The Art of Defensive Driving – Success and failure in overtaking in Baku

The Art of Defensive Driving – Success and failure in overtaking in Baku


The fast-but-tight street circuit in Baku
saw a surprising amount of overtakes and overtaking attempts and some very robust defensive moves
– a lot of which came from Max Verstappen. We’ll be looking at six moves from the 2018
Azerbaijan Grand Prix in this video to demonstrate some effective defensive technique, including
how not to do it. But first, let’s get straight the rules
of engagement. One: the braking zone should be a no-surprise
zone. The defending driver in particular should not be acting erratically, like suddenly weaving
or braking, once in or near to the braking zone.
The reason for this is fairly simple. As covered in the overtaking video, the general braking
zone is the area where you as a driver are basically committed to your trajectory into
the corner. You can’t brake any harder, you can’t really steer effectively. Once
you’ve hit the brakes, that’s it – that’s your destiny until turn-in.
Just before the braking point, you make the commitment to how you’re going to attack
the corner. Say you’re attacking and you decide, “I’m going to try and out-brake
them up inside”, you pick your braking point and position and go for it.
If, just before the braking point, the defending driver spots this and moves across on you,
there’s nothing you can do. The attacker can’t avoid the accident if the defender
has moved across in or close to the braking zone.
Two: If your attacker is alongside you, don’t act as if they’re not there. Even if you’re
ahead of them, you don’t own the whole track and can’t just move over on them. Don’t
cut across them if they’re on the inside. Don’t keep pushing wide if they’re on
the outside. The official rule is that you must leave someone
space if they are “significantly alongside”. There’s a nice grey area here about what
exactly this means. How much of their car needs to be alongside before you have to respect
their right to be there? The point of the rule being a little vague
is that, as a driver, you do have to concentrate on actually taking the corner yourself and
you can’t both drive the corner and look into your tiny pathetic mirrors to check if
a car is exactly 400 mm alongside or something. Instead, you have to make a judgement call
about where they are and, when switching focus to your own driving, keep an educated idea
in your head about where you expect them to be. Were they alongside enough that they will
likely still be there through the corner? That’s the call you’ve got to make before
getting overly aggressive with track space. Three: You can’t just block your attacker
by weaving all over the track to give them no place to go. That’s just unsporting,
like a bully holding a short kid’s ball out of reach. Before the braking zone, you
can move gently to try and cover the attacker off. Once you approach the braking zone you
have to make a decisive move in defence but you can follow this up by gently moving to
take your racing line. What you can do is break the tow, but you
can’t do this by weaving like a caffeinated cobra all across the track. What is braking
the tow? Well, this is all to do with slipstream. As
a reminder: at high speed, driving through air causes lots of drag as the air pushes
back on the car, slowing it down. By driving through the air at high speed, a car carves
out a pocket of thin air in its wake which is much easier to drive through as it causes
a lot less drag. This is the slipstream and an attacking car will tuck into this slipstream
to get an aerodynamic “tow”, gaining a speed boost over the defending car.
The leading car, in defending from this, can try to move across the track somewhat to make
it harder for the chasing car to stay in its slipstream. This is called breaking the tow
and if you’re going to do it, you have to do it without wild weaving as Lewis Hamilton
once tried on Vitaly Petrov. So let’s look at some examples of real world
tactics as seen in Baku. The general rule of defending into a corner
is that you want to compromise your attackers line. We know the fastest lines through a
corner from our discussion of racing lines. You want to position yourself so your rival
is forced to take the most compromised line and is therefore unable to overtake you.
On lap seven, Sainz had a run on Verstappen. Verstappen’s first move is to duck to the
inside. This is pre-emptively cutting off the better line as it’s easier to mount
an overtake from the inside. Sainz tucks in behind to hold the slipstream,
then goes for the move in the only possible place left – the outside.
Now from Sainz’s position he can work up to take a sweeping wide line through the left
hander and outgun Verstappen with momentum. As Verstappen is still significantly ahead,
though, he can still dictate a lot of the positioning. Verstappen moves back across
to the outside and squeezes – without literally forcing Sainz off track. This compromises
Sainz and Sainz now how his line dictated by Verstappen’s line – he’s literally
blocked out. Verstappen can now take a pretty good line
through the corner and Sainz’s best move is to tuck in behind and fight another day
as he would need a tremendous speed or positional advantage to swoop right around the outside.
Verstappen has the high ground here. Let’s contrast this to Verstappen vs Ricciardo
on lap 27. Once again Verstappen is on the inside but
the difference is he isn’t significantly ahead so he can’t coax them over to the
outside and take an optimum line as with Sainz. Instead Ricciardo keeps Max pinned tightly
to the inside which is bad for Max as being tight to the inside means he has to slow right
down to take the corner. In this position, Max brakes as late as possible
to block Ricciardo’s intended line. It’s more risky as getting the braking wrong could
send him soaring past the corner (as happened repeatedly to drivers through Free Practice
and Qualifying), but he successfully blocked Ricciardo and asserted his position on the
track, knowing that Daniel did not have enough of an advantage in position to be aggressive
