F1’s ‘Q3 tyre rule’, which drivers claimed helped top teams, is dropped for 2022

2022 F1 season

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Formula 1’s rule which forced its top 10 qualifiers to start the race on old tyres has officially been dropped for the 2022 season.

The rule, that required drivers who reach Q3 to begin the grand prix using the same tyre set which they used to set their quickest time in Q2, was removed from an earlier draft of the 2022 sporting regulations. The updated 2022 rules published by the FIA confirm the rule has been dropped.

The rule was revised last year when F1 introduced its sprint qualifying format. During those weekends, drivers had free tyre choice for both races. This has now been extended to all races throughout the season.

The deleted section of the regulations previously stated: “At each event where a sprint qualifying session is not scheduled, with the exception of any cars that are required to start the race from the pit lane, 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.”

The rule was introduced for the 2014 season. Since then it has become a focus of criticism particularly among drivers and teams who tended to qualify in the lower half of the top 10. They argued the rule put them at a disadvantage as the quickest teams were able to qualify on harder tyres, improving their strategic options for the race, while those behind who did not reach Q3 were able to start on new rubber.

They try to invent one rule that could benefit the show and they just benefit the big teams,” Fernando Alonso observed last year. George Russell, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jnr also criticised the rule.

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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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36 comments on “F1’s ‘Q3 tyre rule’, which drivers claimed helped top teams, is dropped for 2022”

  1. I never understood the problem this rule was trying to fix, I think it was a good move to remove this rule.

    How about some more fun and all cars making Q3 don’t get an extra set of Soft they get an extra set of Medium. The soft are not used that much during races ad Mediums would be more valuable for strategy.

    1. I never understood the problem this rule was trying to fix

      A not-so-short history.

      This rule was added to help the drivers qualifying in 11-20 so that they could start the race on a fresher tyre. The essence of this rule had its origins back in 2006 (first year when the current Q1-Q2-Q3 system came in place). From 2006 to 2009, drivers starting 11-20 had the benefit of deciding their fuel load whereas drivers qualifying 1-10 had to start their race with fuel as present at start of Q3 (2006, 2007) or fuel as present at end of Q3 (2008,2009).

      Given that refuelling got banned in 2010, the rule-makers tried to find a way to still give an advantage to those qualifying 11-20. So, it was decided that drivers who reach Q3 had to start their races on the same tyres which were used to set their fastest Q3 lap. This worked in 2010.

      But when Pirelli came in 2011 and produced designed-to-degrade tyres, the benefit to those qualifying 11-20 become much more as the 3 laps of qualifying would make the Pirellis really useless. One striking example was Checo in 2012 Italian GP. He qualified 13th, was able to run so long on his fresher tyres that he took the lead of the race. He pitted late to drop back to 8th but was able to come back up to 2nd. Teams got wiser after that and simply stopped running in Q3 :)

      Hence, in 2014, the tyre rules were again changed and Q3 drivers were now given a new set for Q3 (so that they run). To maintain the benefit to 11-20, the rule changed from using Q2 tyres instead of Q3 tyres. This is (now was) the current format until 2021 season.

      However, these rules did not help the top teams until 2016. In 2016, Pirelli decided to bring 3 tyres to a weekend with lower gaps between tyre performance to increase the strategic variance. Due to the lower gaps, the top teams (Merc, Ferrari, Red Bull) were able to reach Q3 on mediums. Thus, those top teams got benefit of a better race tyre as well as a better qualifying position.

      Finally, it was the sprints of 2021 which made the rule makers see that all this trying to give advantage to drivers starting 11-20 was to no avail and just caused problems elsewhere.

      1. Nice recap. And I’m looking forward to them dropping this rule so we can maybe see some variation in strategy at the front, as well as preventing the top teams only from benefiting by getting through Q2 on the harder tyre. It won’t happen often I’m sure, but there might be the odd occasion where someone decides to take the soft tyre from say P3 on the grid for a chance of grabbing the lead at the start.

      2. @sumedh Great summary, cheers for that

      3. Cheers. Great contribution.

      4. Brilliant summary. I have always liked the principle of giving something beneficial to those that are most likely not going to bother the top positions anyway, to even out the playing field. It just need to be balanced right so that the benefit isn’t so big that you try to get it on purpose, ie not running in a particular session or whatever. With 2-3 top teams very far ahead of the rest, the balance of the rule became to only punished those that qualified 7th to 10th. I am however not sure it’s the right move to remove the rule this year, when so much else changes anyway. It might be difficult to asses whether or not it was the right decision.

      5. Nice summary

      6. Very nicely written recap. Made everything nice and clear to an inexpert fan. Thank you.

      7. I never knew this historical context even though i started watching in 2009. Thanks a lot.

      8. Great summary, loved it, but only one thing missing.
        Why … why … did it take the powers that-be so long to figure out that the rule was not working as intended and was counter to what fans, drivers, teams wanted to see.?
        The rule being ditched is the best news I have seen in a while.

    2. @blueruck the “problem” that it was largely designed to solve was an advertising issue for Bridgestone, who were fairly open about the fact that they were the ones who lobbied hardest for the rule change and why they did so.

