F1 Special Feature: The Undercut

Photo of race car in for a pit stop. Photo from https://formula1.com

An “Undercut,” in plain matter is a pit stop or two! Or maybe 3!  It plays strategic importance in a race and on a particular track like the track this weekend in France called the Circuit Paul Ricard.

A sensational finish in last season’s race by Red Bull Racing Team, where they used the “Undercut ‘strategy twice and perfectly executed it for a last-lap win.

So as a strategist on any F1 Team, they will tell you the importance of a pit stop and an “Undercut” as a key vital move that can turn the race around in their favor, or not!

As the current compounds of the tyres add an even greater strategy on race day, it is vital that teams clearly communicate what plan of attack will use that day.

So, in most races, there are 1 or 2 pit stops, but lately, a 3rd pit stop strategy has brought more gamesmanship into F1, hence the “Undercut”.

Undercutting involves a driver making a pit stop, a few laps, earlier as a “Plan B” strategy, than the car ahead of them. This helps the driver by having a new set of tyres, that can help them overtake their rivals, that are on an old worn-out set of tyres. Once the Undercut takes place, the lap times are faster than their rivals, and when the DRS (Drag Reduction System) zone is available, then it’s “game on” and the overtake is possible.

 Now, stay with me on this, once this happens, the rival teams will react or not, depending on what strategy plan the team is on. So, rivals will react and go in for their own pit stop. The first to pit stop early allows the team to undercut the team ahead of them, by making the pit stop first. It’s a very tricky interchange but when it is done flawlessly, it’s the ultimate move for a crucial track position and a win over team rivals.

Let me finish off by stating this, Undercutting can also backfire if the rival teams have an inclination on your strategy.

There is always plan C and D, and rival teams could opt not to come in and try to finish the race on their old tyres. Last season it happened many times to Red Bull Team Racing, Ferrari and Mercedes with blown tyres at the end of the race and/or even leading to engine malfunction.

If done flawlessly, it’s a way to win many races in a season, where tracks allow this type of racing.

Look out for the “undercut” when watching the F1 race in France this weekend.

If the teams’ rivals opt not to come for a force pit stop, then overtaking is an enormous task as the rival teams have a fresh set of tyres with more pace and grip!

So much fun!!  

Stay viewed, A lot more to come this weekend!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.