Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Hungaroring, 2023

Was F1’s Alternative Tyre Allocation test successful? Drivers and teams have their say

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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The Alternative Tyre Allocation rule was introduced to Formula 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, several months later than planned as it had initially been earmarked for the cancelled Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The rule reduced how many tyre sets each driver had available during the weekend from 13 to 11, meaning 160 fewer tyres were transported to and from the event compared to a regular grand prix. In a further change to qualifying, the ATA also mandated which tyre compounds could be used in each phase: hards in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3.

At a hot Hungaroring, the softest three compounds in Pirelli’s range were nominated, putting even more emphasis on saving tyres for what would be a multi-stop race. But Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and the two Red Bull drivers were the only ones to use a single set of tyres in second practice on a day interrupted by rain so less slick rubber was used than usual in first practice.

Regardless of how many tyres were used, the amount available reduced with each day as teams had to return sets to Pirelli. Some got their tyre strategy wrong in the race, but the concerns about the ATA format were less focused on race strategy and more on the impact on earlier sessions through the weekend.

Fewer Friday laps for fans?

If Friday’s wet weather didn’t dampen the spirits of spectators at the Hungaroring, then the fact only 13 drivers recorded lap times in first practice – with star attractions Hamilton and Max Verstappen only completing seven laps total between them over an hour of running – may have been a disappointment

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2023
Red Bull combined for just 30 laps in second practice
Had they stayed to the end of the day, when the dry second practice session took place, then they wouldn’t have even seen the biggest teams running at a representative pace as they spent considerably less time on track than their rivals. Red Bull only ran 32 laps between Verstappen and Sergio Perez, eight fewer than the Ferrari pair, while Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri, Williams and Aston Martin all ran almost double Red Bull’s total.

After the first day of the weekend, Hamilton expressed his concerns about the trial format.

“All these amazing people turn up on a Friday and want to see cars running around, and we have less tyres than normal,” he said. Hamilton suggested the FIA and F1 needed to “figure out how we can do better” with the number of tyres that are disposed of “rather than reduce the entertainment for the fans”.

“When we only have one set in the session, we have less running and already when they changed the rules many years ago, where we only have two sets in the session, it doesn’t lead you to a lot of running and we have less time on track as well,” he explained. “So, I’m not sure that was necessarily the best for the Friday.”

Williams’ Logan Sargeant agreed “it’s kind of sad for the fans that we’re not running more” and felt he “did not have enough tyres to get through the weekend”.

“From a driver’s point of view, we want to drive more,” the rookie continued. “I’m sure the fans want to see us drive more. And we’re stuck on tyres.”

However, on Saturday, spectators at the circuit and the worldwide television audience were treated to a thrilling qualifying session. After each driver was limited to running a compulsory compound in each of the three phases, Hamilton pipped Verstappen to pole by a tiny margin of 0.003s, with McLaren’s Lando Norris just 0.085s back in third. Even before the close Q3 showdown, there had been qualifying drama as Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu was the surprise Q1 pacesetter and Lando Norris led Hamilton in Q2.

Hamilton felt the ATA had provided “great entertainment” on Saturday, while his team principal Toto Wolff proposed to RaceFans that the sport could “combine somehow the best of both worlds” by having “more track running on Friday, but then make it mandatory for the tyre allocation on quali”.

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A solution for sustainability?

By reducing the tyre allocation for each car, the ATA was pitched as being a more sustainable way of running an grand prix weekend. But that argument didn’t convince paddock members straight away, and the selection of circuits for this new format – Imola, the Hungaroring and Monza – are the three closest to Pirelli’s F1 tyre factories. Making them the least impactful examples for reducing the number of tyres transported. Hamilton was not convinced.

Pirelli, Hungaroring, 2023
The ATA’s sustainability merits were questioned
“I think when we’re talking about sustainability, just taking one set of tyres or two sets of tyres away is not enough,” he said.

“Each weekend there’s a lot of wet tyres that get thrown away, every single weekend – we really need to push to figure out how we can make sure that doesn’t happen. There’s a lot more we can do there in terms of sustainability I would say.”

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella felt it was “a good direction to have less sets of tyres” but asked whether the environmental sustainability of that reduction was actually a sustainable format for F1 to use, he admitted “I don’t necessarily have the answer”.

