No change this year to red flag tyre rule which Norris called “stupid”

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Lando Norris said the rule which permits drivers to make their mandatory pit stop during a red flag period cost him a podium finish during the Italian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver finished fourth in yesterday’s race behind Lance Stroll. Norris ran ahead of the Racing Point early in the race, but Stroll got ahead because he was able to make his tyre change when the race was red-flagged. Norris and other drivers lost more time than he did because they had to make their tyre changes in the pits.

“The only reason I think I was not on the podium today was because Stroll benefited from a free pit stop,” said Norris. “Which is a bit of a stupid rule because they get it for free, and they don’t deserve it in many ways.”

Article 41.4b of the sporting regulations states that “changing wheels and tyres” is prohibited during a race suspension. “I think it should be taken out,” said Norrris.

“We had the two examples. We’ve got Gasly who boxed before, and he was ahead with the red flag. And he was there, so that was fair, you can’t do anything about that.

“But for someone who just hasn’t boxed, they gained 24 seconds doing nothing. He should still have to pit. It’s his fault they haven’t boxed yet.

“You can get lucky by doing by what Pierre did, but that’s I think just fair play. But the one of not having to box and getting to use that mandatory pit stop, which they didn’t really do, is a thing which I don’t think is right.”

Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said there are no plans to change that rule this year.

“The race suspension regulations have been as such for quite a long time,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “Thankfully, it’s not something that occurs all that often.

“If there are elements of the regulations that need to be reviewed, we will review it in a Sporting Working Group with all of the teams’ sporting directors, and if something is necessary, go through the required process to do it.

“Nothing will change for the remainder of 2020. But we’ll have a discussion about what happens in future and learn from it and see if there’s anything that can be improved.”

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41 comments on “No change this year to red flag tyre rule which Norris called “stupid””

  1. I don’t think this rule needs changing at all. We barely have any redflagged races, so it is not like you can gamble on it or anything. it will just in very seldom Cases help someone not suffer from a strategic mistake. i’d argue that now, that you no longer run out of fuel, there is a stronger case for prohibiting/limiting pit stops under Safety Car.

    1. @mrboerns I think this red flag tire change has had a negative effect every time we have had a red flag. I proposed earlier that this rule needs changing but there is a safety factor to it. I think tire change should be enforced if there is an accident that leaves carbon fiber debris on the track. Driving over that debris could cut a tire and cause a big accident. But if the track is clear of any debris that could cut tires then not being allowed to change tires is better for fairness and for the racing. I think the race happened to be good this time around but it might have been even better if the teams were not allowed to change tires during red flag.

      1. A change (if any) would have to be to something similar like what they have with replacing bodywork IMO @socksolid, @mrboernss. If a team wants to replace somethign they have to clear that with the FIA (tech delegate Jo Bauer) and show both that they are replacing something that needs replacing and show they replace it like for like.

        With tyres the norm then should be to replace it like for like too, unless circumstances ask for something different (changes between wet/intermediate and slicks for example, or maybe when a driver has no like sets left to change to in case of risk of damage).
        If you only let them change like for like tyres in a situation like today, they would still have had to pit Stroll (and Kimi) since he did not yet use at least 2 compounds, but it would be left to the team to decide exactly when to do so, giving them some room to try and eke out a gap to pit from after the restart.

        With all the complications involved, I do agree that this should only be changed after carefully looking at potential situations, how they might play out and what do do with quite a few cases.

        1. that should ahve been @mrboerns, sorry about that extra S

        2. In the end a red flag is always going to disrupt the race and create different ending that was going to happen before the red flag. So the situation is always going to be different than it was before the flag. Having to pit after the red flag just to fulfill a tire rule doesn’t seem inherently fairer to me as you are going to drop a lot further back into the field.

          After all the job of the sc or red flag is to neutralize the race. So apart from safety reasons that neutralization does feel a very subjective target to me. If one team has pitted and is behind (but on new tire) and red flag comes out what is being neutralized? If we allow everybody to change tires we are neutralizing the current track positions. If we don’t allow it then we are neutralizing the tire strategy. Someone is always going to be penalized but I feel at least having the situation as it is before the red flag is the most fair and if tire changes are allowed then allow everybody or no one to change tires. So we have three options. Allow tire changes always, sometimes or never.

