Soft tyre rule: exciting or artificial? (Poll)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso has criticised F1's tyre rules
Fernando Alonso has criticised F1's tyre rules

This weekend the drivers will once again have to cope with the ??super soft? tyre.

It made for interesting racing in Australia ?ǣ but should F1 be resorting to gimmicks like forcing drivers to use un-competitive tyres?

Should F1 drivers have to use both types of tyre during a race?

  • Yes - I like it as it is (26%)
  • Yes - But the tyres should be closer in performance (23%)
  • No (46%)
  • Don't care (5%)

Total Voters: 1,711

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Drivers have been required to use two different compounds of tyre per race since 2007. But this year the gap in performance between the tyres has been widened.

So in Australia the super-soft tyres were falling apart after a couple of laps, and at Sepang the drivers struggled to get the hard tyres up to working temperature.

The rule was introduced partly to add interest to the racing, and partly out of a desire to maintain interest in how the teams were using their tyres following the end of the tyre war after 2006. It was previously used in the now-defunct Champ Car series, and the Indy Car championship has resurrected the idea this year.

Fernando Alonso has been scathingly critical of the rule in the run-up to this weekend’s race:

We expressed our concerns after Australia, after the accident of Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel ?ǣ it was due to the difference of the speed. He tried to overtake, Vettel was not in control of the car with that tyre, you cannot brake, you cannot turn-in, you cannot do anything. And then Robert had a big crash after that because he damaged the car. And then we expressed our concerns and now in the third race we have the same tyre at a worse circuit. This is something that we need to change immediately.

I think the super-soft on this type of circuit with long, high-speed corners. Super-soft in Turn 1 will be destroyed and in Turn 10 there will be no more left tyre.

One [tyre] will be too hard and one will be too soft. The right tyre is at home! This soft tyre is at home and this happened in Australia as well. And the understanding that this is for a better show, for overtaking. As I said, for better show, maybe we can pick up our number and then whoever picks up number 15 can put on wet tyres, or whatever, and it is a better show and its funny. Like this is not funny.

Although I enjoyed the extra dimension the tyre tactics brought to the first races, I wonder if the artificiality of having races so heavily influenced by tyres might start to become repetitive after a while.

And as Alonso says, it does F1’s reputation no good to expose it to ridicule by having such wide variations in tyre performance purely because of a quirk in the rules.

Has F1 opted for gimmickry over real racing? Is this the first step down a slippery slope that leads to other forms of regulated race-fixing like success ballast and reverse grids?

Cast your vote above ?ǣ and have your say in the comments.

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61 comments on “Soft tyre rule: exciting or artificial? (Poll)”

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  1. I said, for better show, maybe we can pick up our number and then whoever picks up number 15 can put on wet tyres, or whatever, and it is a better show and its funny. Like this is not funny.

    I am an Alonso fan, but have to admit his argument is wrong. The fundamental difference is that picking numbers is random, while imposing a handicap to everybody is consistent. The soft (or problematic) tyres are the same for all, yet everybody is free to devise a strategy. This creates grounds for variance and surprises which is exciting. It’s like the rain – not optimal, same for everybody, a handicap, etc, etc, but generating excelent racing. :-)

  2. I do enjoy the strategy aspects of having to run two sets of tyres, but as already mentioned several times before, the performance to wear differential is just ridiculous.

    In the end, to me at least, I don’t think it would take away anything from the sport if only one compound was used. Trying to explain this sport to anyone that doesn’t follow is hard enough, without having to justify the why’s and whatnots.

    I think there has to be a better solution, but I can only go with the teams making the choice of 2 compounds themselves as that makes it a fairer competition (imo). If teams get to pick their own compounds (one soft and one hard) they can make sure they maximise their choice decisions and it adds to their strategy planning – and just like any strategy, they won’t always get it right.

  3. Robert McKay
    17th April 2009, 15:33

    I think there are a few separate problems with the tyre situation.

    Firstly, as others have pointed out, the gap between the two is a yawning chasm. The supersoft just won’t last any more than a handful of laps. That compromises the effectiveness of making thwe two teams run them because all it means is everyone will fling on the supersoft for as little time as possible and be shot of them. You’ll get more overtaking, yes, but its meaningless overtaking because its not a true battle between cars – one is basically becoming undriveable very quickly.

    But if the gap between the compounds is less (but a little more than last season) then it becomes more of a balancing act and there’s more scope for strategy in using them whilst also giving the pace differential that gives a bit more overtaking.