A question of compounds

By not running on Pirelli’s hard compound tyres in practice, some drivers were left with no reference for when they did use it later in the weekend. And even of those who had been able to sneak in some laps with it found it tough to get the most out of.

“It was difficult going straight to quali on the hard tyre,” said Sargeant. “Neither of us had driven it, so we didn’t know where we would completely be at. Not easy at all to put a lap together.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2023
Hamilton took pole, feeling the ATA spiced up Saturday
He added it was “not easy at all” to find references on the compound, with at least half a second – more than enough to move him from last on the grid to making it though to Q2 – that “was just left out there” by lacking the tyre understanding.

His team mate Albon missed out on reaching Q2 by 0.011 seconds, and said he usually enjoys qualifying “because soft tyres tend to hide problems”.

“When you go onto a hard compound tyre for qualifying, you’re not getting the band aid of a soft tyre. So it was always going to be tricky. I also feel like with harder compound tyres, they’re built for long runs, not for short runs. So you slide around so much on them that the surface of the tyre, it degrades more than a soft tyre.”

According to Albon, he was suffering from wheelspin and locking when trying to put a qualifying lap together, and had already run out of grip by sector three of the Hungaroring. His theory was that mandating hard compound usage in Q1 “penalises the lower downforce cars”, therefore actually reducing the chance of a more competitive or mixed up session.

“Generally top teams can afford to save a set in a quali session and they’re just going to be better prepared for Sunday,” he said. “We’ve got to try and do the same tactic because we don’t want to compromise our Sunday, but then we’re struggling because we need the two sets for quali, we need everything.”

Before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had faced his own struggles on the medium compound used in Q2, he had already watched others struggle and particularly in the first sector before tyres were fully up to temperature. His team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr possibly suffered the most with the mandated medium tyre usage, as he went from being fourth fastest in Q1 to 11th in Q2.

“I think the medium for some reason was struggling with warm-up,” Leclerc reckoned. “I also struggled on that, obviously a bit less than Carlos. We need to look at it, because it might be linked to our peakiness of our car. And whenever we get a little bit out of the window, then we struggle more than the others.”

That’s an ominous sign for Ferrari’s home race, when the ATA format returns.

While Hamilton had reservations about the supposed benefits of the ATA format in other areas, he admitted “it was great starting on the hard in the first session and then going to the medium” for qualifying. He felt that was still enjoyable even if there was a “big difference in balance” between compounds, as that posed a challenge in a qualifying format where there is very little time for analysis or preparation between segments.

“All the tyres generally felt quite good, and right at the end the soft tyre felt extraordinary. It’s just interesting how you have to prep the tyres.”

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda also found it “fun” to have designated compounds for each part of qualifying, although he did not actually get out of Q1, and Russell noted that weather probably played a part.

“I mean, of all the tracks, this is the one where it is probably most straightforward,” he said.” This year’s hard is last year’s medium. And it’s obviously so hot out there that the hard’s working fine [over a single lap].”

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Does the ATA challenge drivers, or teams?

Fewer laps completed in qualifying not only gives fans less to chew over, but also teams. And for Tsunoda, it made Friday the “more tricky” part of the weekend rather than the 70-lap pace.

Aston Martin’s performance director Tom McCullough said teams need to bide their time before assessing the impact of the ATA rules.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, Hungaroring, 2023
Alfa Romeo enjoyed a strong Saturday with the ATA
“With all these regulation changes – like we said with the sprint regulations – you’ve got to walk through a few of them at different tracks before you make changes,” he explained. “And you can’t draw conclusions too quickly.

“It’s a real challenge for everyone. I think the teams who’ve done well out of it are going to say it’s great, the teams who’ve done bad out of it will not enjoy it.”

Stella’s interest was piqued by the “element of adaptability that you need to have from a driver point of view, from a team point of view” to be successful on a weekend where ATA is used, but recommended looking into a smaller reduction of the tyre supply for practice because he believed if Friday had been fully dry then his team “would have been a bit short of tyres”.

Alfa Romeo had little negativity about the format after Zhou qualified a career-best fifth, with team mate Valtteri Bottas two places behind.

“It’s different, but you just set all the sessions and everything slightly different. During the race, depending on what is your usage in the free practice, then in the race you have got used tyres, or how is your performance in qualifying, it will decide if you use in each quali only one set or two sets, then you have your used sets for the race,” said the team’s head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar.

