Drivers back plan to ditch Q3 tyre rule which ‘means the rich get richer’

2021 F1 season

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[raceweekendpromotion]Formula 1 drivers said they would support moves to drop a contentious part of the series’ qualifying regulations which they say increases the advantage enjoyed by the quickest cars.

The series’ motorsport director Ross Brawn said last month the rule requiring drivers who reach Q3 to start the race on tyres from the previous session may be dropped.

The rule has existed since 2014 but has been criticised by some drivers and teams. Brawn admitted it was “unfortunate” the rule “gives those who are really quick even more of an advantage because they can easily choose whichever tyre they want for Q2” while other teams “who are desperate to get into the final qualifying need to run a soft tyre.”

Dropping the rule for future seasons is “certainly something we’re looking at”, Brawn admitted.

George Russell and Pierre Gasly said giving top teams the opportunity to start the race on harder compound tyres than their closest rivals hands them a strategic advantage.

Russell, who has reached Q3 four times so far in 2021, said it “would be wise” to get rid of the rule. “The rich just get richer and the poor just get poorer when the fastest cars have the pace to be able to get through to Q3 on a harder compounds,” he explained.

“I think the cars in the midfield just don’t have an opportunity to even fight,” continued Russell, who will drive for Mercedes next season. “The game is already over. So I think that would probably make things easier for everybody.”

Gasly said he “completely” agreed, pointing out he had been disadvantaged by the rule in previous races. “We actually have been in that situation a couple of times where we don’t really have the pace to make it, or it’s very tight and you need to go with the softer compound.

“If you do make it, you know that you’re going to compromise your race and it just increases the gap in between the top teams and the midfield when you’re right on the edge of both making Q3.”

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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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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31 comments on “Drivers back plan to ditch Q3 tyre rule which ‘means the rich get richer’”

  1. But Russel is going to be a lot richer…
    At least this rule lift a burden for Perez to qualified to Q3 using harder tyres.

  2. I don’t get it. If you remove the rule, the richest will qualify on whatever tyre gets them through, unless they are short of a compound. Either way they will get through and now choose to start on the harder tyre anyways. It litterally makes no difference there.
    It may make a difference for the numbers 7-10 in Q3, those get through on the softs, but none of those are the richest, they all are the havenots.

    I doubt this will make any difference to be honest, except making Q2 less interesting.

    1. The title describes the current rule as ‘the rich get richer’.
      It’s a bit clearer in Russell’s quote.

    2. @bazzek The point is about fairness throughout the field. Overall, a wholly justified & long-overdue change.

    3. @bazzek you are contradicting yourself. You said it will make a difference to 7-10.
      It can’t make q2 any less interesting as this game of trying to go through q2 on mediums is dull and predictable, at some tracks we have seen nobody going out on softs as nobody wanted to start on them also quick teams already go out on a set of softs for Q2 only to not finish the lap. The only consequence of getting rid this is ending it’s multiple side effects. I have 2000 words on that if anyone is interested.
      Quick cars might opt to run harder tyres in q1 instead of q2 but all teams will want to use as many softs as possible throughout Q in order to get the best q3 time.

    4. The top teams will get through to Q3 regardless of which tire they use, so the order at the pointy end will not change. Dropping the rule will prevent the teams scrapping for the lower positions of Q3 from being locked in to an unfavorable strategy.

      1. To sort of expand on pastamans point. It is more advantage to start with a set of mediums when starting 11th on the grid as you get free choice of tire compound. Whereas, everyone just ahead (5the to 10th) are forced to start on the tire they qualified in Q2 and made it into Q3 (most typically would be soft). I think they all should get free choice on race day strategy. Long over due to remove this stupid rule.

  3. Wasn’t the rule brought in to help the drivers in 11-20 in the first place?

    If the top 10 are on softs and 11-20 on mediums then the idea was to force the top ten to stop earlier or maybe more.

    Realistically if you’re qualifying 8-12 anyway, the tires that the top 4 are in isn’t relevant.