      Bridgestone’s complaint at the time the rule change came in was that, because they had become the exclusive tyre supplier, they were no longer getting as much coverage as before. They lobbied for this rule change because, by making the team have to base their strategies around differences in tyre compounds, it meant that broadcasters would end up having to talk more about differences in the tyre compounds, which in turn would effectively force the broadcasters to have to mention Bridgestone more frequently than they had been up until that point.

    3. It’s the problem that the fia can only pass rules that get voted in by the top teams.
      As you can read by sumehd’s comment all bad ideas have side effects.

      1. To be fair, pretty much all ideas and implementations have side effects, and often what makes an idea or implementation bad is the seriousness or number of side effects.

        I’m not saying that’s the case here, but it often is.

  2. Hurray, finally !

    1. My thoughts exactly.

  3. YESSSS ABOUT TIME. This is what I want to see. Now, we need the teams to choose their allocations just before the pandemic hit us.

  4. Phew, excellent.

  5. Removing this rule will backfire.
    Now the fastest teams can choose the fastest tire and increase the gap they already build.
    So the times in q2 will be lower and the threshold to reach Q3 even lower.
    But time will tell.

    1. The threshold for reaching Q3 isn’t set by the top teams anyway – it’s set by the bottom end of the top 10 which is almost always the midfield teams using soft tyres. Sure the top teams will have less of a chance of getting knocked out in Q2 because they won’t ‘gamble’ on getting through on the harder tyre, but that rarely happened anyway.

  6. A good move. One of the very few positives that came out of those Sprint races last year.

  7. I don’t understand the problem this solution is trying to create.
    I have no interest in whatever the decision is, but the reason behind it just doesn’t make sense.
    Drivers starting on older tyres have an advantage???!!!

    1. I think the idea is that the top 2-3 teams are able to get through to Q3 on mediums, whereas the rest must use softs. Therefore the best few cars in the top 10 get an advantage over the rest of the top 10 (as the medium is normal much better in the first part of the race and allows longer running), and are able to use that to increase the gap out front over and above what the car/driver combination could achieve without that advantage.

    2. Yea, the problem isn’t only that the top teams get an advantage over everyone else. The problem is that those that are not a top team, but still make it to the top-10 in qualifying, only get a disadvantage to those starting just outside of the top-10 without a hope of taking part of the advantage. This issue got worse because the top-3 teams got so far ahead that they could get to the top-10 qualifying on a race tire, rather than a qualifying tire, and the other 4 cars in the top-10 would have no real hope of starting any higher than 7th anyway.
      If there was a level playing field, the Q2 tire rule would present an additional interesting tactical tool. Do you go for a higher starting position but have to start on a used tire with shorter lifespan, or do you play it safer in qualifying so that you get a free tire choice but have to start further back?
      Since this depends so heavily on the performance balance between the teams, I’m not sure a season with all-new technical rules is the right time to change this.

  8. The rule was revised last year when F1 introduced its sprint qualifying format. During those weekends, drivers had free tyre choice for both races. This has now been extended to all races throughout the season

    Wait, you’re saying something good has come out of the Sprint Race shambles? 😄

  9. The rule got dropped last April already, so nothing new.
    Still a good thing & took unnecessarily long, but later than never.

    1. Better later than never.

  10. I still don’t understand why it is called a Q3 tire rule, when it applies to the tires used in Q2. Just because you need to pass to Q3 to have the rule be “activated” doesn’t make it a Q3 tire rule.
    The Q3 tire rule is that every driver that reaches Q3 gets an extra set of tires for Q3.

    Still don’t see how the rule leads to a specific advantage, since the advantage the top teams have is inherent to their car, not to the tires. And the perceived strategic advantage comes from the cars inability to follow and overtake.

    The real problem of F1 has remained the same for the last 3 to 4 decades, technical regulations that do not promote good racing.

    And the fingers are very crossed to hope they get it right this time.
    Karting already shows that racing is incredibly hard against similar talented people, you don’t want technical regulations to make the racing impossible…

  11. top teams are going to start on the harder tires anyway. plus they will be new tires. the only difference will be that the others are doing the same, but I don’t see any major difference coming, as the balances of power will stay roughly the same

    1. It’s the rest of the top 10 drivers – outside of the top teams – who were suffering from the rule. It was often much better to qualify 11th compared to your team mates 7th as you could then start on a “race” tyre and complete the GP with only one stop while the better qualifier was forced to do two, the first one being very early and coming out behind much slower cars who started on race tyres.

  12. If you want F1 to be a real sport you can’t have rules like this Q3 tyre rule. Next step is to remove DRS and fix the penalty system.

  13. Get rid of forced pitstop too!

    Gone are the days when some drivers tried to make one set of tyres last and another pit for fresh tyres and race back up to them.

    1. Indeed, the races are very often so predictable:
      that driver will still have to come in to change to another type of tyre, etc.
      Everybody pits around the same distance, they are all forced to do kind of the same.
      The skill of preserving your tyres is diminished.

    2. I kinda like the forced pitstop. Pitstopstrategy can make races more exciting imo.

    3. Even starting on the hardest tire, how often is a set of tires going to still be fast at the end of a race? I recall one race where Hamilton did an extra pit stop and ran Verstappen down from more than 30 seconds behind due to better tires. With a pit stop losing 24 seconds on track, what team would try to make one set of tires last?

  14. Great decision!

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