Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Q3 rule which gives top teams “even more of an advantage” may be dropped

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 could drop the rule which forces drivers who qualify in the top 10 to start the race on tyres they used in Q2.

Since 2014 drivers who set the 10 quickest laps in Q2 have been required to start the race using the tyres with which they set those times.

The fastest cars, which can often make the cut-off for Q3 on a harder compound of tyres than their rivals, therefore gain a strategic advantage through the rule. Meanwhile those who fail to reach Q3 benefit from a free tyre choice.

The rule has prompted occasional complaints from teams who believe they have been disadvantaged. Fernando Alonso is among its critics. “They try to invent one rule that could benefit the show and they just benefit the big teams,” he said in June.

F1 motorsport director Ross Brawn said today the rule may be changed for future seasons.

“One of the unfortunate things about the Q2 race tyre [rule] is it gives those who are really quick even more of an advantage because they can easily choose whichever tyre they want for Q2,” said Brawn. “Whereas those who are desperate to get into the final qualifying need to run a soft tyre.

“So it’s had a slightly contrary effect, I would argue. I don’t think removing it is a big issue. It is certainly something we’re looking at for the future, whether that Q2 race tyre is still something that overall is better or worse for the race.”

A rethink of the rule has come about as a result of F1’s sprint qualifying format experiment. In sprint events all drivers have a free tyre choice for the grand prix. This has led to some strategies which would not ordinarily arise, such as Lewis Hamilton starting the Italian Grand Prix on hard tyres.

F1’s official tyre supplier Pirelli recently completed development work on its new range of 18-inch tyres for the sport’s change in wheel format next year. Brawn is encouraged by the progress they have made.

“One of the things Pirelli have been trying to do is to make the less tyres less thermo-sensitive. They want to have the ability for a driver to push a tyre and, if they go too far, for it to come back. That’s a little difficult with the tyres we have now. And they seem to be making progress in that respect.

“So we think the drivers are starting to enjoy the characteristics of the new tyres. But until we fix the final spec and we see how they’re working with the new car then we can’t properly assess it.”

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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...
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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  • 42 comments on “Q3 rule which gives top teams “even more of an advantage” may be dropped”

    1. Given this effect was clear and known years ago, it’s a bit ironic that they only took notice of it when the sprint was put in really. I think it’s good it is going as it isn’t just about those that are much faster, but also the fact that for a lot of races, 11th with the free choice of tyres is a lot better than being on the 5th row at the start.

      1. Gavin Campbell
        1st November 2021, 17:54

        I actually think the counter argument was that teams would all run the same tyres if given a free choice, so this forced their hand for strategic variation but with the sprint races this was proved to not be the case. Im pretty sure Ross and co knew the pitfalls of the Q2 rule but we worried about harmonising all tyre strategies.

      2. I think this effect can be exaggerated by the fact that at least one or two of Q2 top 10 are not in the top 10 in terms of race pace… Which is even more of a reason to not disadvantage them in the race

      3. Yup. Rules in f1 only get approved if they benefit the stronger teams, this is just an example.

    2. Just give the teams more choice of tyres and free choice of tyres to start in the race and scrap the 2 different compound rules so that every team can run which tyres they like.

      1. @krichelle I’m not sure I would agree that they should scrap the two-different-compounds rule, as it adds more a strategic element to it. I think at most races, we would just see drivers running the same tyres from start to finish, and in some low deg races like Monaco or Russia, no pit stops at all. Usually on a given weekend, one tyre stands out more than the others as the tyre of choice for the race, and 90% of the grid would end up running the same tyre compound for the whole race. As long as they can start on whatever tyre they like, I’m satisfied.

        1. You can actually argue both way with the 2 compounds. In one stop race, most team will go soft + medium in either order. If one car started on one type, it will switch to the other, no strategic freedom. Scrapping the rule might lead to medium + medium or soft + soft if teams can make it work.
          We have seen that car’s don’t behave the same on their tires, so I don’t think that optimal strategy will be the same for everyone at every race. This is even for me with slight advantage for scrapping the rule as it means I am not sure what teams are going to use next…

          1. Some great points here. Also consider that a 3-stop might be more viable if you are allowed to run medium-medium-medium instead of having to run medium-hard-medium enforced by the rules. It then becomes easier to be competitive against a 2-stop medium-hard strategy.

            This rule may in part have been instigated to reduce costs and become more sustainable, as having all tyres for all strategies available will mean many sets of tyres go unused during the weekend. By ‘recycling’ the Q2 tyres for the race, you’re saving a set for those who are in Q3. And those who don’t make Q3 also save a set of softs because they don’t run in Q3.

    3. This article is a bit of let-down. After reading the title, my curiosity was piqued to know what the proposed solutions could be and I expected to see a couple proposals. But, no. Nothing proposed, just some jibber jabber from Ross-Brawn.

      1. @david-beau The proposal is to drop the Q2 (or Q3) tyre rule. There’s nothing new to propose, just getting rid of a restriction that was put in place previously. And they should.

    4. It’s been blatantly obvious that this rule is a disaster for years as it disadvantages only the lower half of the top ten, and makes it better to start 11th than in the top ten which should never be the case in Formula 1. And it’s also been blatantly obvious for years that it helps out the top teams that can make it through on medium tyres. Thank goodness this rule may finally be scrapped.

      1. @f1frog and the usual soundbite from Alonso, complaining that everything is stacked against him…

    5. RandomMallard (@)
      1st November 2021, 18:32

      2 positives in this article imo. Firstly, the Q2 tyre rule being dropped which I think enough people have already commented on. Secondly, this:

      One of the things Pirelli have been trying to do is to make the less tyres less thermo-sensitive. They want to have the ability for a driver to push a tyre and, if they go too far, for it to come back. That’s a little difficult with the tyres we have now. And they seem to be making progress in that respect.