          I have also doubts about there being bad motives if tire change is done based on need. If a driver knows he gets new tires by going over debris he is going to drive over every bit of carbon he sees hoping to get new tires as reward. It is also very subjective whether a tire change should be allowed or not. Is a cut deep enough, where the cut is, is a safety issues or not. Do that for 19 cars and it is likely to be somewhat chaotic. It is easier to look at the track condition and then decide whether everybody needs to change to new tires or not. Debris is a bit like rain in that regard. It is not fair for everybody in every situation but for racing I think it would be better because in the current system we seem to lose a good battle everytime red flag comes and allows people to get new tires. So to me the best option is to allow tire change sometimes based on track safety.

          1. I agree that a red flag is by defenition a reset @socksolid. And yeah, I can see the argument for changing tyres to have a team prove a need or the FIA declare whether tyre changes are to be allowed, but it will be a debate about how fair things turned out anyway.

            To never allow tyre changes would clearly be dangerous (because never also means not going from slicks to wet tyres then and what to do about blown, deflated or damaged tyres). To allow it without limits, more or less like we have now often feels unfair to those who did have to stop for a tyre change (although that could be solved by dropping the rule you have to use 2 compounds, maybe a better way out of this?)

            And severly restricting it will probably ending up with driver feeling badly done by – for example because they will then have to do a pitstop that leaves them at the end of the pack after the restart.

            Any change would have to be pretty carefully thought through, because of the safety reasons a red flag gets thrown in the first place. Considerations about what is fair and unfair for various situations drivers/teams might find themselves in are then fine, but always secondary. And it will have lucky drivers and unlucky drivers regardless of what the rules will be.

          2. And it will have lucky drivers and unlucky drivers regardless of what the rules will be.

            You make a good point that there needs to be a way to allow a team to change tires in some situations even if it has nothing to do with the red flag. But the tire change is also a benefit as it could allow a team to fulfill the tire usage rule and give the driver benefit of better tires compared to people around him.

            However I feel that there are two different rulesets here. The main rule is for all for red flag situations and then you have exception rules. The main rule imho should be not to allow tire changes unless the track conditions require a change (debris before red flag or rain).

            And then there are the exceptions. If a car has flat or leaking or cut tire for some other reason then obviously we can’t send the car out like that. Retiring a car for flat tire would also be pretty dumb. But giving new set also could give a performance benefit. Maybe dropping the car to the back of the grid for tire change is fairest option? But then we have the williams who would change tires under every red flag because they’d still be last but have new tires. Do we care about what happens to the last car though?

            Giving the team the option to change tires also puts the team into a bad spot when the tire situation is not clear, if the tire might blow up. Change tires and lose positions. Don’t change tire and take the risk of big accident or big win. But that is the situation we already have and it seems to work and is safe.

            So for me fia ordering cars to change tires or not allow to change tires is a good overall rule. But for exceptions if a team changes tire then they are dropped to the back of the queue (not laps down though). Regardless I feel there needs to be a tradeoff for tire changes during red flag and in current system there is no tradeoff. New tires always better.

      2. In both cases they could introduce a compromise to reduce the benefit. Maybe reduce the pit lane speed limit when the safety car is out so they delta doesn’t change. During a red flag you can change tyres, but it will cost you 5 places or something, with an option for the FIA to cancel that if there is a high risk of damaged tyres.

        1. Lower pitlane speed is an interesting idea but could propose technical issues. For the teams and for fia. Maybe minimal pitstop time would work better? Instead of dropping the limit from 80 to 50, make the minimum stop time to something like 10 or so.

        2. Ian Tommins Yes those are both reasonable proposals. I’ve thought a lot about reducing pit lane speed limit during the safety car to offset the different time losses between pitting under green flag or under safety car conditions. This would be an obvious solution that would be fair to everyone, and doesn’t seem hard to implement. Call me cynical, but given that I’ve never even heard it discussed within F1, I believe that’s because they want that element of randomness left in there. How often are we watching a dull race, but in the brief moments when the leaders are out of sync with their pitstops you think “well a safety car right now would switch things up though”?

          I was also thinking about your compromise for the red flag tyre change rule. Whatever number of grid spaces you allocate as a penalty for changing tyres will never be 100% ‘fair’ or restore parity to the situation before, but if you give the teams a choice then it would certainly be more fair than a driver suddenly gaining 10 or more places purely because they were out of sync on a pitstop that they would always have to take. 5 grid spots for a change of tyres doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, but I’m sure they could do some analysis to work out what is ‘fair’ on average.

