Undercut F1 : An Undercut in F1 is one of the most used strategies to get track position by teams, especially in the era of Pirelli tyres where races are mostly 1 or 2 stop.
Ask any driver or constructor in Formula One, and they will tell you the importance of pit stops. An effective pit stop strategy can turn the race around in your favor, and vice versa.
With the current Pirelli tyres, almost all races are 1 stop or 2 stop races, thereby largely taking out of the equation, the earlier 3 pit stop strategies that brought more strategy into an F1 race day.
What Does Undercut Mean in F1 ?
Undercutting involves a driver making a pit stop a few laps earlier than the car ahead of you.
This ensures the driver has a fresher set of tyres, which can help him overtake the worn-out tyres of his opponent. The lap times are quicker, and once he gets within 1 second of the opponent ahead, the DRS (Drag Reduction System) can help in overtaking.
Once this happens, one could naturally expect the opponent to go 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.
Also Read: What is the difference between F1 and F2?
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.