“But that is the team’s choice, and maybe it’s giving a bit more advantage at the moment towards the top teams, the teams that have got more performance, but then we are flexible and we [should] adapt to whatever is better for the show, for the spectators.”

On his team’s qualifying result, their best since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, Pujolar added: “We took advantage of spending a bit more time trying some of the compounds in free practice and we gained advantage, and we did a mega quali result with that format.”

But they may not be able to repeat such form in future ATA events.

“Now next time, maybe teams when they see the results, they may take a different approach. Also for this track layout because it’s a bit more difficult to overtake [qualifying is more important]. If you do it in a layout where it’s easier to overtake, then maybe you save more tyres for the race.”

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2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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26 comments on “Was F1’s Alternative Tyre Allocation test successful? Drivers and teams have their say”

  1. Nice to see an in-depth article about a change that many wouldn’t bother to go in to the detail of.

    Personally I think the reduction in tyres being transported is a good thing. Although the issue around disposing of so many unused sets after a weekend is also one that needs to be looked at.

    But we shouldn’t limit the time the cars spend on track. If the teams want to run, but can’t because there aren’t enough tyres, that isn’t fair on either the drivers or the fans.

    Personally I liked the simpler tyre allocation in qualifying, and if that alone reduces the number of wasted sets, it seems to be worth continuing with.

    1. But we shouldn’t limit the time the cars spend on track. If the teams want to run, but can’t because there aren’t enough tyres, that isn’t fair on either the drivers or the fans.

      Only the teams themselves are limiting their own track time. Nobody else to blame.
      Of course, there are enough tyres – if they were reduced to just 9 sets for the weekend, they’d certainly argue that 11 would be enough instead.
      If they were given only 6 sets, they’d still make it work at most events – because they’d have to and there would be no choice. F1 just doesn’t like to compromise or accept anything less than excess.

      1. If there were only 6 sets for the full weekend, then they might as well scrap all the practice sessions because at most each team would run maybe once across the 3 practice sessions. They’d need to save the other sets for qualifying and the race. This would further benefit the teams with the best simulation tools, and ofc provide much less entertainment for the fans.

  2. Nothing wrong with the format.
    Teams just need to adapt. Same conditions for all.

    1. Only much less running on Friday pratice so for the fans watching less running should be giving a big discount on there tickets but then the circuit has much less money you get a downwards spiral then.

      1. notagrumpyfan
        17th August 2023, 13:52

        There were enough tyres, just teams don’t care about the ‘amazing people’.

        Thus if anybody really cares about the spectators, then maybe part of the FOM profit sharing fee for the teams should go to the fans if a team does not present enough ‘show’; e.g. laps during FP.

      2. There weren’t fewer tyres on Friday – there were fewer tyres for the event.
        It was up to the teams when and how they used them. If the teams choose not to go out on Friday, then it is the teams who are to blame for a lack of on-track product.

        1. S, Although technically correct this wholly negates the context of the situation – Let me give a theoretical analogy.

          It’s like the populous voting for green energy, the government increasing taxes to pay for said energy infrastructure, and you now having to deal with reduced disposable income. In the end the people are the one spending less, in turn shrinking economy activity which worsens “the product/economy”, but it’s not because you have much of a choice.

          Now in F1, add a performance based payout system which is predominantly based on Sunday performance, with Saturday increasing your odds on Sunday. A healthy dose of prisoners-dilemma with teams not wanting to be “left out to dry” on a worn set during quali or the race doesn’t help either, but it’s the only logical reasoning for them.

          So yes, the rules are to blame.. and the FOM/FIA have been around long enough to foresee this problem.
          Besides their self-imposed green agenda (which I understand impacts loans and investments), there is no beneficiary of the change either. Certainly not the track-side fans at least.

          1. So yes, the rules are to blame..

            11 sets of tyres are objectively more than enough – the teams just need to make more compromises than they would otherwise. Naturally, they’ll cut back most on the sessions that matter least.
            That’s entirely their own choice – not at all imposed on them by the rules or the rule-makers.
            It’s also a part of the reason why F1 is pushing to convert existing practice time into competitive time. It forces the cars onto the track, rather than giving them the option of sitting in the garages, not entertaining anyone or achieving anything.

