Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012

Should F1 change its tyre strategy?

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Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012The first races of 2012 have reopened the debate on whether the current generation of F1 tyres are good for the sport.

Since 2011 F1’s official tyre supplier has been asked to supply tyres that do not last a full race distance, requiring drivers to look after their tyres and change them up to three times per race.

While many feel this has had a positive effect on the quality of racing, some drivers have complained that they don’t like having to conserve their tyres. Others have defended Pirelli’s product.

Does F1 need to change its tyre strategy and give drivers more longer-lasting rubber?


Some drivers have complained that the new tyres stop them from being able to race flat out.

Others feel that making the tyres last a little longer, or degrade less quickly, would lessen some of the more extreme swings in performance we’ve seen.

They complain that the tyres have made F1 races artificial.


Thos who defend the current tyres point to the more exciting racing we have seen this season and last year, compared with the four seasons with Bridgestone’s conservative spec tyres.

When it comes to deciding on tyre compounds, Pirelli are aiming at a moving target. With each passing race and test the teams gain more knowledge of the tyres and improve how they use them.

This was clearly the case towards the end of last season when people began to complain the tyres weren’t aggressive enough.

I say

Grand Prix racing has usually required some degree of tyre conservation. Instead of asking whether F1 drivers should need to look after their tyres, we need to ask how much tyre conservation should be expected of them, and whether it is too big a part of racing at the moment.

The demand for more challenging tyres has largely come from the teams. They noted how the problems they experienced with tyres in the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix produced an exciting race and asked for more of the same.

As means of improving the racing go, the new tyres are less offensively artificial than DRS. Everyone has the same rubber, it’s up to them to get the most out of it.

Given the experience of last year, a knee-jerk change to tyre compounds isn’t necessary – teams will suss out how to get the best out of them. We’re already seeing fewer pit stops than we were 12 months ago, when four-stop strategies were the norm in Turkey and Spain.

As I argued last week, before altering its tyre policy F1 should start by fixing elements of the tyre rules that are obviously not working as intended:

You say

Should Pirelli supply more conservative tyres? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Should Pirelli produce more conservative F1 tyres?

  • No opinion (1%)
  • No - make them much more aggressive (5%)
  • No - make them slightly more aggressive (9%)
  • No - keep them as they are (46%)
  • Yes - make them slightly more conservative (30%)
  • Yes - make them much more conservative (9%)

Total Voters: 750

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DRS poll results

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Sepang, 2012F1 Fanatic’s last poll on DRS revealed much dissatisfaction with the current rules.

DRS continues to divide F1 fans between staunch defenders, vehement detractors, and those who see it as a necessary evil.

Just 21% of readers supported the current DRS rules, where drivers can only use it when they’re within one second of another car (regardless of whether they are racing that car for position or lapping it).

Although most people are happy to see DRS stay in F1, the majority want the rules to be changed. Over a third voiced support for a rule allowing DRS to be used a set number of times per race.

As for DRS availability in 2012, fans were split down the middle: 44% wanted to see DRS used in every race, the rest disagreed. And a significant minority – one-quarter of readers – wanted DRS switched off for the entire season.

Debates and polls

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Image ?? Pirelli/LAT

Author information

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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130 comments on “Should F1 change its tyre strategy?”

  1. I think the tyres are OK, its the rules that need changed- as Keith wrote in his very good article

    1. As the tires are I think it’s time to get rid of this stupid rule that you have to run on both compounds. That rule always been to artificial to me to force them to do a pit stop to allow some shakeup in running order. As the tires are they are guaranteed to do pitstops once or twice at last. So why not allow them total freedom.

      1. The only thing about that is that we would have to be careful about teams diverging to rn on either one compound or the other. You might get a branch of teams going for slower laps and fewer stops on the hard tyres, and another branch going for faster laps and more stops on the softer tyres. You might end up with a 2-class field, with Pirelli having the job of keeping the both sides balanced so that half way though the season we don’t drop half the field because the tyres that they R&Ded to run on aren’t as good as the other set.

        Not that I disagreeing or puttin down your opinion; it’s just a thought I had.

        1. The word “PIRELLI” in the language of racing means “NOTTA SO GOOOD” …

    2. I’d like both changes, I didn’t vote because my option was not listed. I say change the rules as Keith suggested, let the teams decide their strategy from no stops to 4 stops or whatever, make 1 option last more than half race distance and still be fairly competetive and let the other be quicker but wear out quicker, allow the teams to qualify on the softer but start with their choice. Canada was not a good model because the rain allowed exactly what I have stated, the use of wets cancelled the mandatory tyre choices.

