Instead of drivers freely choosing their tyres, a rigid tyre selection has been proposed for qualifying rounds. The hard compound will be the compulsory choice for Q1, mediums for Q2, and the soft, red-walled rubber for the Q3 pole position contest.
This modified Tyre Allocation was mainly conceived to enhance the sustainability of the championship. By reducing the total number of tyre sets a driver can use from 13 to 11 over a weekend, the freight volume for each race will correspondingly decrease.
This experiment was first planned for the Emilia Romagna GP in May, but the race was cancelled due to severe local flooding. It is now set to be used in the Italian GP at Monza in September, to assess its potential broader implementation in 2024.
Although the environmental benefits are praiseworthy, the revised tyre allocation could also heighten suspense in qualifying and diversify race strategy. If an underdog team can effectively leverage a harder compound, they can enhance their chances of making it to the later qualifying stages.
Conversely, if they save tyres during free practice and fail to make it to Q3, the spare set of soft tyres could allow for a more aggressive strategy to regain lost ground.
However, drivers are not so sure these potential positive outcomes will materialize. Max Verstappen suggests the changes could favour top teams more, as they are typically more adept at using the harder compound tyres.
The Red Bull racer explains, “It seems to provide more advantage to the top teams, since they usually find it easier to get the mediums and hard tyres working compared to the others.”
Likewise, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner, predicts a drop in Friday runs. He believes teams will aim to preserve their tyres instead of maximising free practice runs.
When asked if the changes are excessive, he responded, “I believe so. It’s not a step forward. If FP2 is wet, as the Budapest forecast suggests thunderstorms for tomorrow, we might end up doing only 10 laps in the day.
“It’s likely to be tough. We may see limited runs on Friday due to fewer tyres, and perhaps even in FP3. It will be intriguing to see how teams manage their runs and which sessions they choose to utilise, since this is a new scenario for us.
“Every lap will be crucial to learning, given there aren’t many opportunities to learn before qualifying with fewer tyres.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc believes that the switch to harder tyres for early qualifying “might surprise some,” despite his preference for F1 to be based on merit instead of creating unpredictability. He suggests that once teams understand the revised format, things will likely “return to the normal order,” thus neutralizing the changes.
Lance Stroll also questions if the mandated tyre compounds for each qualifying stage will yield more surprising victories for the underdogs. He argues that this could prevent back-of-the-grid teams from fitting several sets of fresh softs in Q1, thus reducing their chances of an unexpected advance into Q2.
The Aston Martin driver explains, “Currently, there are cars that can get through Q1 using three sets, which makes it very challenging for the faster cars to even get through Q1.
“We’ve seen in the past few events that sometimes, a Williams or AlphaTauri uses three new sets of soft tyres in Q1. If you use one or two sets and get knocked out, like what happened to me in Miami, it becomes a problem. You are then trying to save another set for Q3.”
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 Qualifying Tyre Experiment
What is the proposed change in tyre allocation in F1 qualifying rounds?
The proposed change mandates specific tyre compounds for each qualifying stage rather than allowing drivers to freely choose. The hard compound is assigned for Q1, mediums for Q2, and the red-walled soft rubber for the pole position contest in Q3.
Why was this change in tyre allocation proposed?
The primary reason for the change is to enhance the sustainability of the championship. By reducing the total number of tyre sets a driver can use from 13 to 11 over a race weekend, the volume of freight for each race will decrease accordingly.
What potential strategic implications could these changes have?
The revised tyre allocation could increase suspense in qualifying and diversify race strategies. If an underdog team can effectively use a harder compound, they may increase their chances of progressing to the later stages. Alternatively, if they conserve tyres during free practice and fail to reach Q3, the extra set of soft tyres could allow for a more aggressive strategy to regain lost positions.
What are some driver reactions to the proposed change?
Drivers like Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon express skepticism. Verstappen suggests the changes could favor top-performing teams who are better at using harder compound tyres. Ocon predicts that teams will limit their runs in free practice to conserve their tyres, resulting in less activity on Fridays.
Are all drivers against the changes?
No, not all drivers are against the changes. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc believes that the switch to harder tyres in early qualifying could surprise some, though he expects things will return to normal once teams understand the revised format. However, there’s a general sentiment among drivers that the changes may not bring the intended positive effects.