Undercuts and Overcuts are F1 pit stop strategies that take advantage of overtaking the car in front by pitting them first or second. Many new Netflix newbies have been confused about these strategies. This section helps to explain in a very basic way the strategies of Undercuts and Overcuts in F1.
Undercuts and Overcuts.
So the undercut sees the second car pit before the leading car does. The idea is that the second car, not only gets fresh rubber before the leading car, but it comes out in clean air. Given trying to pass the car in front often means dealing with turbulent airflow in the leading car’s wake.
This means the second driver can go much faster thanks to fresh rubber and no turbulence. Consequentially they have a lap or so to gain a time advantage over the leading car and thus have a good chance to pass the leading car whilst it is in the pits.
Meanwhile, the overcut sees the opposite happen where the second car waits until the leading car pits. When it does the second driver then floors it in an effort to again take advantage of the lack of turbulence and get the maximum out of whatever is left in the tyres.
This is a lessor tactic and often requires that the second driver has nursed his tyres and thus still has some life left in them. If this is the case, they may gain a few precious seconds, over the leading car, and when they eventually pit, the second car has leapfrogged the previous leading car to gain the position.
Where do undercuts and overcuts work?
The circuits where there is heavy tire degradation is where the undercut is stronger. Eg. USGP in Cota this year, where Redbull pitted Max Verstappen.
He looked incredibly quick, which gave Mercedes pause for thought. Redbull thought this one through, and radios the team to give his input into strategy suggesting they force Hamilton to go long by pulling in Perez and trying the double undercut.
And that is what they do, the Mexican pulls in for a slightly slow stop, stays on the mediums which confirms a two-stop strategy for him, and off he goes and when Hamiton pitted two laps later, Six seconds behind Verstappen. Undercut worked a treat there.
Overcuts are generally there for circuits where tire degradation is to the minimum, Monaco GP where Sebastian Vettel overcut where he started 8th in the race and finished 3 places above with no on-track overtakes. He finished 5th at the end.
Suggested Reading: How the new pit stop rules affect the timings
Is undercuts and overcuts a foolproof Strategy?
No not at all, but played safe it’s effective. There are many factors to consider, the pit lane length, the pit time, and track position. In circuits when it’s difficult to overtake track position is the key All this go to waste if the pit stop is not perfect. Remember Monza GP, Where Verstappen had a bad pit stop and we all know what happened.
You also know they can’t overcut you because their tires won’t last long enough, they’re degrading quickly. If you get the tires up to temperature quickly with low degradation somehow (unlikely, as those two ideas are opposite to one another), your opponent can simply continue on their previous tires without much loss in lap time for a while longer until an ideal strategic time to pit arises (safety car, VSC, yellow flags, clear air where they would release from the pit, etc.) while you’re stuck battling back through slower cars than yourself because you pitted early.
There are 100’s of scenario, that is taken into consideration for the undercuts and overcuts to work. To sum up, Tyre degradation, Traffic and your pace in fresh tyre is the main things to consider for Undercuts and overcuts to work.