  2. It has cost Mclaren before, Jenson Button Monaco 2011.

  3. Why was this clause added though? I mean you can want to change it, but there must have been some justification for changing tyres during a red flag. Maybe for changing slicks to wet tyres when the race is stopped because of a sudden downpour?

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      7th September 2020, 10:25

      The tyre change rule is for safety as potentially competitors could have run over debris as (usually) the accident that causes the red flag has carbon fibre everywhere

      Although did we need a red flag. We could have run it under Safety Car couldn’t we? That’s what we did 20 years ago when Paolo Ghislimberti was dying at the side of the track because he’d been hit with a wheel.

      (Sorry I don’t mean to be salty, I just didn’t think it was right. That it happened again six months later at Albert Park was equally wrong)

      1. Better safe than sorry I say.

    2. @f1osaurus – since red flags often can involve more damaged cars, bits of carbon fibre shards on track or indeed because of changing circumstances with rain as you mention, it is quite likely that cars will actually need to change tyres during red flag situations.

      Maybe they could look at allowing it only after inspection, allowing only like for like (provided the driver has another set of the same type that is) as they do with bodywork parts, or in cases where the weather was the reason for the red flag.

      1. @bascb and Jonathan Parkin, Yes thanks, makes sense that it’s not so easy as to simply remove this since there would be legitimate reasons for changing tyres.

        Ah well, I see people mentioning below that this unfairness was already discussed before and nothing changed back then either.

        1. It is not quite true that nothing at all changed though @f1osaurus.
          But yeah, this rule draws critisizm pretty much every time we have a red flag period.

          In the past teams could also change more or less the complete car (or go back to the spare car when that was still a thing), over time the critisism at least led to teams having to notify the FIA of what they want to change on the car and only being allowed to do like for like bits.

          So who knows, we might get further changes that limit the freedom to change things again.

  4. Don’t change the rule at all. Once the race has started, the teams are allowed to change many different things (both altering set-up and replacing parts) in the pits. A red flag period is not under parc ferme conditions so any work that you could do in a pit stop should be allowed. If they disallow tyre changes then they should disallow everything and make it parc ferme – which is bad idea IMHO (see Baku 2017 when cars were being rebuilt in the pit lane, great fun).

    Lando is understandably bitter, but if Gasly “got lucky” by stopping earlier, then Stroll “got lucky” but planning to stop later. End of.

  5. I thought this was scrapped when Vettel got a free tyre change in Monaco years ago during a red flag. He was having tyre problems and we were heading for a tense finish up until then.

    1. Yeah, I thought it was scrapped after it altered that Monaco ending?

    2. I thought the same, but apparently there was just some discussion about it, not a rule change.
      Oh, and the race was the 2011 Monaco GP.

    3. I recall McLaren changing a rear wing on JB’s, maybe Ham’s (?) car during a red flag. Monaco 2011 from memory. I recall thinking that was surely not allowed at the time. It turns out it was allowed. It just felt dodgy.

      1. I remember it – Hamilton. It’s a stupid rule imo..

  6. Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said there are no plans to change that rule this year.

    Just get Horner to lobby for it on the grounds it disadvantages RB, done.

  7. Article 41.4b of the sporting regulations states that “changing wheels and drivers” is pitted during a race suspension

    I think you mean changing wheels and tyres is permitted during a race suspension… Changing drivers is a bit much.

    1. Helmut Marko would absolutely jump at that opportunity. He is itching to change drivers mid-season. Now he will get to do it mid-race!!

  8. I really don’t like this rule but I think it’s in place for safety reasons. It’s dangerous to have people start on old worn tyres who are really difficult to get up to temperature again. But it would be so much more entertaining (and fair) to see people start the race on the same set they had before the red flag.

  9. Another rule which I think is ridiculous: picking up discarded rubber marbles onto tyres post-race to ensure compliance with the minimum car weight rules. How utterly pointless, no?

    1. That’s not a rule, but more of a common sense thing to do.

    2. @shimks I think it’s just for practical reasons that makes it hard to police against. Cars are weighed with their tyres on, so naturally drivers want to gain a bit of extra rubber to make sure they are over the minimum weight at the end of the race. You can’t really stop drivers doing that, so the only thing to do would be to weigh the cars without their wheels on. That means you’d have to take the wheels off every car, weigh them, then reattach them to take them back to their garages. It’s just more effort than its worth for something that doesn’t really have an impact on anything since all drivers can gain as much as each other the way things are.