            There will inevitably be occasions where Friday running is preferable to Saturday practice running or holding back tyres for Sunday (if they know it will be wet, for example).
            Additionally, the same concerns were raised when engines and other components became limited in quantity – non-competitive running was minimised initially. As time has progressed, teams have learned how to make the best use of the time they have available, and often even maximise it on Friday in exchange for a small performance compromise during the race (usually made up for by the better preparation they did on Friday).

            As I said above – F1 really doesn’t like compromise. But, as a complete entity, to meet their (self-imposed) environmental and emissions targets, they have to cut back and make those compromises – even if some people don’t like it.
            The world is changing – even F1 has to change with it.

  3. “Each weekend there’s a lot of wet tyres that get thrown away”

    Wait what? Can’t they re-use the same wet tyres for following weekend?

    1. They can, but they choose not to.
      Tyres are a chemical product – these types of tyres are extremely sensitive to UV light, oxidation and temperature changes, and degrade in performance considerably in a relatively short time.
      Additionally, once they are mounted on the rims at the event, they can not be removed without causing damage to the bead (they use glue due to the massive stresses involved), meaning they are a one-shot deal.
      Wheels are the property of the teams, and the tyres are essentially leased to the teams at each event (they have to be returned to Pirelli for transport and recycling). This is one of F1’s ways of making sure that teams aren’t doing illegal testing, as they have no tyres available.

      1. Wow, thanks for the great information.

        Road tyres on my car last up to 50,000 km or 5 years (i.e. 160 race distances!!) Of course, I understand that the G-forces and lateral forces are much higher. But for them to last just 150 km or 2 days is just too less.

        Regarding attaching tyres to wheels being a one-shot deal, why do they let teams make rims and Pirelli make wheels. If Pirelli builds rims too, then may be we can use the rims+tyres for future events too, right?

        1. Road tyres on my car last up to 50,000 km or 5 years (i.e. 160 race distances!!) Of course, I understand that the G-forces and lateral forces are much higher. But for them to last just 150 km or 2 days is just too less

          It’s entirely possible to produce substantially more durable tyres for F1, but nobody actually wants the consequences attached to them.
          In F1 terms – overly durable tyres are too slow, too difficult to use in cold weather, and too boring. (This is not strictly my opinion, but the opinions of the teams and drivers).

          As for the wheels – it’s mainly a hangover from all of F1’s history up until this latest technical regulations change.
          Teams used to be free to source their own wheels from any manufacturer, using any design that worked best from them, as long as they could mount F1’s unique tyres.
          The new technical regs introduced a spec wheel (for aerodynamic reasons) that all teams must use, all sourced from a single supplier (BBS currently has this contract).
          Pirelli do not manufacture or supply wheels, nor are they there to logistically manage them for the teams. They are strictly a tyre supplier.

          Could the whole thing be managed better? Yes, absolutely. But as always in F1, there are factors and stakeholders that prefer a different way.

    2. I was thinking that, too. I would expect a tyre, unused, to last more than a couple of weeks.

      Maybe that should be what we look at, then: Making the unused tyres last longer. I know they’d need to be transported to the next venue, but surely that takes less resources than manufacturing entirely new ones.

      1. The biggest issue with that (apart from what I said above) is lead time.
        How would Pirelli know how many tyres they can transport from one venue to the next, and how many do they need to make new? They wouldn’t know until the first event is complete, and that’s not enough time.
        Then, at the following event – who gets the new, fresh tyres and who gets the (relatively) stale old ones?

      2. How about making just the wet tyres from natural rubber, so that on dry weekends they are able to be used again for the next race.
        If the performance is less (which is highly likely) then the drivers will need to drive more carefully to stay on the track – it doesn’t have to be plain ordinary public use rubber, simply something which doesn’t degrade over three or four days. Other racing formulas use tyre materials such as Pirelli P6 Rubber, or Goodyear slicks. I’m not suggesting they use actual Goodyear product, but the rubber used for racing tyres other than F1 should be good enough for wets!

        So if the teams want to keep the numbers up they have to drive on a wet tyre that means they need to sacrifice some speed, as every team would have to do – so it leaves a level playing field just the same as always with tyres, and if some brave silly sod plants it into a wall, then that’s his lookout, and adds more spectacle for the fans watching drivers lapping slower to stay on track and still remain competitive – it may even favour slower teams, thereby mixing up the pack a little.