around the outside. Again, Max’s rival is forced to tuck in
behind and try again later. Now let’s examine a third case where Verstappen
is defending from the inside. This time, on lap 12, Max is actually behind
Ricciardo as they get to the braking zone so he can’t just assert his position and
he’s very much on the back foot and potentially at the mercy of Ricciardo squeezing him tight
through the corner, as the leading car. In this case, Versteppend decided to take
a risk and brake as late as possible to throw as much speed into corner entry as possible.
He may be compromised at the exit but he might give himself a better position to keep the
fight going. He actually locks up and, due to his speed
and slight lack of control he takes a very shallow line through the corner. To this end
he actually hits Ricciardo, who’s take a wide sweeping line, and Daniel is shoved into
the wall slightly as they collide. At no point into or through this corner has
Max pulled back ahead of Ricciardo but he’s compromised Daniels enough to be able to continue
his defence through the next through corners instead of conceding the place.
This move was right on the line of acceptability. Any more of a mistake under braking – as
a lesser driver would easily have made – and he would have collided with Ricciardo.
OK, now let’s look at some cases of defending from the outside then
Now as we saw with the last move – being on the inside can lead to desperate errors
under braking. On lap 48, Vettel makes a move on Bottas for
the lead into turn 1. Bottas is on the outside but – not particularly aggressively – keeping
Vettel inside. By Bottas’s braking point, he’s got his
entire car ahead of Vettel, so when Vettel makes a late lunge by braking much later,
Valtteri holds his nerve, leaves Vettel space to overshoot his line and then takes his normal
turn in to the corner, tucking inside the stricken Vettel.
Vettel has completely stuffed his line – by overshooting he has to turn in much later
and therefore accelerate much later than the cars around him that were able to take the
corner normally. Valtteri was far enough ahead at the braking
point that he felt confident that only an over-exhuberent (and therefore mistaken) lunge
would beat him into the corner so he allowed enough room for that mistake to happen without
he himself losing speed. When defending from the outside, if your rival
doesn’t make a mistake you need to attempt to constrict their line as much as possible.
The inside can be incredibly slow cand you can out pace them from the outside with a
wider, smoother line. But even if you’re ahead, you can’t sweep across as if they
aren’t there. On lap 1, Raikkonen attempted a move up the
inside of Ocon. Now, Ocon was about half a car’s length ahead, meaning Kimi was ‘significantly
alongside’. Kimi is not in a great position – he’s boxed to the inside approaching
a tight 90° bend with barriers at the track limit.
Ocon is ahead to the degree that Raikkonen will be unlikely to keep himself alongside
unless he pulls some mad, unwise braking manoeuvre like Verstappen did earlier in this video.
Nonetheless Raikkonen will obviously still attempt to take the corner without yielding.
Ocon could take fairly middle line, keeping some speed while leaving room for Kimi but
instead he moves to normalise his line, aiming for the apex and completely cutting over Kimi
who has nowhere to go. Remember, there’s a barrier here and Kimi
is committed to his braking trajectory. If someone is alongside you as you enter the
braking zone, expect them to be there through the corner.
And finally let’s look at that crash between the Red Bulls, shall we?
This involves some analysis of both the overtaking and defending at play.
So it begins with Daniel Ricciardo catching some slipstream from Verstappen down the straight
before making a move to the outside. This is a dummy – a false move to coax Max into
defending the outside and opening up a space on the inside.
The instant Max moves to defend, Ricciardo switches back to steal the space on the inside.
At which point, Verstappen realises what’s happening and he starts to move back to cover
the inside again. Now, you’re not technically supposed to
weave all over the place or make multiple moves close to the braking zone, but Max only
lightly covered the dummy before committing left. The problem – and this is with both
drivers – is that this is all happening way too close to the braking zone.
Max has to hit the brakes while he’s still cutting across Ricciardo. Ricciardo was aiming
to brake into an empty space and is surprised when it’s suddenly full of Max and he slams
into the back of him. Part of the reason Ricciardo hit Verstappen
is because as Max cuts across, Ricciardo falls back into the slipstream. Drag plays a huge
part in the initial phase of braking and with severely reduced drag, Ricciardo simply couldn’t
decelerate as effectively as Verstappen. And a collision was inevitable.
Defence wise – the defending driver will be aware of dummy attempt and try to cover
all bases by gliding to half-block the dummy while being ready to block the true attack.
The problem in this case comes if you make your final defensive move so late that the
attacking driver has to take extreme action to avoid an accident – if they can avoid
it at all. Daniel Ricciardo’s problem was that he made
his attacking dummy-n-dive way too late and started this whole sequence of attacking and
defending so close to the corner that they both had to hit the brakes in the middle of
it. We’ve praised his overtaking judgment a
lot but he was so desperate after fighting Max all day long that he took a risk too far.
So, in summary: Try and compromise your attacker’s line
by squeezing them into a position where they can’t get a good run on you
Position yourself so you’re an annoying road block to their ideal line
Don’t muck about in the braking zone Don’t run people off the road
Do know when to concede and when to set yourself up to defend into the next corners. By my
extremely complex calculations – it turns out crashing gets you fewer points than losing
one position.

