What is push to pass in the IndyCar series? Driver aid explained

Jake Nichol September 20, 2021
What is push to pass in the IndyCar series? Driver aid explained
Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

IndyCar drivers are often referring to ‘push to pass’ in races to assist them. What is the driver aid, when can they use it and how long can it be used? And are there any similar systems in other series?

IndyCar push to pass system explained

The push to pass system in IndyCar provides a short burst of additional power to the engine, when requested by the driver.

Each driver has 200 seconds of the boost available, which they can use whenever they feel like whilst out on track.

It can be used to either attack or defend against a rival driver.

The system is also known in IndyCar as the overtake button.

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Push to pass can be particularly effective when a driver is attempting an undercut in a pitstop cycle.

By pitting a lap or two earlier than the car ahead, a driver can use the fresher tyres and push to pass power.

The ambition is to make up the time gap to the car that was ahead and leapfrog them during the cycle for track position.

Is there anything like push to pass in other motorsport series?

The nearest relations to IndyCar’s push to pass system have been found in Formula One and the electric racing series, Formula E.

First introduced in 2009, the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) initially caused problems for F1 teams.

Slightly different from IndyCar’s push to pass in that it works by taking the kinetic energy lost under braking and stores it, KERS was only used by four teams to start with.

Kimi Raikkonen won the 2009 Belgian GP in part because his Ferrari was KERS-equipped allowing him to boost past Giancarlo Fisichella’s KERS-less Force India.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The system was introduced again in 2011 until 2013 in its initial form.

For F1’s switch to 1.6l V6 turbo hybrids in 2014, the system was beefed up.

The power output was doubled to 160bhp.

Drivers are able to use the energy when they want, and can recharge the system.

F1 also features the DRS as an overtaking aid, but it can only be used in certain conditions and on certain places on track.

Formula E’s attack mode

When Formula E switched to cars that could complete a whole race in its Gen2 era, it needed something to spice up the action.

The mid-race car swaps were exciting and chaotic, and was replaced with attack mode.

The system gives the cars a power boost, which can be used for eight minutes in total throughout the race.

This eight minutes can be split into two segments of four minutes, four segments of two minutes etc…

To activate it, drivers must go off-line through a corner and run across the activation zones.

Photo by ABB FIA Formula E/Handout/Getty Images

They must cross both activation lines fully to ensure they have the power boost.

FE also features ‘fanboost’ whereby fans can vote for their favourite drivers to receive a brief power boost.

A good idea in principle, but this system has been gamed by fans who often reward the power boost to the same drivers every race.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.