Should Formula 1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’?

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When refuelling was scrapped in Formula 1 at the end of 2009 a new rule was introduced with the goal of adding a new strategic element to races. The 10 drivers who reached Q3 would all have to start the race on the tyres they used for their qualifying laps, while the rest could choose from their remaining new rubber.

In 2014 the rule was tweaked. Article 24.4 (j) of the Sporting Regulations now states: “At the start of the race each car which qualified for Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his fastest time during Q2.”

But the value of the rule came into question at several races last year. The top teams were easily able to advance to Q3 without using the softest tyre available, putting them at a strategic advantage over the midfield teams, and increasing the already large gap between the two.

That prompted discussions over whether the ‘Q3 tyre rule’ should be dropped. Which side of the debate are you on?

For

The problem with the rule is that in some circumstances it gives drivers and teams an incentive not to run in Q2. This was the case in Russia last season, where Renault kept both its cars in the garage during Q2 so their drivers could choose what tyres to start the race on.

When the rule was introduced in 2014 it was intended to stop teams opting out of running in Q3 to save a set of tyres for the race. But all it has done is shift the problem elsewhere: Now if a team has grid penalties they will advance to Q2 and then purposely not set a timed lap so they can choose their tyre to start the race on.

Against

The tyre rule adds an extra element to the race strategy that would otherwise be lost, especially for top teams who never come under the threat of the teams who fail to make Q3. This creates the potential for more excitement at the start and strategic battles between the top teams throughout the race.

The potential advantage given to teams who start outside the top ten can also lead to more on-track action in the race as they battle for positions. Removing the rule is unlikely to do much to reduce the chasm between the ‘big three’ teams and the rest.

I say

The rule simply extends the gap the top teams have over the midfield which is a problem that F1 have done little to minimise. If teams were allowed to pick whatever tyre they wished to start the race on the variance would still be present but the drivers who advanced to Q3 wouldn’t be at a disadvantage to those behind from the start.

A prime example of the effects this rule can have on midfield drivers was the Singapore Grand Prix. Romain Grosjean advanced to Q3 but lost out to drivers behind in the race since they could start on a better race tyre.

This meant that any of the midfield drivers that were close to the front-runners finished even further behind the top teams. Others like Fernando Alonso, who did not make the cut for Q3, benefited and ultimately finished ‘best of the rest’.



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You say

Should F1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments:

Do you agree F1 should drop the 'Q3 tyre rule'

  • Strongly agree (50%)
  • Slightly agree (25%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (5%)
  • Slightly disagree (10%)
  • Strongly disagree (8%)
  • No opinion (2%)

Total Voters: 151

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Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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  • 59 comments on “Should Formula 1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’?”

    1. It’s Q2 tyre rule.

      1. @ruliemaulana Indeed. I was thinking about posting the exact same words until I saw that someone had already done so.

    2. In general I want to see teams making their own choices for strategy. So no more Q3 tyre rule and also no forced pitstop.

      Ideally this would also mean refueling.

      1. @anunaki, I think that there would be many who would question whether it would be ideal to reintroduce refuelling, as there would be those who argue that it ended up causing many teams to converge on similar strategies and probably ended up reducing, rather than opening up, strategic options. Yes, there might have been occasional memorable occasions where a team did something exceptional, but most of the time you wouldn’t do it because usually those options wouldn’t work.

        The problem is that people tend to remember those exceptional cases because they were exceptional, and even then only when those strategies actually worked – nobody remembers the failed attempts at exceptional refuelling strategies unless they were spectacular failures. Those exceptional successes are then misleadingly though of as being more common than they actually were, when it is their very rarity that made them memorable in the first place.

        1. Well to me it’s not about mixing up strategies. It’s about team building a car to a certain philosophy and choose how to race it as much as possible.

          It’s more from a principal perspective and not about how racing turns out to be.

          To me qualy tyre rules and forced pitstop are as much artificial as DRS is.

          I don’t like it

          1. agreed – DRS is artificial nonsense, as is making the Top Ten *only* start on their fastest-time Q2 tyres and a mandatory tyre stop for a different compound. Get rid of them both and bring back re-fueling. Let the teams decide their own race strategies.

          2. @anunaki, so instead of one set of artificial constraints, you prefer to instead impose a different set of artificial constraints?