      If this does turn out to be true and correct, and makes it into the final spec, I think it could be very important. How many times have we heard people, even in a 2 stop, be told “slow down, you’re gonna overheat these tyres and then this whole strategy will fail” (or something to that effect). If they’re building tyres that can cope with being pushed, then I’m happy for them to keep other characteristics like differences between compounds (as long as they’re not stupid like at the Nurburgring a few years ago) and keeping the 2 compound rule (which I actually feel is quite an important rule, I know some disagree).

    6. refueling!!!!!!!!!!

    7. Cut the regulations on half and we’ll have a REAL show

      1. If you think things are lopsided now, oh boy, wait till you see what happens after that.

        1. Agreed. The top teams would stretch the gap to something so dramatic that it might become outright dangerous to share a racetrack with the mid to bottom teams.

    8. It only took them 8 years to find this out. Wow!!

      1. Amazing really isn’t it? It’s not like the fans they pretend to listen to haven’t been asking for this to be removed either.

        1. The “avid” fans (as Ross calls them) have been pretending that Qualifying as it is is perfect, no room for improvement, the best thing since sliced bread.

      2. @knightameer This is one of the best examples of what is wrong with F1

    9. Not ‘may,’ but will, as evident in next season’s sporting regulations earlier this year.

    10. Just force the top 10 qualifiers to start on the softest compound, regardless of what they used in qualifying. Or better yet, chuck all the tire rules out the window and let them use whatever they allocated for themselves that weekend whenever they want.

      1. Or make everyone start on whatever tyres they set their fastest lap in qualifying, Q3 or otherwise.

      2. Been my preference all along. Teams should be allowed to use whatever tire they want, and however many they need to. However, due to how F1 teams always find the limit, the net result may be negligible, but, it does provide more scope for variance.

      3. Not sure when, about 2 years ago I think, the teams were given a set number of tyres in the three compounds. All teams get the same allocation, there is no more choosing numbers of the various compounds.
        Likely it was a cost saving measure.

        1. @rekibsn I thought it was more a COVID-related measure? I hope it’s not a permanent fixture, it was better when teams were allowed to allocate their own tyre choices.

          1. Sporting Regulations 24.2 b)
            Each Driver will be allocated the following specification of dry-weather tyres at each Event:
            i) Two sets of the hard specification of tyres.
            ii) Three sets of the medium specification of tyres.
            iii) Eight sets of the soft specification of tyres.
            As permanent as anything these days. Has been with us for a while.

    11. It was obvious the rule was flawed from the second it was introduced & it’s flaw is something that has been brought up time & time since then by teams, drivers, broadcasters & fans.

      If it took the sprint format for those in charge to figure that out then it shows that they either haven’t been paying attention or that they are simply trying to pile as many positives onto the sprint as they can think of.

    12. Finally. The last thing Mercedes and RedBull need is yet another tiny advantage. It also makes P9, 10, not perticilarly good.

      Free tire choice for everyone all the time.

      Let them run no-stop race on hard tires if they want to.

      1. Goodbye pitstops then.

    13. As a team you’ve got the choice to not qualify with a tire that you don’t want to start with. They’ve got the choice to chose starting position over race-capability. That they prefer the starting position should not be regulating issue, but rather a strategic issue.
      The penalty for having to start on an used set vs a new set is worse, if you ask me, and that should be changed

    14. Scrapping the Q3 tire rule won’t solve the problem of lack of competitiveness between the teams nor will it take away any “advantage” the top teams may have from it. As a matter of fact F1 could scrap the Q3 rule starting with the Mexican GP this weekend and we will see that the top teams will instead choose the fastest/softest tire compound for all qualifying sessions and come race day will choose whichever tire they feel will give them the greatest benefit that day given they will know the weather conditions. My argument is removing the Q3 tire rule will make the racing worse. It removes an element of strategy and excitement from Q2 as well as it removes some strategic transparency from the teams. The Q3 tire rule gives one known variable to the drivers starting in the top 10: which tire they will start on, this information benefits all of the other drivers whether they are in the top 10 or they missed out due to a technical reason and will be battling for points positions during the race.

      1. @The Dolphins I disagree 100%. QLF should be solely about driving fast without any tyre tactics.
        Scrapping the Q2 rule will be fair for the entire field, especially those starting around P7-P10.
        Nothing will remove top team advantage.

    15. Just like many people prefer less government in their lives, maybe less FIA might help F1. ;-)

      1. Apart from the Wet-weather tyre scenarios in impact to Qualifying of course.
        ps. Sorry about the text being converted to hyperlink in entirety. I don’t know why that happened.

      2. @JackFlash67 What I also pointed out.

    16. Yes! Finally! Please drop this rule!

      While they’re at it, they should re-consider the 2 compound rule also. They should just make a pitstop mandatory but no need to force 2 compounds so there is more element of unpredictability. And number of mandatory pitstop changes with race track. For example we can maybe force 2 pitstops for boring tracks like Monaco, Barcelona and Monza and no mandatory pitstop for tracks that already guarantees pitstops like Austin, Silverstone and Turkey and the rest can be 1 stop as usual.

    17. Best thing i have read since i can remember, we might even get varied strategies & interesting races as a result…

    18. I dont quite understand why not force the teams to start on the Q3 tyre instead of the Q2. Not sure how big of a variation will induce, probably small, but, I believe, without any unintended (bad) consequences.

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