‘Q3 tyre rule’ will be dropped for Sprint Qualifying race weekends

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1’s official tyre supplier Pirelli has revealed further details of how the sport’s new Sprint Qualifying regulations will work.

The format will be used at three rounds of this year’s world championship following its approval by the F1 Commission, and anticipated formal ratification by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

At the three rounds, qualifying will take place on Friday and decide the starting order for a new, 100-kilometre Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday. The result of that race will set the starting order for Sunday’s grand prix.

Changing the race weekend format for those races has required adjustments to F1’s tightly-controlled limits on which tyres teams may use and when.

In a normal race weekend, the ‘Q3 tyre rule’ stipulates drivers who reach Q3 must start the race on the tyres they used to set their fastest lap time in Q2. However on Sprint Qualifying race weekends drivers will only be allowed to use the soft tyre compound in qualifying.

Pirelli has confirmed the tyres drivers use in qualifying during Sprint Qualifying weekends will have no bearing on what rubber they must use in either the Saturday or Sunday races.

Start, Silverstone, 2020
Poll: Will F1’s new Sprint Qualifying races enhance the championship?
The ‘Q3 tyre rule’ has been a focus of criticism from some teams, as it can hand an advantage to cars which narrowly fail to reach the top 10 in qualifying, and therefore become the highest starters on the grid to benefit from fresh rubber. Teams have previously discussed dropping the rule but failed to reach agreement.

During Sprint Qualifying weekends, drivers will still be required to use at least two different dry weather tyre compounds in the grand prix (unless they use a wet or intermediate tyre). That restriction will not be imposed during the Sprint Qualifying race. The requirement for drivers to reserve two mandatory tyre sets as determined by Pirelli for the grand prix will also remain in force.

In a further change, drivers will be required to reserve at least one set of new soft tyres for Q3 in the Friday qualifying sessions during Sprint Qualifying weekends, Pirelli confirmed.

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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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26 comments on “‘Q3 tyre rule’ will be dropped for Sprint Qualifying race weekends”

  1. It’s Q2, but a good thing, albeit F1 should ax this rule altogether and should’ve done so a while ago already.

    1. I would also refer to it as the Q2 tyre rules, it is in the end the Q2 tyres you need to start the race on (if your reach Q3, if the race is dry, if the tyres are not damaged, if you used dry tyres in quali, and if you start from the grid).

    2. @jerejj Agreed. And this is actually the only part of the entire proposal that I’m excited about. Hopefully it leads to the top 10 choosing a mix of strategies for the grand prix on Sunday and F1 will realise that scrapping the Q2 tyre rule is the simplest improvement to the racing and ‘show’ that they could implement. It would be entirely non-controversial with the fans and I can’t see any real downside. I presume the opposition just comes from the top teams who want the strategic advantage of sometimes starting on the harder compound.

      1. @keithedin But the top teams are in front anyway, so drivers in the lower-top ten starting on the middle compound don’t threaten them any more than starting on a step softer compound. Literally zero downsides for competition or anything else. For the sake of fairness, everyone should get to choose starting tyre set, not only those who don’t reach Q3.

        1. Nah I’m totally fine with Q3 drivers being stuck with their Q2 sets. Adds another layer of strategy for QF and the race.

      2. @keithedin the rules around the tyre usage for the race weekends with the sprint races are more prescriptive though, so it is debatable whether there will be more diversity or less diversity in race strategies.

        For those three race weekends, the teams are given 12 sets of tyres, which means one set less than they normally would have for other race weekends. All of the teams have the same fixed allocation of tyres – six sets of softs, four of the mediums and two of the hards.

        In the Friday morning practice session, all drivers must use at least two different sets of tyres, which can be of any compound – the drivers are then required to hand back one of those sets of tyres after that session.

        During the Friday afternoon qualifying session, all drivers must use only the soft tyres for their qualifying runs, with the teams limited to using a maximum of five sets of tyres in qualifying. Furthermore, any driver who ends up in Q3 must have at least one set of unused soft tyres for that qualifying session.

        The sprint race itself shall have a free tyre compound allocation – however, after the sprint race, each driver then has to return one set of tyres to Pirelli, which will be the set of tyres that they have used to cover the greatest number of laps.

        During the main race itself, the teams are also still bound by the requirement to run at least two different compounds, although there will now be a free choice of starting compound for all drivers.

        We therefore know that the teams will have a maximum of 11 sets of tyres before qualifying, and any team in Q3 will have to use at least three sets of soft tyres during qualifying, with the teams then having to cut back to 10 sets of tyres before the main race.

        We also know that two of the venues that will be used are Silverstone and Monza – both of those venues have traditionally been one stop races, especially at Monza, with both circuits favouring the harder compounds (Silverstone due to the high loads in the corners and Monza due to the relatively high rear tyre wear). That suggests to me that most drivers will probably want to have one set of medium tyres and one set of hard tyres for the main race.

        I therefore think that, at this point in time, we can make a reasonable prediction of what sort of strategies the top half of the grid would probably follow to meet those additional requirements:
        FP1: 1 stint on mediums and 1 stint on hards – hand back 1 set of hards. Mercedes and Red Bull drivers may do a qualifying simulation on one set of soft tyres.