            1. I have no idea what you mean

            2. @anunaki, it is the fact that you are complaining about one particular set of rules as somehow being more “artificial” than another set, when by definition a formula racing series is all about setting a particular set of artificial constraints on a particular activity.

              It is the frustration that comes from people who often moan about supposed “purity” of racing, but when you question then about what that supposedly “pure” era is, it usually boils down to what the particular rules were when they first started watching.

              After all, earlier you were talking about how you hoped that “Ideally this would also mean refuelling”. However, in the early 1990s refuelling was criticised as an gimmick in much the same way that DRS is now, with people complaining that it was an artificial contrivance introduced to “mix things up”. What you have been brought up thinking is normal was a recent modification that was considered just as artificial a contrivance as DRS, yet one artificial constraint is something you think is normal and even desirable whilst the other is an abomination.

            3. OK that’s what you mean. I get that now thanks.

              It must be said though, that refueling wasn’t introduced to improve the show. It wasn’t introduced by the rulemakers at all to my knowledge. Teams started doing it at one point and only after that the FIA came with rules about it.

              So you could even say banning it was arftificial in the 1st place.

            4. Patrick – As you say, refueling was started by the teams themeselves, the first to do it was Brabham, run by Bernie Ecclestone, at the Austrian 1982 GP. The FIA (then FISA) banned refuelling from 1984, but it was reintroduced in 1994 to spice up racing, then banned again.

            5. You are all forgetting that F1 was introduced as a replacement for Formula Libre, which meant Free (of restrictions) Formula, with a simple, basic set of rules meant to restrict power and cost to get things going in the post war economy. Ever since F1 has had more and more rules and gimmicks added, mostly in order to justify the commercial rights robber-baron taking more and more of the revenue to build or buy new castles, and last but not least we have had these useless tyres and mandatory pit stops foisted on us.

      2. @anunaki I agree with dropping the rule of the top-10 qualifiers having to start the races with the set used for their respective PB-laps in Q2, but definitely not in favor of in-race refuelling as it was detrimental to on-track overtaking.

        1. The rules could permit pitstops for both tyre changes and in-race refuelling, on the condition that fuelling pit stops are mutually exclusive with those for tyre changes. This would introduce more strategic variables by forcing the teams to choose between tyre changes or refuelling for their pitstops, or with a more significant loss of time, do both.

          I suppose that for maximum strategic variability during the race, mandate that the cars start the race on the same tyres that were used to achieve their final qualifying positions, and let the durability of those tyres sort out the rest.

      3. I’m against of refueling, but totally pro no forced pitstops and no q3 tyre rule. But aside that, they should also reduce amount of tyre compounds from 7 to 3. So difference between them would be more clear.

    3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      20th January 2019, 11:39

      Time to get rid of it. When starting 11th is arguably better than starting 7th it’s broken.

      1. Yup. Especially since all the teams seem to have the simulation tools to predict only too well how the race will go, and the front three teams are so far ahead that either they can afford to start on more durable tyres anyway, or fast enough to easily pass back to the front after a (somewhat) early stop.

    4. The way the poll is set up is a little misleading. The post’s title is “Should Formula 1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’?” while the poll asks the inverse “Do you agree F1 should keep the ‘Q3 tyre rule'”. The two should be consistent so people don’t pick the wrong option by mistake.

      1. @paulk, yes, I agree that the way that the poll has been set up is likely to mislead people – not only is the title “Should Formula 1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’?”, but it also then states again ‘Should F1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’?’ when it asks the people of this forum to “have their say”.

        Furthermore, the questions relating to whether the sport should drop the tyre rule are in line with the voting options, whereas the question “Do you agree F1 should keep the ‘Q3 tyre rule'” is then offset a little to the side – your eye is naturally going to tend to gravitate towards the left hand side, since the options are there, so I imagine that at least some of those who have voted on this topic might not have seen that the question being asked in the poll is different to the question that was asked in the article.

        I do wonder, therefore, how many of those who voted in that poll did actually realise what they were being asked to vote on and might have been mislead as a result.

        1. Guity as charged. I wanted the rule to be dropped and saw that I was in the minority, and then re-read the question and realised I gave the wrong answer. Really @keithcollantine you need to change the question, or at least forewarn people before they make the same mistake.

