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Undercut F1: What Does Undercut and Overcut Mean in Formula 1?

Subham Jindal

Undercut F1: What Does Undercut Mean in Formula 1, How Does F1 Drivers do it?

An Undercut in F1 is one of the most used strategies that allows teams to gain track positions and outsmart their opponents.

The teams only make 1 or 2 pit stops during a race or maybe a third one in case there is an unfortunate flat tyre situation. Since there are usually two stops in a race, the teams have to come up with smart strategies to get the best result.

One of those strategies is popularly known as undercutting. But this method is not something that the teams decide beforehand. The decision to undercut is usually taken when a driver is out on track.

What Does Undercut Mean in F1?

Undercutting means when a driver makes a pit stop earlier than his opponent had anticipated. This ensures the driver has a fresher set of tyres, which can help him overtake the worn-out tyres of his opponent.

Fresh tyres also improve the lap times and once the gap is reduced to 1 second with the opponent, the DRS (Drag Reduction System) can help in overtaking.

Once this happens, naturally the opponent opts for a pit stop of his own. The opponent would go for a fresher set of tyres too. But if the gap is big enough by then, he could end up behind the undercutting driver. It’s a very tricky manoeuvre, but if done well, can yield the driver the crucial track positions.

Also Read: Why do F1 drivers get weighed after a race?

Can Undercutting F1 Car backfire?

Undercutting can also backfire if the opponent has understood the strategy well. Because the undercutting driver pit stops first, he is naturally racing with more worn tyres.

This will eventually lead to a loss of pace and grip vis-a-vis the opponent. This gives the latter an opportunity to regain his lost track position.

Once this happens, it’ll make over-taking a gigantic task as the opponent has fresher tyres, with more pace and grip.

The entire play is about track position. Once you get track position over your opponent, you can then try and use your skill and psychological advantage to good effect on the track. However, ‘worn out’ tyres towards the end of the race can cause a disadvantage.

Undercutting is prevalent not only when competing against opposition team drivers, but also your own. All of it depends on the team’s strategies and race philosophy.

For instance, Mercedes have the principle of allowing both their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to race against each other. This allows their respective race engineers to implement undercutting whenever they feel the need to do so.

Also Read: What is the difference between F1 and F2?

About the author

Subham Jindal

Subham Jindal


A Red - be it Manchester United or Ferrari. Hails from the hills of Kalimpong, Darjeeling. Aspiring to become a respected Sports Management professional.

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