100 thoughts on “The Art of Defensive Driving – Success and failure in overtaking in Baku

  1. I love Max as a driver but the accident was clearly his fault or at the very least if you want to be diplomatic as Lauda put it "Max was driving like an insane man all race he was 70% at fault" I think I trust Nicki's opinion over your opinion or my own opinion.

  2. You’re funny. “Pathetic little side view mirrors” “winding down the track like a caffeinated cobra” and higher ground Star Wars memes 😂😂😂

  3. You say when you enter the braking zone, you're commited to your trajectory as a driver. Seems logical, because you're on the edge of tire grip. But if you compare Verstappen and Ricciardo, Verstappen always has grip over, so he has the grip to move under braking. Daniel on the other hand, is so deep on his brake pedal, once he sends it, there's no turning back. You could see this clinical precision in Monza 2016, when he overtook Bottas in the Williams from miles away.

    Doesn't it depend more on the driver and his driving style than anything else? And is this something we should regulate, or leave to the drivers themselves to figure out?

  4. Stuart, the official rules and other rules you refer to in the video; where can I read about them on the FIA F1 web site, please?

  5. Hi, im watching a lot of your videos and im really impressed how good you explain them and how well they are made animation vice. However, im not interested in motorsports at all and i don't know which driver has which name and drives which car. So it is really hard for me at around 4:40 to follow your explanation since you are happily swapping around forenames and surnames. It would greatly help if you would write the names of the drivers in action on the screen, mention which color of the car they are using and so on. i had to watch this part 3 times to fully understand the actios and reactios the actions of the particular driver's cause.
    that was the very first flaw i discovered in your videos. keep up the work please 🙂

  6. Best way to defend? You shut the door and when the person behind you hits you and you both wipe out you run up to his car and start a fight

  7. Verstappen was at fault for both of those collisions. On the first one Ricciardo had the corner, Verstappen stayed on the inside well after he was beaten, couldn't make the corner and crashed into Ricciardo. On the second one, he fell for the dummy, Ricciardo was going around him, and he weaved back to the inside. As he's done multiple times in his career. He took the dummy and went to block the outside, that's his fault that he committed to that line entering the corner. Weaving back to the inside left Ricciardo with no where to go except to slam into the back of him. These are both examples of a driver that is defending by crashing into anyone who tries to pass them, not by using dominant track position.