          1. Vote “Yes” on “Proposition ‘No'”

      2. I really hate when the actual question is the opposite of the title and all the argumentation. If not careful you pick the complete opposite choice to what you want to select in the first place… There is no logic for doing so.

        You can add me to the count of people who miss voted (voted to keep the rule why I want it to be scrapped)

        1. Good catch. I didn’t vote for that reason. Only just caught the flip in wording.

        2. Yeah, I should have voted ‘slightly disagree’ but now I’m on the opposite side, not great.

          Why would I prefer to get rid of the rule? Well, arguably it has notable problems, and few upshots, so why keep an additional complication in the rules if it doesn’t obviously help. Get rid of it, scrap a few lines from the rules. Not expecting huge differences from it, that’s why I am not strongly disagree to keep the rule here, but only slightly.

      3. @Paulo Yeah there was a typo in the poll (that’s my fault, not Josh). I’ve changed it, but of course that also means I’ve had to reset the poll.

    5. I’ve been thinking for a long time now that it should just be moved back to Q1 instead of Q2. Think about it, you keep good of both sides.

    6. It’s impossible to know what effect it would have until tried. Some F1 people say it would further benefit the front runners and others believe the opposite. The real problem is that whatever strategy any team picks, they all run the entire race in tyre-saving mode, because it seems to be beneficial to making an extra pitstop.

      1. @gpfacts ”they all run the entire race in tyre-saving mode, because it seems to be beneficial to making an extra pitstop.”
        – And that is down to the difficulty of following.

    7. In general, I’m in favor of dropping the rule of the top-10 qualifiers having to start the races on the set used for their respective personal best Q2-laps although most of the time it hasn’t been too bad, but still.

    8. Just let them all start on whatever tyre they want.

      The rule doesn’t really add anything as most of the time the top teams all start on the same compound anyway & if Red Bull are closer to Ferrari/Mercedes this year it’s going to make it even less likely that they do something different.

      The only teams that tend to get affected is those tail end of top 10 & just outside top 10 & there have been situations (Singapore last year been the more recent) of those who qualified 7th-10th having there races ruined by those just outside the top 10 getting a rather unfair advantage thanks to the rule.

    9. yes drop it, it’s a stupid rule that’s just another attempt to use artificial nonsense to artificially spice up the show which totally fails to do so.

      there is far too much of this in the sport now and the only things they ever do is take away from the racing, far too much focus on strategy and not enough on the actual track action and frankly it’s getting boring and one of the biggest reasons many are turning off, tyres and strategy are boring and it’s time they learnt this and got back to pure racing like was the case when the sport was actually good.

      this is my biggest hatred of refueling as it’s got everyone in the mindset that there has to be lots of strategies, that there has to be many pit stops and it’s now no longer about the on track racing as used to be the case before 1994. before refueling, before we were in this stupid mindset it was all about the track action, all about the racing & that is where all of the focus was. yet now the focus is always on tyres, always on strategy and always on the pit lane which is completely wrong in my opinion.

      give them a full range of compounds, let them pick whatever compounds they wish with no silly rule forcing them to run 2 of them; just let them run there race how they want be it no-stops or 1-2+ stops. just let them race and do what they want as used to be the case successfully for many years before f1 started been made so artificial with these stupid rules.

      it’s no wonder people are tuning off now, they have to listen to talk about tyres every 5 minutes and tyre talk is frankly boring as hell. it’s racing so let them race with all the focus been on racing on the track rather than in the pit lane!!!!!

      1. yes drop it, it’s a stupid rule that’s just another attempt to use artificial nonsense to artificially spice up the show which totally fails to do so.

        Yes, I think that is the best argument I’ve seen. Really, it is a relic of the past.

      2. Hi RogerA – sorry to sound sycophantic but this is one of the most shrewd comments I’ve ever seen on a F1 site…

      3. @rogerA, Thanks for articulating so well the message I’ve almost given up on. And please register as a member, it’ll take less time than you took to type your post, cost you nothing, and you will be able to see if people have responded to your comments.

    10. It’s a bit like the old engine token system… a rule designed with a certain version of reality in mind, which doesn’t work at all in the version of reality we’ve ended up with.