      1. Okay, yes, that makes sense. I was just thinking that they should deduct the expected weight reduction from rubber loss in a race but I guess that would be impossible to do as there are so many variables involved from race to race. Thanks for the input, @keithedin, Firestorm69.

  10. I don’t think teams shouldn’t be able to change tires during a red flag session – as others have said, it’s there in case cars have driven over debris, or the weather changes during the suspension.

    BUT

    I don’t think it should get drivers out of doing the “mandatory” 1 pit stop – the advantage gain is too much and it’s not fair on drivers that, up to that point, would have earned their positions through driving skill and/or clever strategy (which in turn, isn’t fair on the fans imo).

    So don’t change the rules that currently apply during a red flag, just make it so the rules mandating a pit stop aren’t voided in the process.

    1. @joeypropane – I take your point, but is it the pit stop that is mandatory, or is it using 2 different tyre compounds that is mandatory.

      Splitting hairs maybe, but that’s the F1 way.

      1. @ahxshades Exactly, there is no mandatory pitstop rule as far as I am aware, it is a rules that says 2 different compounds of tyre must be run. All they need to do is pop a rule in that says if the driver changes tyre they have to put the same compound on unless moving from slicks to wet/ints or vice versa for safety reasons. Then the whole problem is solved.

  11. I think they should be able to change tyres, for safety reason as others have said. You can’t risk letting someone go out on the same tyres if they have some kind of non-obvious defect due to running over debris during the incident that caused the red flag.

    The part that seems strange is being able to change to a different tyre compound. Unless race control signify a change of conditions from wet to dry (or vice versa), requiring teams to replace their tyres with another set of the same compound would seem about the right balance.

  12. There are 2 choices that could easily be made immediately – clarify that any tyres changed under red flag don’t count towards mandatory tyre changes, or prohibit changing dry compounds for an alternative dry compound.

    I don’t see why they can’t happen – particularly the first option as it’s more of a clarification rather than re-writing an existing rule. The rule was added long before they made people run multiple compounds in a race so a clarification would be sensible IMO.

  13. I think allowing them to change tyres during a red flag is probably the better & most fair of the avialable options.

    We have the standing restart after a red flag now & getting somebody to do a standing start on (Potentially very) worn tyres means there not only almost certainly going to get a horrible start but also are likely going to drop backwards over the following laps (Given the advantage those on fresh tyres get & how worn tyres are harder to get upto temperature). And of course they are likely going to drop to the very back when they eventually have to pit to switch compounds.

    And then you also have the safety concerns. Not only of the tyres they were on potentially having driven through debris but also of drivers potentially really struggling to get off the line on the restart.

  14. I don’t see a problem with tyre changes being allowed during a red flag-stoppage. This has been the case for quite some time already. The first time I recall people questioning this rule was in Monaco back in 2011 when Seb’s tyres were quite worn, but thanks to being allowed to changed them, he had an easier time defending his lead from JB and Alonso close behind, although track-position is king in Monaco anyway. The good thing about allowing tyre changes during an in-race stoppage is that there’s a better chance of more tyre sets getting used for their intended purpose rather than being left entirely unused.

  15. I just disagree that Stroll got a “free pitstop”. He took a bet that paid out.
    If the redflag havent come, Stroll would have to make a regular pitstop, maybe even gettting out of points.

  16. I remember this same issue coming up at Monaco in 2011… My thoughts on it then are the same as now. While it seems horribly unfair, from a safety perspective you have to let them change the tires and service the cars during a red flag stoppage.
    Limiting repairs would have the teams sending damaged cars back onto the track for the restart. Allowing repairs to some cars but not others is even more unfair and will lead to never-ending protests.

    It comes up so infrequently that it isn’t deciding the races very often… and even on Sunday, it still didn’t make the difference for the win.

  17. If you can get a cheap pit stop for Safety Car, then I say it’s okay to get a free pit stop/tire change during red flags. You can lead for many seconds before an SC kills your gap, do a stop too early or late, rain came, rain didnt come etc.

    F1 is about adapting to circumstances, sometimes you plan for something only to be disrupted by an event, and sometimes you plan a strategy betting on an event like safety car happens.

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