    All this will do is mean the whole field starts on mediums making it even harder to progress I’d you start outside the top 10.

    1. @Kris Lord Allowing everyone a free starting tyre compound/set choice is 100% fair throughout the field.

      1. When has F1 ever been fair? You’re thinking of a different sport.

        1. Mark in Florida
          12th November 2021, 13:28

          (@eurobrun) +1 that’s made my morning!

    2. Wasn’t the rule brought in to help the drivers in 11-20 in the first place?

      Yes.

      In 2010, F1 mandated that drivers who made it to Q3 would have to start the race on same tyres they set their fastest lap in Q3. This was added to help the drivers in 11-20 so that they could start on a fresher tyre. This worked in 2010 when tyres were durable and didn’t drop off in performance.
      But in 2011, when Pirelli came in with its degrading tyres, teams realized that not running in Q3 was better (especially teams in positions 7-10) as it put them at par with the drivers in positions 11-20.

      In order to avoid drivers in Q3 not running, the rules were changed for 2014 and drivers who reached Q3 were given an additional set of tyre which would be available only for that session. In order to ensure that drivers 11-20 still had an advantage, the rules were changed and drivers who reached Q3 had to use the Q2 tyres (instead of Q3). This worked till 2015.
      But in 2016, Pirelli came up with 3 tyres for a weekend instead of 2. Because of the lower performance gap between the 3 compounds, it allowed the top teams (teams generally qualifying 1-6) the option of using the slightly lower performance tyre (middle tyre) and still make it to Q3. And hence, the ‘rich got richer’ and increased their gap to the midfield.

      A classic case of how adding more and more rules makes their interactions with each other even more complicated, adds nothing to the spectacle and just complicates the experience for the viewers.

      1. That is a very good explanation.

      2. Thank you, that is a great explanation and i now get what Russel is aiming at and thus what i did not appreciate in my reaction above.

    3. It was advertised to benefit the 11-20, kind of making the bottom closer to the top but it ends up benefiting the 1-5 by hurting the 5-10. In the end races are even less dynamic at the front as it helps the top teams get away from the other quick cars and undercut much more easily

      1. It is the choice of the Q5-10’s to go in Q2 with a compound they don’t want to start on. If this is too much of a disadvantage, they can chose not to go for track position, and will regain the position at the first stop from those that gambled the other way.

        The real disadvantage is that you’re starting the race with tyres 3+ laps older than the 11+ position. That part could be scrapped, but retaining the strategic part of the equation.

        Scrapping the rule completely will benefit the top 5 by letting them start on a new set of whatever tire they chose, and that’ll probably be the hardest compound because that will give them the most strategic freedom. They might be able to perform their pitstops retaining the lead at all tracks and we’ll see a lot more blue flags because the slower teams will have to stop earlier on a softer tyre, or will be close to lapped before the first pitstop.

        1. not sure I agree entirely. I don’t think much in terms of the race will change much. Just will make the mid pack more fair between qually and race. The dominant cars will remain dominant no matter what you change in the rules. I’m never a fan in giving “handycaps” because its takes away the “fairness”/”level playing field”, so someone always gets screwed. Everyone would be on a level playing field if this was just scrapped.

  4. Isn’t this the Q2 tyre rule?
    I thought the Q3 tyre rule is that drivers that make it to Q3 get an extra set of soft tyres?
    Either way 2 rules that should be unnecessary if the new technical regulations work as thought out.

    1. It is the Q2 tire rule which is only applied to those who make it into Q3.

  5. Great move, bout time.
    Looking forward to seeing much greater variety in strategy between the top teams next year.
    It’ll be exciting not knowing what tires they all have bolted on until the blankets come off only minutes before the start.

    1. If only they brought back refuelling – then we could really see some strategic diversity with this free tyre choice.

      1. I agree with S. Never though I’d like S.

      2. fefuelling comes never back fire and burning drivers are bad for safety standaard.