      1. Further explanation of why I am not happy with the LATEST tyres.
        We have known for a long time that the reliance on aerodynamic downforce has made overtaking difficult due to the turbulent airflow a following car experiences, the FIA have made many attempts to reduce the reliance on downforce in order to overcome this problem to achieve closer racing and more opportunities for a car to follow another “nose to tail” through a corner as a prelude to passing, the teams have managed to thwart these attempts of the FIA by such devices as the “off throttle exhaust gas blown diffuser” but this year these devices are banned and the FIA has finally achieved a fairly level playing field with many teams having cars that can win a race depending on how their strengths and weaknesses suit the track, but the tyres have emphasised the old problem of not being able to follow closely because the tyres wear out rapidly with only the smallest amount of lateral slippage, in this case the FIA have made 2 steps forward but 3 steps backward and we the fans are not seeing the tight nose to tail racing and passing we could be seeing if the tyres were more durable.

    3. personally i like to seee hamilton, alonso , vettel, kobasyashi, raikkonen driving flat out the whole race and not to pace themselves because they burn their tyres out and fall off “the cliff” of tyre wear iam sick of hearing drivers like button perez and di resta getting praise for pacing themselves on the track and minding their tyres . i think tyres should last longer but keep the hard soft compound rule drivers have enough in kers and drs for good exciting racing drivers that drive flat out the whole race should get what they deserve

  2. I don’t have any problems with the durability of the tyres at all, I just don’t like “the cliff” because it means that attempts at conservation become hugely costly if you just try to do one lap too many. If the wall came and you had ~5 laps of a slower rate of drop off before the tyres were past it, it would still leave the option of some interesting strategic differences but without people dropping several positions and seconds because the tyres have just died on them.

      1. I think the reason that Schumacher was so upset after the last race was because he qualified in a position which much much worse than the potential of his car. In order to get up to where he “should” be, in this year’s field of quite comparable cars, he had to push hard but by doing so he destroyed his tires and could not get to the frontrunners hence his frustration.
        I remember the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2010 when Webber did not pit when the safety car came out on lap 15, while all his major competitors did. In order to get enough of a lead to pit and come out in front he had to pull off about 25 “qualifying laps” in a row, which he sucessfully did. If this happens to someone this year his goose is cooked!

    1. Totally agree and if only they could something with the tyre marble. the marble lessen the excitement of the race when the defending driver just need to stay at the driving line to defend couse it too risky to overtake on the outside because of the marble.

      1. At the moment its like a double whammy, if you push you will push your tyres over the cliff, and if you go offline you will pick up marbles, lose time and grip, and because you have lost grip you are sliding and hurting the tyres more trying to catch up.

        1. agree…tyre marbles are biggest problem…we saw that several times this year when driver went offline, picked up marbles and lost pace…not very encouraging fro drivers to overtake

    2. +1

      The way Kimi lost performance in Malaysia is ridiculous!

    3. “For sure”! This is why I voted for minimal changes to the tyres.

      Also, what Keith said about the rules.

  3. I think that the difference between the tyres is still too narrow. The difference between the prime and option in the race is that the prime lasts a few laps longer and is slightly slower, but doesn’t have a different character compared to the option.

    If the harder tyres were designed to wear more gradually (ie. a steady degradation, rather than “falling off the cliff”), took much longer to switch on, but lasted a long time and could take a lot more punishment without graining. Combined with the softer tyres being incredibly fast, but fragile and prone to “falling off the cliff,” we would see some interesting strategies.

    Also, getting rid of the rule that requires them to use both compounds in the race would open up the possibilities further. That way, each driver’s strategy is immediately obvious to everyone – drivers on an aggressive strategy would use the softs, whereas drivers playing the long game would be on the hards.

    I think that the tyres should be chosen so that the hard tyre should enable someone to complete the race on one stop if they drive with care, and the soft tyre being somewhere between two and three stops. Drivers could do three stints of aggressive driving on softs; two stints on hards; or one very long stint on hards and an attacking stint on softs; or two stints on hards.

    The two-tyre rule prevents the first two strategies from being used, leaving only variations on the latter.

    1. Really like the distinct character approach. Very cool idea.

      Which means it will never happen in F1, but you have my full support.

    2. I agree with this to some extent, I don’t it should last a whole race distance but the durability should be much higher on the prime tyre than it is now.

