into the table we can finally appreciate the effect of the safety rulings.

Fuji Speedway - 25
Interlagos - 22.80
Nurburgring - 18.62
Istanbul - 18.40
USA (Indy) - 17.43
Bahrain - 17

Albert Park - 15.29
Spa-Francorchamps - 15.13
Sepang - 14.22
Hockenheimring - 14.31
Monza - 13.69
Shanghai - 13.67
Silverstone - 13.33
Canada - 12.85
Suzuka - 11.55
Singapore - 10
Hungaroring - 8.56
Magny Cours - 8.5
Catalunya - 6.67
Imola - 5.18
Monaco - 5.08
Valencia - 4

As you can see from this table, despite being much maligned Herman Tilke actually isn't doing too bad a job at designing new circuits within the current limitations of the sport.

So what can we gather from this. This is going to be contraversial but the lack of over taking in modern F1 can be directly attributed to the knee jerk reaction to safety in response to the tragic events of 1 weekend in Imola. Given the benifit of hindsight perhaps a more measured response may have led to increases in safety without hampering racing. It's easy to forgive the FIA for this however, since the public, the press and motorsport in general demanded that actions be taken and be seen to be taken.

What can be done to undo the effects of these changes while retaining the level of safety they have afforded the sport is the challenge that needs to be overcome before overtaking will be more common place.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
Thanks for this, cider, must have been a lot of work involved there.

You could well be right, but a lot of things changed in 1994 - refuelling was reintroduced, for one thing. There were further technical changes to the cars for 1995, too. How sure can we be that one of these changes make a particular difference, or more of a difference than the others?

I wonder if we have overtaking figures for Interlagos, Aida and Imola 1994 (i.e. the races post-refuelling but pre-the safety changes)? It's a small sample to go on, admittedly, but it's all we have.
 

Brogan

🦶 Leg end
Staff Member
Good work c_a_t.

As we discussed though it doesn't explain the drop in average overtaking figures from 40 in 1983 to 24 in 1993.

GM, the figures for those circuits in 1994 are:

Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos) - 13
Okayama International Circuit (TI Circuit Aida) - 13
Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola) - 34

Taken from here: F1 Overtaking Statistics & Analysis

Oddly enough, the figures are higher for each circuit in 1995, although Imola was classed as a wet race in '95.

What is clear is that since 1995, the median seems to have stabilised around an equalised value of 225 passes per season.
 
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