      I might be misremembering, but I’m sure the Q2 tyre rule was designed to give lesser teams a chance to challenge the front-runners, or at least get mixed up with them for part of the race… and it was meant for a version of F1 where the massive gaps between the front three and the rest, which we have right now, were not present. The ‘headache’ was meant to be for the top teams.

      Instead, the top three just head off and do whatever they like because they can easily reach Q3 on slower tyres, and the headache has been shifted to the midfield teams, where it often leaves P7-10 on suboptimal strategies, pushing them even further behind the top three on race day (though as Keith says, removing it won’t put them significantly closer).

      It worked when it was introduced… but I don’t see the point of keeping it when it no longer does what it was designed to do.

    11. Why would you use a Likert Scale, and an unnecessarily modified one (option 3 and 6 are the same) at that,when a simple dichotomous (with added neutral) would suffice?

      Yes, they should drop the rule. They should drop every rule concerning the use of any compounds on any session in the weekend. They should provide the teams with 2-4 compounds for the weekend and let them figure it out. Make the difference in compounds so many seconds that using the hardest for one stop is mathematically equivalent to using the softest for three stops.

      1. @uneedafinn2win This has come up before: Saying ‘it makes no difference’ is not the same as saying ‘I have no opinion’.

      2. I like your idea, but I’d take it a step further. I think the way Moto GP does it is great. Not only give them free choice, but also let them choose front to rear compound. Moto GP guys will run a soft front and medium or hard rear. It makes different guys fast or slow at different times in the race. That spices things up IMO. I also liked refueling. It made the pit stop times much more variable based on fuel taken. It added another thing that can be mixed/messed up via the human element. The 2 second pit stops are neat, but .5 sec hear and there don’t mix the field like taking 6 sec of fuel and doing a short stint or going for a 9-10 sec fueling and running to the end.
        The old 1 hour quali format was awesome. I liked that the faster guys had to work around the slower cars the whole time vs taking 5-6 off track each session. Again, it adds more human error potential.

    12. I would change the qualifying back to what it used to be.
      1 Hour runtime.
      To prevent that they won’t go out when it rains, just cut it up in three virtual time slots. The fastest time per driver is the sum of the fastest time in each slot parted by three.

      This will make sure the will go out when it rains. Because if they don’t and a backmarker team does,that backmarker will get poll as they will get time set in more than one virtual time slot.
      It will add strategy as it up to the teams on how many of the allotted tires they will use for qualifying.

      1. mhoog, so, what you are doing is insisting on going back to the old format, but by then splitting the session up into three chunks and forcing the drivers to go out and set a timed lap in each one of those individual sessions, you are effectively just recreating the current system under a slightly different name.

        1. The main difference is that all the cars have to set times in all three sessions.

          1. Precisely. So if the top teams have problems in one or more of the sessions they will drop in the grid positions.

    13. This is nothing more than a missplaced success ballast, it tightens up the midfield but does nothing to tight up F1 to F1.5 which is its purpose. The cutoff for Q2 needs to be at the cutoff for “Formula 1.5” (6 cars) for this to work.

      They should keep giving out fresh tyres only for use in Q3 however as i like the idea of qualifying without saving rubber…

    14. I fear that the survey results are not going to represent what folks really wanted to vote for …. or against.
      The title and gist of the survey is … “Should Formula 1 drop the ‘Q3 tyre rule’?”, yet the actual question to vote for or against is … “Do you agree F1 should keep the ‘Q3 tyre rule’. The exact opposite.
      Never mind that it is really a Q2 and Race Tyre Rulke, the results of the survey are suspect based on the confusing wording on the title and the actual question.
      Maybe try the survey again. T. May or that Cameron fellow could possibly help formulate the question and answer options.

    15. Like all rules it has a good intention, but as we all know f1 teams are known for bending the rules as much as they can to benefit from it.
      As it stands, with these tires there are some tracks that will hurt 4 drivers allot, the top 6 are always safe, with makes no sense because that means the biggest the order is shifted, like this, top 3 teams then 6th 7th and maybe even all the others like Singapure (Perez was a very comfortable 7th place and then after refueling got stuck behind Sirotkin that was some seconds a lap slower. This leaves 4th and 5 team at a big disadvantage, and gives the big a huge margin over the rest

      1. @mfalcao F1 races haven’t featured refuelling at all since 2010, though.

