In response to Mr Morris’s letter about overtaking in Formula One, I would say that more than one factor is responsible for ‘processional’ racing today.
Due to the speed of the cars, the duration of the straights is no more than a second or two, thus giving no time to overtake. Also, as the top engine manufacturers approach the limit of power available, and the aerodynamics of the cars almost reach perfection for the particular track, there is insufficient difference between the top teams for one to have complete mastery over another.
This is often highlighted in qualifying when the first two or three grid positions are separated by only hundredths of a second. An example of this was in the Hungarian GP. In pole position was Schumacher with 1min 17.129sec, and in second place Hill with 1min 17.182sec.
Schumacher’s time gave him an average speed of 115.18mph for that qualifying lap. The time difference between him and Hill was 0,053sec, which at this speed represents a gap just short of 9ft. So, even if these cars all had their own lanes, eliminating the need to overtake, Schumacher’s car would not have completely cleared Hill’s. While on the subject of overtaking, two things really annoy me; firstly, commentators referring to a ‘battle’ when it is no more than one driver baulking another, clearly faster, driver, and secondly, allowing a situation to exist whereby a driver who makes a tiny mistake at the start gets held up for a ridiculously long time by someone who didn’t. When he finally gets free, he wipes the floor with the entire field, catching up with the leader, who originally was 20-odd seconds ahead. He can’t overtake, because one can’t do that nowadays, otherwise he would have won. Then the press state that his championship lead is seriously under threat and take delight in insinuating that, as they’ve known all along, perhaps he isn’t very good after all.
Sometimes I think we are too influenced by the final outcome and not enough by the play that led to it.
John B Clarke, Wigan, Lancs.