Romain Grosjean, Haas, Singapore, 2018

Q3 tyre rule under discussion after claim it favours top teams

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Formula 1 is discussing whether to keep the rule which forces drivers who reach Q3 to start the race on used tyres, following concerns it increases the advantage of the top teams.

All drivers who reach the final phase of qualifying must start the race using the tyres on which they set their quickest lap times in Q2.

While midfield drivers usually need the softest tyre available to progress from Q2, drivers from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull who reached Q3 in the last two races were able to do so using harder rubber. This put the midfield runners who reached Q3 at a disadvantage.

Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola said there had been discussions about abolishing the ‘Q3 tyre rule’ and he supports the change.

“We saw some races in which we had rain in qualifying and it was interesting to see the different tyre choices. Personally I’m in favour. It creates an additional element of strategy to give them the freedom. I don’t remember why there was this rule but it’s probably coming from the past.”

The rule was introduced with the goal of varying strategies between the front-running teams. FIA race director Charlie Whiting believes that need remains and the rule shouldn’t change. “It was done for a reason which still holds true today so I don’t think we should do that,” he said.

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However Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes the rule only increases the advantage the top three teams enjoy over the rest of the field.

“The intention with starting the people not getting into Q3 with starting free tyre choice was to mix it up,” he said. “But in the end it helped the big ones because they can go into Q2 with a harder tyre which helps them in the race. So we again missed the target here with what it’s supposed to do.”

“I think the biggest problem was as we saw in Singapore and Sochi that if you’re one of the top three you go in with the harder tyre to the race and have got an advantage,” he added. “Already you’re one and a half seconds faster, plus the tyre advantage, all of a second you are two and a half seconds faster.”

Haas driver Romain Grosjean expressed his frustration with the rule after he reached Q3 in Singapore but fell out of contention for points in the race.

When the advantage the rule confers on front runners was pointed out to Whiting, he said: “But that will always be the case, of course.

“When you’ve got cars that are significantly faster than the second group, if you want to call them that, then they can get through Q2 on their preferred tyre.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 17 comments on “Q3 tyre rule under discussion after claim it favours top teams”

    1. The FIA need to recognise that simplistic “fixes” don’t always (or ever in F1) achieve the desired result, in fact they often achieve the opposite of what is desired, and when they are effective the FIA simultaneously makes another change that completely negates the desired effect, think wider tyres ;-) and also bigger wings :-(.

      1. Yup, this is another “solution” that came back to bite the sport. Sure, it was better than what they had before – starting on their Q3 tyres (which meant ppl refrained from running in that session), but it doesn’t do anything to make racing better.

        1. I agree 1000%. Removing the rule does nothing. The problem is elsewhere, in this case the huge gap between the top 3 and everyone else. Removing the rule doesnt close the gap. Giving the rest of the field free tyre choice doesnt close up performance because they still have to baby the tyres and wont really be able to push. Performance and Pirelli are the problem here.

          Its like the team orders controversy from Sochi. Everyone is missing the fact that none of that wouldve happened if the tyres actually lasted. Bottas wouldnt have been bottled up behind Verstappen. Lewis wouldn’t have gotten a blister. Max couldve gone on an almighty charge towards the end. Team orders is masking the fact that the tyres are too sensitive, and have to be coddled all the time. We should call them millennials, not Pirellis.

    2. This put the midfield runners who reached Q2 at a disadvantage.

      This should be Q3, right?

      I do not agree with Charlie that the reason for which this rule was introduced (varying strategy between front-running teams) still holds true.

      This rule was introduced when 1) there were only 2 tyres available each weekend and 2) the gap between teams was not that high. So, the front running teams were mildly disadvantaged by starting on used tyres instead of fresh tyres. But those 2 parameters have changed. There are 3 tyres available from 2016 onwards and the gap between top 3 and remaining 7 has widened allowing these top 3 teams to slot into this gap with the ‘ middle tyre’ of every weekend.

      And everyone is overlooking one key rule-change that happened in the middle. Earlier, drivers had to start on their Q3 tyres instead of Q2 (changed from 2014). However, that reduced the spectacle for Q3. It is this change (along with the 3rd tyre set every weekend) which has allowed top teams to increase their advantage.

      In terms of finding a solution, you don’t need to know the history of why the rule was introduced. Just ditch these rules and let everyone start on whatever tyres they want.