  8. Hi !
    Surprised that you seem to blame Ricciardo for the Red Bulls crashing.
    From 09:25 to 09:40, you are actually explaining that his dummy attack move is too risky because too close to the breaking zone, preventing a safe defense from Verstappen when back on the "real" attack line.
    You are saying that, of course, defenders know about it.
    I say that is why it is a chess move from RIC. He knew that VER is agressive. He forced him to defend on his dummy move ('cause if you don't the attacker will actually use this line to overtake) and by doing so late enough, he removed the possibility for the defender to go back to the inside defensive line safely. RIC won that battle there. VER nonetheless went back in even though he knew that it would ruin his braking, taking him too far outside the circuit limits.
    Guess what… not only VER came back but he also decided to brake early, trying to save his braking, acting as if RIC wasn't there, causing the crash.

    I disagree strongly with you on this one but I like your videos! Keep up the good work!

  9. I'm new to formula racing and these videos do a fantastic job at explaining it all. What I don't understand is why verstappen and Ricairdo would put themselves in a position to knock each other out? They're on the same team. At the end of the day they're going have to answer to the same boss right? I get that there's more incentive for the individual winning, but at the same time, it seems it puts them in worse standing with their employer.

  10. It’s quite funny watching this back at the end of the season, still relevantly applies to a lot of the crashes since then. I like the fact you used two RB incidents in the one video. And let’s face it they only crash because the team put the faster car in this race behind again after the pit stops. But after getting shunted into the wall and losing out in the first example, in the second Ricciardo deliberately moves later than normal to ask Max the question would you rather crash or cede one position to your team mate. Max’s answer was I don’t cede to anyone, obviously not a fan of your math Chainbear.

  11. I wish this worked in games and you wouldn't get a penalty for the ai pushing you off the track to take the line

  12. Hey great video gives me some ideas in gt sport as I thought that leading car had dominance into the corners so therefor cutting people off slightly

  13. Damn I don´t even know how I got here and now I have to go play PCARS 2 in VR just to observe online racers behaviour, Lol….

  14. I like your reference to the term significantly alongside. I am a firm believer that it is not a pass until the rear wing is ahead. Until then you must leave enough room for the other car to keep all four wheels on the track. Blocking or forcing someone off the marked track, intentional or not (by overshooting or not able to hold your line due to speed or other reason) should receive an automatic and immediate penalty. Including disqalification if you cause another car to retire. A 5 second penalty when an opponent cannot continue is an absolute travesty. Simply put there is enough room on the track for both cars to go around each corner together and continue the fight down the straight. Two cars in = two cars out not one out and the other in the fence or off the marked track surface. I have to disagree with your conclusion of Ricardo and Crashstappen . Being on the inside of the corner entering the braking area considered a defensive position. As per the rules you are allowed one extra move. Max bit and then moved back. It doesnt matter if he only moved a little, he bit into it and he should know better by now. Ricardo cannot be blamed here at all because there is no way know if he could have pulled it off or not. He never even got the chance to try.

  15. so these manouvers that get explained for like a minute take about half a second in the actual race
    that is why racing is such a great sport

  16. if gran turismo has thought me anything its that the ideal way of attacking is braking too late and thus pushing the dude in front of you out of the track whist using the crash to deccelerate

  17. Verstappen hit Ricciardo, not Ricciardo hit Vertsappen. Ricciardo was ahead going into the corner. However good video 👍🏽

  18. Call me a dumb NASCAR fan, but I don’t see why drivers can’t force another driver to go out wide or why we can’t chop’em

  19. Gran Turismo sport needed this instead of the whole because it's bad and bad is not good thing. It was kinda cringy.

  20. Great video, very useful also for racing on the computer. Just one question though, not meaning to be mean 😉 – er, did you say "would OF" at around 7:45? I hope not, since it is "would've" or "would have". I am not a native speaker and I am amazed by the amount of native speakers making that mistake. Well, "shocked" would be the better word

  21. What i like about this video is it is just really unbiased. All the other analysis' i saw about Baku and especially the Red Bull crashes are always ''Verstappen moved too late so he is at fault.'' Without looking at Ricciardo's movements. Both drivers paid a part in this collission. Great video!

