“Slower” Ferrari only beat us because of Q3 tyre rule – Tost

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was only able to beat Pierre Gasly in the Russian Grand Prix because the rules forced his driver to start the race on old tyres.

Gasly out-qualified Leclerc and started ninth on the grid. Because he reached Q3, he had to start the race on the tyres he used to set his quickest lap time in Q2.

Leclerc did not reach Q3, meaning he was allowed to start the race on new tyres. He originally qualified 11th but was promoted one place by Alexander Albon’s penalty.

Although Gasly kept Leclerc behind him at the start, the AlphaTauri driver had to pit earlier in order to replace his soft tyres. Leclerc started on a new set of mediums and was able to pit 10 laps later than Gasly, emerging over seven seconds ahead.

“I must say it was a little bit of a disadvantage to finish the qualifying on the ninth or 10th position,” said Tost. “It would have been much better to finish qualifying 11th and to start with the prime.

“Because look what Leclerc did. Ferrari were slower than us but they had a big advantage to start with the medium tyre. And therefore he could stay out much longer and he could open the gap when Pierre had to come in to change the tyres from the option to the base.

“Then he lost in the traffic. This was why Leclerc finished in front of us.”

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Gasly lost time later in the race when AlphaTauri tried to take advantage of a Virtual Safety Car period to make an extra pit stop with minimal loss of time. However the VSC period ended while he was in the pits, costing him more time than expected, and he lost places to Alexander Albon and Lando Norris.

Tost said the delay did not ultimately cost Gasly a position. “We pitted him because it was a pit stop more or less for free,” he explained. “First of all we thought that the VSC would take longer. It was only, I think, 10 seconds or something like this, this is not what we expected.

“But with new tyres it was easy for him to overtake Albon once more and Norris and then finish on the position where he was before.”

Gasly finished the race behind his team mate Daniil Kvyat, who also failed to reach Q3 and started on a fresh set of tyres.

“I don’t think that he could have closed the gap to Daniil but Daniil was in front of him, therefore we didn’t gain anything,” said Tost.

“You never know, maybe there would have been a Safety Car or something like this in the last laps, and then he would have had new tyres, which would have been a big advantage.”

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Author information

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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11 comments on ““Slower” Ferrari only beat us because of Q3 tyre rule – Tost”

  1. Why is this rule still in place these days in the first place? IIRC, in 2018, some teams pushed to get rid of it but didn’t gain unanimity because of a questionable and weird argumentation from top teams.

    1. Giving a free choice for all would also, at least most of the time, lead to more sets getting used overall in an event.

    2. @jerejj It’s a completely useless rule benefiting only a few who predictably want to keep it. We all loved teams getting more power after Mad Max Mosley, but this is a good case for someone to cut through, and not have it tied to a unanimous vote like now.

      1. @balue Even though the top teams would still stay ahead irrespective of if the drivers in the lower-end of the top ten could also choose freely, no impact in this regard.

  2. I’ll keep banging this drum every time this issue comes. Scrap the Q3 (Q2) tyre rule! It could be done for the next race weekend and the benefits, while probably not massive, would be immediate.

    Currently it only benefits the teams/drivers who have a big enough performance advantage over the field to safely get through Q2 on the slower tyre, thus giving them an even greater advantage in the race. But more importantly it also penalises the drivers in midfield teams that qualify in the top 10. In addition to those mentioned in the article above, Perez may also have lost out to his teammate due to being forced to start on the inferior, used tyre.

    Q3 tyre rule also ensures that cars on a similar qualifying pace are stuck on the same strategy. E.g. top 3 on the medium since they were able to reach Q3 on that tyre, while positions 4-10 are forced to use the soft. Remove the restriction and you get much more varied strategies within the top 10, which I think everyone would agree is a good thing. This would allow Max for example, to always try an alternate strategy to what they expect the Mercs to do when they don’t expect to compete for the win on pure pace.

    1. This for COTD!

    2. I completely agree with you, but F1 is not managed in order to make sense, it’s managed to what gives gains or not to certain teams.

      Although agreeing with you, I don’t understand why teams try to qualify in Softer tyres in Q2 when it would be better for them to start P13 or P14 with the right tyres. Shouldn’t midfield teams try to qualify in mediums every time?

      1. Yeah I agree that the big teams having so much power over the rules is also a problem, and that is probably why this rule remains in place.

        As for the midfield teams – I think there is a crossover point that varies from weekend to weekend over the best place to qualify. In general I think 13-14th with free tyre choice is probably worse than P10 on Q2 tyres. But often I feel that 11-12th is better than 9-10th. Performance difference between the midfield teams is quite small so aiming for that 11th-12th place would be difficult on the medium I think – and if you could then you are probably fast enough to aim for P5-P6 area which would be better anyway. And there’s always the chance if you get to Q3 of maybe qualifying further up than expected if other cars have issues.

  3. True Perez used to do that quite often to good effect. Qualify poorly in 11th place and then make a grand comeback during the race to P7 on the back of a much better strategy than the cars ahead.

    Gets you the people’s vote too. In this idiotic driver of the weekend/day elections where people either vote for their idol or for the driver made up most places during the race.

  4. It is surprising that more teams don’t target the 11th spot.
    You would think that the teams would consider that even if you make it into Q3, how likely are you to get above 8th or 7th, and then have to start on Used Softs.
    Better to snag 11th and have free choice of new rubber. If you can go 3 or 4 laps (or more) longer than those immediately ahead, you can usually gain places. Something Stroll and Perez are really good at.
    One could wonder if there were more teams talking about this as a strategy, how long would this ridiculous rule stay on the books? Not long I hope.

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