    3. They are mostly re-used in the next event, however if one tyre is damaged then all 4 are binned because they need to stay matched in heat cycles etc. The biggest issue, however, is customs rules that say the tryes and wheels have to be seperated, then they get damaged when seperated, then all 4 have to be binned/recycled because they need to be matche

    4. Ricki Kerr-Hunter
      18th August 2023, 10:12

      Are the tyres just given to the teams?

      If they were quantity limited like engines and gearboxes, or part of the cost cap then teams would be forced to look after them abit better, for example, they might reuse the wets for the following races

  4. I can’t say I was a fan of it.

    Less running is never a good thing from a fan point of view, Especially for those paying a small fortune to travel to & attend the weekend.

    I remember back in 2005 when the limited tire sets that were available as well as the restrictions on engine/gearbox usage resulted in hardly any running going on during the Friday sessions and how atrociously boring it was as a fan to have paid a few hundred dollars only see a handful of cars doing any running & how frustrating it was that we were only seeing a few 3rd drivers doing that running rather than the actual race drivers we had gone there to see.

    Additionally as Albon said the smaller teams not been able to throw on a softer compound for Q1 is just giving the bigger teams who have the pace advantage to get through on hard’s an even bigger advantage than they already have which will likely lead to less surprises with smaller teams managing to get though unexpectedly.

    I also just in general don’t like things been limited in a way that gives teams fewer options because it’s usually always when teams have more options & more freedom in how they go about using tires, compounds & strategy that we end up with the better racing due to more variety in what everyone does. Forcing everyone to do the same thing is never a good thing.

    They should be giving teams more options rather than less.

    1. +1 I agree with you

  5. Another event left for experimenting, but based on the first try, I didn’t find ATA a failure & the limited track action on practice day was more down to Checo’s unforced error & rain in the end.
    I repeat my previous stance that I’d be okay if ATA became the standard from next season or at least 11 as the standard set amount per driver for all events.

  6. All this lkmiting track action, taking away options and trying to trip teams up is juat all indicative of the American show over sport direction Liberty want to go.

    And while it will likely see a bump in US audience numbers who tend to like the ‘showbiz sports entertainment’ nonsense it’s going to turn most everyone else off.

    The show over sport anerican showbiz nonsense is going to be the death of F1 as a sport and there ain’t no way it should be called the pinnacle of the sport at that point. It’s just another boring show category going after the lowest common denominator.

    1. This is a gross generalization. As North American, I watch European racing to get away from the ‘Americanization’ of sports. Not all of us like showbiz sports and if F1 completely goes that way, I’ll stop watching. But F1 is nowhere near as bad as any of the mainstream North American sports, they’re all unwatchable IMO.

  7. I don’t mind the new tire rule for qualifying pet se. It’s the same for everyone and teams have to adopt.
    But I don’t like the prescriptive direction F1 is taking. We have a budget cap. Give the engineers more freedom instead of less with each regulation change.
    It’s the same with ATA. It’s yet another restriction and you have to ask if it’s really necessary. Why not giving the teams complete freedom of choice regarding the tires they want to use each weekend? Some might gamble on the softest compound some go for the harder. It will cause more variety which can only help the show.

    1. My main gripe with ATA is that, once again, the parties involved in running F1 decide (within an active championship) to change the tire compounds and rules. In modern F1 the cars are very limited by the tire platform anyways, but to then take away team’s strategic options and (in my opinion even worse) change compounds entirely… makes no sense.

      Technically adapting to circuits and circumstance is something that always screams “this is F1” to me.
      A complex machine like an F1 car is fully built around getting a stable aero platform and maintaining good contact and geometry throughout a stint, to change the variable which they base that car on (the tires) mid-season is just ludicrous logically speaking. Imagine spending GBP 2,000,000.- on upgrades over the course of four months, only to find out those good upgrades burn through the new tire compound introduced two GP’s later. At least without ATA you’d have the option to pick another compound or test more in FP to negate the issue as much as possible through setup.

  8. I liked it, apart from the Friday. But after this ATA trial, and the Sprint Shootout of the sprints, I’m starting to like the concept of short quali sessions with fixed & harder tyres.

    In fact I’ve been trying for weeks to send anybody a format proposal for Sprint weekends that combine both ideas (11 sets per driver per weekend and fixed tyres per Q, aswell as a carefully elaborated system to ensure action in every session), but nobody answers :( .

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