        Qualifying: Mercedes and Red Bull will aim to use 4 sets of softs, with 1 run in Q1, 1 run in Q2 and 2 runs in Q3. Those in the lower half of the top 10 will probably aim to do 1 run in Q1, 2 runs in Q2 and 2 runs in Q3.

        Sprint race: Most, if not all, drivers will use a fresh set of soft tyres, which would be their one remaining set for those in the top 10. If there are no major incidents and the drivers run non-stop until the end, that set of soft tyres will then be the ones handed back to Pirelli at the end of the race (as they will probably be the most heavily used set).

        Main race: Start on the one remaining set of new medium tyres, before then switching to the one remaining set of hard tyres to run to the end of the race. If enough of a gap opens up, one of the Red Bull or Mercedes drivers might pit and use one of the scrubbed sets of softs to go for a fastest lap attempt near the end of the race.

        My initial suspicion is that the slight reduction in tyre allocation, combined with the requirements on which tyres must be used in which sessions and when they must be handed back, might actually reduce strategic variety.

    3. Current system has always added some interest to what would otherwise usually be a borefest Q2 and the tyre mix on the grid.
      But I don’t mind if they experiment.

  2. The area to work on should be the aero. This is just another patch fighting effects rather than cause.

    1. @Mayrton Next year’s technical rule changes indeed address the aero for better racing.

      1. Yes because you need to grab consensus, thats how it works in a democracy. They still need 6 out of 10 team votes (if I’m wrong, then 8) for something to pass in a addition to FIA and FOM agreeing.

        1. Oops sorry wrong reply there

    2. Yeah, if only they have a rules shakeup that will attempt to address that in the coming next year…..

      1. Feeling confident it will address the right areas then?

  3. Well that’s one good thing about Sprint Qualifying, but I don’t see why the rule doesn’t get scrapped for all weekends.

    1. @f1frog Indeed. This rule should get axed altogether.

    2. Probably cos its a good rule?

  4. I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, the Q3 tyre rule is a load of contrived nonsense that should never have seen the light of day. On the other, this introduces a further difference in the format between the so-called Grand Slam events and all the others.

    Arguably a Sprint Qualifying victory is now worth slightly more than a “regular” pole position as the winner gets a free choice of tyres for the main race, rather than being stuck with whatever set they qualified on.

    The best solution would be to drop the tyre rule for all the races. Actually, the best solution would be to not have Sprint Qualifying at all, but that ship has sailed.

    1. @red-andy Agreed, no justifiable reason for this rule these days long after the in-race refuelling ban.

  5. Martin Elliott
    28th April 2021, 9:11

    With the ‘chaos’ we see from complex ‘gimmick’ rules in other series, you’d think FIA would realise that what is needed is fewer, simple and clear rules, not complex conditional rules.

    Its obvious from the drip feed of instructions and rules that Sprint Race weekends are not being set up by a systematic planning and assessment, but the usual ad-hoc brainstorm.

    1. Compromise – it’s quite literally what F1 is now.
      Just a long list of compromises that have culminated in never actually solving a problem, but rather creating distractions and side-effects, which then need similarly compromised ‘solutions’…

      While the participants are being given a say in rule-making, the rules will never make sense or work properly.

      1. Fully agree and I would even go a step further in stating that the exploitation party also shouldnt be allowed to make the rules. This to prevent the obvious revenue over sports element. And unlike in football we do have the opportunity here since FIA and Liberty are not the same. So: FIA (or a new body for that matter) sets rules based on sportmanship and sportive challenge and then a commercial party can decide whether or not to buy/broadcast. Sure they can provide thoughts and input but should not have any formal say in the matter. What is so difficult about this? (the answer is greed, status and money that some FIA people have as well, so the sell their skin). It is time for people with some integrity running the show rather than this old boys network.

    2. Yes because you need to grab consensus, thats how it works in a democracy. They still need 6 out of 10 team votes (if I’m wrong, then 8) for something to pass in a addition to FIA and FOM agreeing.

      “While the participants are being given a say in rule-making, the rules will never make sense or work properly.”

      Why shouldn’t they? They are long term stakeholders that also invest a lot of money, of course they should get a say.

      1. @yaru Because they only want what is best for themselves, individually and (sometimes) collectively – not what is best for the sport as a whole.
        You can’t honestly tell me that what each team and manufacturer wants is the best thing for F1, can you? Seriously?
        They aren’t looking for long term gain, they are only in F1 for short term gain until they decide to stop – and inevitably almost all of them do at some point.

    3. @martinelliot, I agree entirely with your 1st. paragraph, but disagree with your 2nd. I see the sprint race as a potential demo of what the GP could be like if there were less prescriptive rules and less dependence on tyre management, pit stops etc. a back to basics race where the only tactic is to pass and not be passed.

  6. Couldn’t they try this nonsense in the feeder series first

    It’s far too convoluted

    1. @N The feeder series’ have one form of sprint format already, albeit featuring reverse grids to an extent.

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