  4. NO NO NO NO NO NO! If they can make a Bahrain Grand Prix interesting and provide overtaking then why change them.

    This is what so many people have been wanting for ages and now it’s here people don’t want it.

    1. @tommyb89 fair comment! I’ll go along with that, does the sport need further refinement, 4 races, 4 winners and a tiotle hunt as close as you could hope for. The grass is always greener guys!

    2. I liked it last year but it seems that we giving up raw pace in favor of tyre nursing abilities. It’s not what I want, it’s like saying Messi is good because he can save stamina better than others.

      13/14 laps stints are looking too little for my taste, two stops races are fine, three stops is not that good. Drivers depend on their engineers by default because they design the car and its parts, why do we need more dependency via excessive influence of tyre strategy?

    3. dysthanasiac (@)
      4th May 2012, 18:48

      Maybe I’d like the current-spec F1 a lot better if I thought bingo is an entertaining pastime.

    4. I’m in total agreement. I love the changing problem that the tires present. It is a competition, and it’s become an important variable in the calculas of grand prix racing. I love that the tires keep changing, forcing the greatest drivers in the world to adapt to win.

    5. Completely agree. If anything needs to change it’s the DRS rules, as Keith mentioned earlier.
      Cannot understand why people don’t like the racing that’s been provided this year! It’s the most competitive field in years. If people want dull racing with a foregone conclusion go and watch the Chevrolet’s dominate the WTCC this year instead

  5. 1) Do not make mandatory the use of the two sets available during the race.
    2) Give the teams the mix of tires they decide (Pirelli can recommend) to use for the race, between the four options available (Hard, medium, soft and supersoft)
    3) Do not make mandatory to start the race with the set the car used in Q3

    I think F1 Tyre Strategy should change. But I don’t feel my answer is properly represented in the options you’ve stablished.

    So, at the end, I will have to answer “no opinion” (despite I have one) just because I cannot set my “own and personal” opinion about what I think about tyre strategy.

  6. I voted a little more conservative. I like the tyres as they are now, but I don’t think it would harm the racing spectacle too much if they just increased tyre life a little bit.
    I don’t know it if would ever be possible to do, but the best tyres would be ones that last about as long as the current tyres do, but don’t fall off the rim because you push them.
    So that a driver good at saving tyres would get maybe 10% more life out of them then a more agressive driver. While neither of them would have to go considerably slower then whats possible.
    Sadly it would probably be impossible to design a tyre to do that.

  7. dysthanasiac (@)
    4th May 2012, 13:14

    It was Ross Brawn who championed the Canadian Grand Prix as a model for future tire construction. I don’t know if he was speaking on behalf of everyone, but I can certainly understand why the boss of a team that’s struggled throughout every year of its existence to make effective use of the tires would want even sillier ones introduced to the field: If you can’t rise to the level of others, bring them down to yours.

    1. Ross Brawn isnt the genius some people think he is. for instance at Ferrari, it was the complete package, including the designer and the bridgestone tyres. the Brawn GP team came along, which was built by Honda, not Brawn. Brawn failed to develop it over the course of the year, and other teams caught up by the end, Brawn hasnt done anything good with Mercedes, each year they fail to develop the car, they chew tyres, and they have a has-been driver whose salary is eating away the team – they could spent the money building a better car – for Rosberg, who is having his career held back by Brawn and his love for schumacher.
      The tyres are not the result of schumachers failure to drive faster then his teammate, and failure to get a podium (let alone a win) – it is his skill level – which has deteriorated, other better drivers should be in the sport, but he is one of the worst performing drivers of the field the past 2 years, yet gets payed one of the highest salaries! well done brawn and mercedes – in for another year of failure, they should be up there at the top.

      1. dysthanasiac (@)
        4th May 2012, 13:51

        In other words, you agree?

      2. Brawn was technical head for the years prior to Brawn GP, so to claim he wasn’t responsible isn’t correct. Neither is blaming him for not developing the car during the season..

      3. Brawn took charge for one year at Honda, so could fully influence the development of the 2009 car with Honda’s big budget. He did a brilliant job, but he benefited from the rules change and the 2008 Honda being such a dog that he could ditch the 2008 season from the off.
        Sure they didn’t develop the car much during 2009, but don’t forget he was also busy trying to find finance to run the team, bring in sponsors, let half the workforce go and defend the double diffuser. The championship they won was also in no small part down to Jenson’s calm head when he had the best car, and bagging 6 wins while everyone was still getting to grips with the new cars.