        1. Lol big mistake, didn’t realize I put refueling, I meant pit stop.

    16. In general, I think F1 has far too many rules, which invite exploitation by the clever / well-funded teams.

    17. Good question. Yes. The current qualifying format is good, but this is the one remaining artificial element. Freeing up the top teams to choose any tyre for the race after qualifying is over seems a plus to me. And for the mid teams, it became farcical last year.

      And drop DRS while they’re at it.

    18. Has F1 never heard the maxim: Simplify, simplify, simplify.

    19. The problem is not the qualifying tire rule. It’s actually a very nice piece of game design that evens out the field by giving a slight race advantage to those that are slower in qualifying. The situations that occurred last year that people are complaining about are all caused by the massive performance gap between certain competitors and the performance characteristics of the current tire compounds. I am usually for change, but in this case people seem to be complaining about what they see, not what causes it.

    20. Make the rule that top 6 needs to start on Q2 tires and not the top 10 and the problem is solved.

    21. Of all the things F1 should/could change, this one sits very low on my list.
      And I quite like the fact that P11+ have a chance (in theory) to make the race a bit more difficult for the top teams. And if a few cars don’t start in Q2 I’m not too worried about it.

      1. This exactly @coldfly. As always F1 seems to want to tinker with low hanging fruit rather than address any of its larger issues.

        Changing this won’t make much of a difference, huge gaps will continue to exist and those in positions 11 onwards could well end up fighting for a single point.

        Not changing it at least occasionally throws up some interesting tactics.

        1. @dbradock I agree there are more important things to fix. But many of those can’t be addressed until 2021 (e.g. pretty much everything financial, as covered here today). And progress is being made on those.

          So why not also fix other, smaller problems in the meantime? I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

    22. Ideally, there should be no rules like that or mandatory pitstops. But maybe they could tweak for the top 6 times to get to use Q2 tires instead of top 10. That will just give a slight better chance for the best midfield drivers to take advantage and challenge the top 3 teams.

    23. Have always appreciated the strategy and risk that some teams take to try and get through Q2 on the “harder” tyre. Apart from getting off the start line, as fast as the “Soft” tyre users, they can work out an advantage in the race, most of the time.
      In spite of the attraction of this minor tweak, I vote that the Q-2 / Q-3 tyre rule needs to get tossed.
      Whether it is the top 6 or 10 that start on used Q2 tyres, there will always be an advantage to being the first of the rest, so to speak. If it is top 6, then there will be all kinds of shenanigans in play to be no. 7, similar to the present system where P-11 has the advantage and P-10 usually won’t push so hard in Q3 (or even run) in order to preserve an additional set of tyres.
      Expectation is that some things change quickly and others at glacial speeds. This one is going to be with us for a while, unfortunately.

    24. This is a tough one, especially since there are essentially 3 possible answers: 1) start the race on Q2 tires, 2) start the race on Q3 tires or 3) a free tire choice. I do think that the Q2 tire rule, which was introduced in 2016 and not 2014, is an improvement over the Q3 tire rule, as it makes Q3 more interesting. The free tire choice will either be really exciting (if drivers select different tire compounds to start the race on), or really boring if they don’t. At least a potentially interesting phase of the race will then be lost (the leaders struggling somewhat on fragile tires). Also, I do not agree that thanks to the Q2 tire rule qualifying in the top 10 can be a disadvantage. If you analyze race results, you will see that the drivers just inside the top 10 are much more likely to score points than the drivers outside the top 10. Last year there were races in which the guys just inside the top 10 struggled on the weakest tire, but these are the exception rather than the rule, and most of the time they lost ground as a result of bad tire management.

    25. I don’t think any of the restrictions on tyre use are doing much for the quality of racing at the moment. Except the the limits on how many tyres teams can use, which are there for legitimate cost reasons.

      Forcing drivers to use two different kinds of tyre per race create more predictability, not less. Making half the grid start the race on old tyres because they qualified in the front half of the grid has has failed to add intrigue and has probably worsened the disparity between the quickest and slowest cars.

      But the worst thing about the Q3 tyre rule is it’s also fundamentally unfair. It’s like success ballast or Fanboost: it arbitrarily helps some and hinders others.

      Get rid of it already.

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