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Super Formula Drivers Praise New Overtaking System

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Narain Karthikeyan in Super Formula 2018
Photo: Takayuki Suzuki | Flickr

For the 2019 season, Super Formula introduced a new overtaking system (OTS) resembling that used in IndyCar, where drivers can benefit from an increase in fuel flow to the engine for up to 100 seconds over the course of the entire race.

The system had previously been limited to five fixed usages of 20 seconds each, but now gives the drivers more flexibility and also more information, as flashing tail lights reveal when the car in front is deploying the OTS.

It was very well received at Super Formula’s debut race in Suzuka, after which defending champion Naoki Yamamoto claimed it was better than the drag reduction system (DRS) used in Formula One and other racing categories.

“This is amazing because you actually know once one of you pushes [the button] then you have 100 seconds of time that you can use,” he said. “Within that, you have a strategy you can already use. You are not only racing, but you’re also concerned with what’s going on behind you. So it’s like a race between the front and back.”

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“And of course here with these cars, with the downforce, the straight is one of the only places where you can overtake,” Yamamoto added. “Anyway, this system is quite fabulous, I like it.”

Another driver likened the light system to being on the radio with other drivers, such as the degree of information it gave away. When only 20 seconds of boost remain available to a driver, their lights turn from green to red, alerting competing drivers they may have a better opportunity to pass.

The fuel flow system is not unlike the KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) that used in F1. The cars capture kinetic energy under braking and store it as electrical power in the battery to be redeployed later. However, while KERS was once used similarly to last year’s Super Formula system, the energy deployment is now more automated, giving drivers fewer tools to overtake.

Furthermore, F1 drivers only know when their competitors are harvesting energy during a lap — not when they are using it. It may be worth a look at IndyCar and Super Formula to try to adapt the features that help make their races so rich in the exciting overtakes that F1 is lacking.

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