        1. Brawn has won championships with three distinct entries, and was a major technical and organisational influence on all of them. Only Adrian Newey has a comparable record, and Brawn is arguably more consistent. Sometimes the facts just stifle any criticism.

      4. dysthanasiac (@)
        4th May 2012, 14:41

        My intent wasn’t necessarily to criticize Ross Brawn at all. I just think its probably a good idea to take his comments with at least a grain or two of salt, because, from his perspective, it makes sense for a team that struggles with tires to want everyone else to struggle, too.

        1. I don’t think Ross Brawn is by any means unique in promoting an opinion with motive! All teams, engineers and even drivers want the best fit for their current set up!

          1. dysthanasiac (@)
            4th May 2012, 18:53

            Indeed. But, since we’re talking Brawn and the comment he made in support of Pirelli-putty tires, I think it’s fair to wonder if his statement in this case was truly on behalf of the teams, or if his motivation was more self-serving.

    2. Canadian Grand Prix is irrelevant to this argument, cars started on inters or wets so no mandatory 2 tyre rule, it was this that made it great.

  8. I hate sitting on the fence, but I really couldn’t decide between leaving them as they are and making them slightly more conservative.

    1. Same here. I understand the concerns that some people have with the Pirelli tyres, however I cannot argue with some of racing we have seen this year, it has been fantastic.

      I do hope however that they scrap the top ten tyre rule which adds nothing to the sport.

  9. i have an advise to all the complainers about the tyres including Michael Shumacher & the other drivers that Martin Brundle talked about:
    just watch Fernando Alonso driving absolutely on the limit with the same tyres in that horrible F2012 well that’s not new for Fernando to adapt his driving style to the tyres (switch from Michelin to Bridgestone in 2007)
    another advise :watch also Kimi Raikkonen (2 years without F1) & he manages to be quick
    Conclusion: if you cannot adapt your driving style to the new rules you are not a top driver

    1. Bad examples, as the Ferrari is nowhere near operating at the limit of the tyres so its no even a consideration for Alonso

      Short memory, look what happened to Raikkonen in the previous race 2nd to 14th (or whatever it was), that just shows it is nothing to do with the driver and everything to do with the tyres….. which is WRONG!

      1. @bbt
        Of cause the Ferrari is running at the limit of the tyres.
        The Ferrari might be off the pace, but it seems quite out of balance, and that will mean that if he drives it on the limit he will most likely wear out his tyres faster.
        Also, if he wasn’t reaching the limit of the tyres Alonso would in every single race do a full race distance – 1 lap on the soft tyre and pit on the last lap to the hard tyre.
        But he isn’t doing that, he is pitting like everyone else, so the car must be using its tyres.
        Thus he will HAVE to take tyre wear into account when he is driving.

        Oh and the reason Kimi fell so long backwards was because of a driver error.
        He got off the racing line, picked up marbles and from there on he was unable to do anything.
        Had he been on the racing line he would have been in decent shape for the rest of the race.

        1. Last the whole race, not at all, impossible.

          Agree with your first point, what I am saying is that is is easier because the car is nowhere near the ultimate mechanical grip of the tyres.

          Re Kimi, I think that is wishful thinking on the fans behalf, he was it trouble two laps before he ran wide, it was a result (of tyre going off) and not the cause of his fall (it just accelerated it.) I remember watching the timings very closely. Everytime someone mentions the ‘running of line… that why’ it makes me laugh a little, why was he forced to run off line?

          1. I don’t think its easier at all.
            A car in balance will have a even tyre usage and reduce overall wear across all four wheels.
            If the car can’t grip properly the tyres will slide more often and therefore wear them down quickly.
            Tyre wear is also down to suspension geometry etc. I don’t think ultimate speed has much effect on tyre usage.

            Kimi wasn’t exactly fast at that point that is true, but is that the tyres fault? Vettel was able to go a lot quicker on the same strategy. If the car wouldn’t make the tyres last its their fault for choosing the wrong strategy.
            The reason he went off line wasn’t because of the lack of grip as much as it was as a result of a lack of understanding and respect of the limit in that crusial moment.
            Had he gone slower he could have gone through the corner just fine.
            A driver can’t blame his car or tyres for making mistakes like that.
            He can blame the car for being slow, but whether you are in an HRT or a McLaren you still have to stay within a certian speed limit going through the corners, if they don’t they will either not make it, or spin out and its in their hands to stay within that limit. No matter where it is.