  22. really good insight although I can't help thinking you are a little biased for verstappen. I do wonder if that was another driver if you would say the same about the double move??

  23. You really give Max the benefit of the doubt. Max made two blocking moves near the breaking zone. His fault.

  24. Chain bear! Im here post Canadian gp 2019!!! Im really needing your view on Vettels defensive move AFTER HIS MISTAKE, BUT IN CONTROL OF THE CAR. What do you make of this, and what is the rule on defending after a mistake?

  25. Not a professional by far, but damn is it annoying when you're casually karting at a place like K1 with a bunch of people who don't know anything about racing. They cut all over you, and to avoid a collision you HAVE to slam on the brakes. They see you coming faster than them and they just can't accept that you are the better driver. So you get stuck behind them, meanwhile other fast people start trying to attack your position and maybe even end up pushing through not caring about a collision. Then you need to chase them back down and put them in their place… but ah yes they don't respect it and continue to cut you up. If I were a better driver I could probably position myself to actually overtake them, but really it takes almost no talent to drive those slow karts "well enough" to be annoying to someone who is genuinely faster.

  26. At 1:30, I race in historic group 1, there is no general guide for us at least in this respect. So my general rule is, if the front of their car is by my rear doors or further down, then I'll run them wide forcing them to lift off or brake so they dont go into the gravel trap. I've done it and have never recieved any reprimand. When people do it to me if I'm on the outside: if I'm basically next to them I know they wont run me wide, but If I know that coming out the corner, the front of my car will only be by their rear quarter panel I lift off and and let them have the line the result of this most of the time is that for the next corner I will have an opportunity for an undercut and re take the position.

  27. When you are on a long distance trip, slipstreaming trucks can really get you good gas mileage, but it puts you behind the truck and screws up your view.

  28. Yes, Max Verstappen is one of those drivers that tends to make two moves when defending before committing to a racing line. He gets away with it by making them appear seamlessly as one move. It is a bit dirty. The moves are so seamless and small in degree it is hard to tell. He has mastered that art. Senna, Schumacher and Prost used to do it but more exaggerated. For sure it is dangerous. But makes F1 more enjoyable to watch. That said that old school defensive behaviour is banned nowadays.

  29. Chain bear f1 can I ask you about the Austria race in 2019. Where max passed Leclerc with a few laps to go. To me max ran Leclerc off the road and therefore should have got penalized for it. Because Leclerc took the outside line and max took the inside line. Leclerc was in front of max at the breaking zone but throughout the turn they were side by side. Max then continues to go to the outside edge of the track. Forcing Leclerc off the track. Leclerc then try’s to make the turn but hits max and gets bumped off the track. The stewards investigated the event but after 3 hours they decided no penalty would be given. I was wondering what your thoughts on this would be.

  30. Wall… this puts some light on what happend with Riccardo and Max last season.
    Personally, I still think that Max messed up that one.

  31. What if he made the dummy move late purposely knowing that if he bit on it he would have to commit to that line because of the approaching braking zone? Unless that was the point u were already making, I was a little confused which driver was which between both Red Bull’s.

  32. Every online racing game should make you watch something like this and pass a quick test proving you absorbed some of the information before you are allowed in multiplayer. Specifically Forza 😂. I know how unrealistic this is but I’m sure some of you feel my pain.

  33. The last one is Verstappen's fault for weaving. Ricciardo's allowed to change his line as often and as late as he likes because he's behind, Verstappen gets one defence and he used that up.

  34. I think that crash was Max's fault from what you've showed us, he went diagonally into the breaking zone which is a fairly overagressive move. If Max stuck to the outside it is possible he could have maintained the lead.

  35. "Dont run your attacker off the road";
    "Dont weave back and forth to block"; and
    "Dont turn across the apex as if other racers aren't there"

    Very valid points. Someone should tell the Japanese 'GT Sport' community about this. 🤔

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