      1. Indeed, its funny that the tyre guy doesn’t know the reasons for the tyre rule!

    3. The intention was to mix it up. But I’m struggling to remember any race where that happened. It mainly affects the gap between top teams and midfield, even more these days.

    4. If we are gong to be changing tyre rules why not simplify things and just let teams do whatever they want?

      They will have a choice of 3 tyres next year. let them qualify on whichever tyre they want. If the want to do the whole race on the hard tyre, let them. If they wanna do 3 stints on the soft, let them. Basically get rid of the mandatory pit stop rule too. This will give a chance for small teams to get a good result by smart strategy and risk.

      Plus no need for the commentators to be explaining any rules about Q2, Q3, allocations etc. Just get on with the race! Even americans will understand it.

    5. Wouldn’t this be alleviated if the gaps between the top 3 (RB, Ferrari & Merc) and the rest, was shorter?. Then the midfield teams would actually be a threat to getting 2nd row or even pole, forcing the top 3 to have to put on softer rubber to gain position on the grid.

      I suppose the inevitable stops for anyone who puts on softer rubber would cause them to lose position eventually unless they make up so much time it covers the pit window.

    6. You mean ‘Q2 tyre rule’ to be precise.

    7. Under the current rules, do the cars that run in Q3 get extra tyres to do so?
      Not more than a couple of races ago, I remember someone saying that those cars that qualified in positions 11 and 12 had a huge advantage because they had free tyre choice to start the race itself.
      I really like the current qualifying format as it’s often far more exciting than the race, so I hope that it doesn’t get fiddled about with too much and give rise to another, unforeseen ‘advantage/disadvantage’ situation.

    8. The problem is at least four Formula B cars get into Q3, yet cant participate in the pole shoot out.

      How about qualification for Q3 is based not on lap time ordering but by a % of the fastest Q2 time. Everyone who doesnt qualify for Q3 gets free tyre choice.

      1. I’m already confused.

    9. The way you mix it up is you let everyone chose whatever tire they want to start the race on regardless of what they do in qualifying. If no one had any idea what the other teams were going to do until they were lined up on the grid it would create a whole new guessing game. Each team already knows who their direct competition is. You’d end up with more teams splitting their strategies in hopes of outguessing their competition. You could imagine a team gambling on a softer tire to start in hopes of jumping to the lead at the start if they know track position is the only way they’ll be able to win. If it doesn’t work out then maybe then haven’t really lost much. Monaco may even actually become a more interesting race because you won’t know anyone’s strategy ahead of time. Heavy emphasis on “may“.

    10. When you use artificial means to try & ‘Spice things up’ you will not only always find unintended consequences but more often than not also find it harder to get rid of the artificial things even when you want to because people get used to them.

      Look at High Tyre-Deg. Introduced to ‘Spice things up’ but resulted in extreme tyre management & tyres that prevented drivers from been able to lean & race with them. However because of another thing introduced to ‘Spice things up’ (Refueling) people became used to & expect 2-3 pit stops so going back to tyres drivers could actually race on with less (Or even no) pit stops is by many seen as a big negative.

      And of course DRS, Introduced to ‘spice things up & promote overtaking’ it’s got people used to 50+ overtakes every race so now if there are any less than that many see it as not enough so F1 needs to rely more & more on DRS (More powerful, longer zones, more zones) to achieve it & even then for some there will never be enough because the DRS/High-Deg extremes of a few years ago created silly expectations that will make removing the gimmicks hard to do.

    11. Action on the track and safe racing does not go together. That is the whole problem. In the end all we see are trains.

    12. I can’t believe that it took …how long.? This long … for the whining to start.
      The basic advantage of the 11th and 12th spots on the grid, with new and free tyre choices was always going to be there. Ask McLaren, as Alonso has used the 11th spot and best tires several times to drag his tub up into the points. Teams that could get through Q2 on their preferred race tyre would likewise have an advantage. It is just that only the top 6 cars that can usually perform this feat. And even then, some choose not to in order to have more start line traction with the softer tire.
      Agree that the basic “rule fixes” they keep coming up with usually don’t work and have unintended consequences. The teams are chock full of really intelligent people who can tell you in a moment … “make this a rule and these four things are what is going to happen. Three of them you didn’t expect.”
      Try getting rid of rules and open things up. Piling on more restrictions doesn’t seem to work.

    13. Wasn’t this done to ensure everyone in Q3 does a flying lap? We had situations were drivers were not putting in a lap to save tyres. So giving them an extra set was the solution??

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