          2. dysthanasiac (@)
            4th May 2012, 19:05


            What’s entertaining about single-file racing that punishes mistakes much more than it rewards ambition? Regardless of why Raikkonen stumbled, he fell from P2 to P12 within a span of two laps, because the ten cars behind him didn’t dare to make any attempts to overtake lest they fall victim to the sea of marbles that eventually swallowed Raikkonen whole. All they could do was bunch up and wait for someone to blink.

            The 2012 season is nothing more than a really, really, really expensive game of Bingo.

          3. @dysthanasiac
            Yeah we saw a lot more overtaking pre 2011… oh wait thats not right is it.
            It not like its the first time we have seen a driver go from hero to zero in a few laps and its not the tyres fault. It was Kimi’s fault.
            A driver can make a costly mistake, pic up a puncture, spin. You name it.
            Its nothing new. Luck has always been a part of racing.

        2. BTW, we voted the same ;-)

    2. Interesting that you should highlight Alonso and Raikkonen – they were two of the drivers who struggled most to adapt to the Bridgestone control tyres introduced in 2007, having used Michelins in previous seasons.

      A great driver can, of course, adapt their driving style to suit different handling characteristics or different circumstances. But it’s like trying to write with your left hand if you normally use your right – no matter how much you practice, how hard you try, it’s never quite as natural or as easy. And in a field which is so tightly packed, that can make a huge difference. Suggesting that Schumacher is throwing his toys out the pram because he can’t adapt to the Pirellis is probably a bit much, too. If there’s another thing great drivers do, apart from adapting, it’s working 24/7 to try to skew the odds in their own favour – Fangio, after all, didn’t win five titles by staying doggedly loyal to a single team.

      I voted to keep the tyres as they are – we’re only four races down, the drivers and teams will learn how to get the most from the new rubber and the racing is currently nowhere near the wrong side of a lottery.

  10. Change the rules and the tyres, simple.
    Don’t move them too far back towards the Bridgestones but at least 50% of the way.
    The lumps of jelly they run around on now are a joke, which is a shame. At the beginning of last year it was the same before they got their act together in the second half of the season, the tyres were so inconsistent in performance between the sets of the same tyre compound on the same car but they soon sorted that out and the second half of 2011 was good. This year is too much of a lottery, you might as well just turn on for the last 5 laps which I suppose is the opposite to 3-4 years ago when you might as well have just watched the first 5 laps only.

    For me 2010 is still the best season in the last decade and nothing I’m seeing this year changes that opinion.

    1. @bbt
      Are you sure that its the tyres that are inconsistent and not just the teams that don’t understand how to use them?

      1. Absolutely, as it was at least 50% of the teams that were complaining the beginning of last season re: inconsistency between sets.
        This year is a slightly different problem, ‘switching the tyres on.’
        Personally I don’t find it is at all interesting at all when someone is breezed past because the tyres are not working, if your killed your tyres fair enough but we have people lapping 5 – 8 seconds per lap slower just to try and save their tyres (and they still if they are unlucky get into trouble).
        To prove the point even the bottom 3 – 4 teams post fastest laps when they pit and have fresh tyres that is just not right.

        1. @bbt do you have any source on that? because I can’t find anything.

          1. The drivers press realises first 6 races particular, Button, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg. It more what they were saying on the red button. Car was working great in stint one/two and they the balance disappeared, of course to be critical of my own comment it could have been set-up and the fuel coming down.

            I agree with you regrading ‘teams understanding the tyres’ I don’t think any of the teams understand them, hence four teams winning the 1st four races.

          2. @bbt
            Thats what i’m trying to get at.
            If its the teams that don’t understand the tyres they will experience unexpected issues in different conditions and under different fuel levels, but unless there is prof that one set of brand new Pirelli rubber isn’t identical to another set of the same compound, it is the teams fault for not understanding the tyres.

    2. what a grate idea it’s so easy for you to change the rules & the tyres but why just now ????????
      i mean at the start of the season the Pirelli’s were fantastic and now because some “crying drivers” who failed to deliver in a strong car (they were complaining in the past about not having fast cars) are complaining this debate is open the tyres are the same for everyone & even if the tyres will change & become less conservative the top drivers will remain fast & these “crying drivers” will fail to produce grate performances

  11. xeroxpt (@)
    4th May 2012, 13:45

    If you want tyre conservation maybe you could restrict the nº of tyre changes for race and possibly get rid of the cliff issue of the tyre.

    1. I don’t think anyone want tyre conservation per se. The want closure racing (at any cost).
      I can understand the need for closer racing, but the point is ‘racing’ not coasting around.
      Agree that the rules also need changing and probably before the tyres…. to see the difference that makes.