        1. But great for Netflix, so do not hold your breath.

      3. Refueling didn’t really give much strategic diversity though & actually worked to limit strategic options during the race as teams were basically locked into what they had planned the day before. If you started the race with 15 laps of fuel you were locked into that for the 1st stint & had very little room to alter the strategy with drivers having very little input.

        Without refueling you have more strategy options because tyre strategy is more reactive, Drivers can have far more input & there’s far more opportunities to alter the plans you went into the race with which can also be more affected if the tyres are acting differently than expected.

        I think it was Pat Symmonds who once said that refueling was more planned & restrictive while tyre strategy is more reactive & open with greater opportunities to surprise those you are racing by doing something different or unexpected with them also having opportunities to react & try to counter which was something you just couldn’t do with refueling as you couldn’t extend the stint that much longer & pitting early was a disadvantage as you were carrying more fuel than you needed in that stint which was a net time loss.

        I was watching F1 before, During & after the 1994-2009 refueling era & always felt it was better before & after in terms of both strategy options, strategy unpredictability (Especially when they had full freedom with no mandatory stops & options to mix compounds) & the actual racing.

      4. Good riddance to refueling!

      5. Refueling really only adds three things:
        -stuck rigs or bad fuel deliveries ruining an innocent drivers
        -uncompetitive cars running on fumes to get headlines
        -less on track action and more pit jumps

        1. – Stuck rigs or bad/slow fuel deliveries: The same could be said for tire changes? Personally, F1 should revert to IndyCar style pits stops… less people in the pitlane servicing the car (safer) and apply standard/controlled fuel flow rate that is safe. It is a team sport
          – uncompetitive cars running on fumes: Isn’t that a strategy that could be applied. Personally it would shake things up and result into some interesting results and finishes? I think that is an argument in wanting refueling. They still, per current rules, still will be required to have x amount of fuel left in the tank.
          – less track action and more pit jumps: I’m not sure I follow. It wouldn’t change with what we currently have other than you would likely not see “undercuts” but “overcuts” instead. The logic doesn’t really change. I think refueling opens up a lot of strategic elements. The cars can run a smaller tank and you can bring the weight of the cars back down which would be nice. The cars will be allowed to be driven harder and “all out” with minimal tire and fuel management.

    2. Greater strategic variety? Just the opposite I’m afraid. All teams will start on a hard compound, race to 60% and go for a single stop. Now we have that variety due to the ballance between single laps speed/qualifying position and race-capabilities. Had Merc and RB started on the hard compound in the US and Mex, they would’ve raced on the first set until they were far enough in front of the McL or Fer’s, gone to medium and coasted to the end… Undercuts? Forget about those, no-one is going to try something that gets them in traffic, and once the delta is positive, the leader will come in first.

  6. Currently what this rule / gimmick does is try to inject some excitement into Q2…
    Merc and RB use the mediums vs everyone else on softs and put in a banker lap. Then maybe 5 times a season we have some mild jeopardy where they might need to do a 2nd run, or shock horror, might need to put on softs just to be safe, although nearly always abort that lap as the banker on mediums was good enough. So its not really that exciting really. Faux excitement.
    Then in the race RB and Merc can run as they like. 5-10 are penalised vs 11-20, to at best cause some excitement in the midfield. Even if 5-10 were on the same tyres as RB and Merc, it wouldn’t make much difference right now.

    What will happen if they remove this rule/gimmick is that almost no one will ever use the soft tyres in a race again. At least occasionally having to run a medium in Q2 means that they might not have a spare fresh set available.
    I think its a gimmick that should go, but I don’t think it going will improve anything.

    1. @eurobrun Agree with most of your analysis, but softs will definitely still get some use in the races where tyre wear is very low such as Monaco and Abu Dhabi for example. It’s also quite a big advantage off the line so maybe some drivers will be willing to take the strategic gamble, like in sprint races in particular. But I’m just glad that the midfield drivers who make it into Q3 will no longer be disadvantaged to their slower rivals who failed to make it through, and that there is now the opportunity for the top teams to be on different starting strategies, though I don’t expect that to happen particularly often.

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