    Secondly, it seems like the prime tyre is less than prime. I think the teams could maybe live with a rotten option tyre if they felt the prime was fine, but with the prime tyre not really working all that great either its more a case of gritting your teeth all weekend.

    I think both problems would be addressed by Bridgestone reevaluating their entire compound range and graduating it a bit more than just supersoft, soft, medium and hard, maybe having 6 compounds in total to give a bit more fine control over getting the correct prime and still having a bit of a gap to the option.

    Anyway, the idea was a gimmick in the first place. Its got a place in F1, I suppose, but this season I think we almost have too many variables at the moment, what with KERS vs. non-KERS, DD diffuser versus non-DD diffuser etc.

    Anyway, I hear there could be rain on raceday, which might suit the teams as then using both compounds may not be necessary.

  4. If Alonso is to be believed, then to me it seems that Bridgestone are going to be allowed to have a whole year of races under exactly the same conditions that got Michelin drummed out of F1 for raising the Safety Issue over – ie tyres disentegrating and making the cars undrivable.
    I’m sorry, but to me that is not racing. Its a disgrace, its manipulation and its only in Bridgestone’s interest, not the teams
    If we are going to continue having the tyre choice forced onto the teams, then Bridgestone should be making them capable of lasting the race distance, or pay a stiff Penalty if they don’t as this is road-relevant as well.
    Mind you, only using Super-Soft tyres for Qualifying would be an interesting change…..

    1. How is this in Bridgestone’s interest? Every race weekend they get drivers whining about how crapy their tyres are. Wouldn’t they much rather have drivers proclaim that the tyres were great?

      I’m only amazed that Bridgestone went along with this farce. They should have told Mosley/Whiting to got f themselves when they proposed this. But then Bridgestone fell for the old trick of picking between two wrongs (either change all tyre compounds to make a 5 tenths difference between types or bring very different compounds). Amazing how often that trick works in F1.

  5. ukk:
    The fundamental difference is that picking numbers is random, while imposing a handicap to everybody is consistent

    No, it’s not that consistent, if at all. Because different cars may have (and DO have) different preferences as to what tyres fit them best on a given track.
    If they were free to chose, one team might have run on different tyres than another throughout the whole weekend – which, if you remember a couple of years ago, was quite common.
    Now, forcing one team to use the compound that doesn’t suit their car (=makes them run slower), whereas another team will use exactly the compound they would choose themselves, is not fair.

    This IS a random distribution of handicap. :|

    1. Damon, you’re right that if the Control tyre concept is dropped and teams are free to choose then we’ll have a very different strategic approach, but this is nothing to do with the tyre performance gap :-)

      It is true that different cars have different tyre preference, but once we have a control tyre in place the performance gap doesn’t play a role. Even if we have a single tyre (== no performance gap) then depending on the compound the “tyre savvy” chasis will run better when a softer compound is in place (or a hotter weather, as for McLaren in 2008) and the “tyre (h)eater” chassis will run better on a harder compound (like the F2008). Then the randomness will become from Bridgestone and the track, but will be strategically irrepairable within a weekend :-)

  6. what do you think of this?

    soft – 10 laps
    medium – 20 laps
    hard – 30 laps

    teams have freedom to choose any compound
    total number of tires is roughly the same

    at some point, all 3 compounds will end up being used, but how is left to the teams.

  7. Robert McKay
    17th April 2009, 16:15

    I’m only amazed that Bridgestone went along with this farce. They should have told Mosley/Whiting to got f themselves when they proposed this

    I think its Bridgestones idea, not Max’s…

    Certainly the two compound idea was. And I think it was also their idea to increase the gap between the two.

    1. It’s pretty common knowledge that Bridgestone was ordered by FIA to create a bigger gap between the compounds on offer during a race. According to Charlie Whiting, the FIA determined that it had to be at least 5 tenths.

      Bridgestone was put with their back against the wall. You could think to blame them for opting to keep the compounds and bringing “non successive” compounds rather than redesigning all their components to somehow manufacture a 5 tenths gap (how to do that anyway?).

      Then I say, they should simply have rejected this daft idea altogether. Both options were ludicrous.

  8. I do watch F1 for entertainment. The tyre issue is not much of a gimmick – no more than banning refueling, traction control, ABS brakes. I like it especially now when there are no more tyre wars to spice things up.

  9. Why should teams be forced to use two very different tyres.

    Ferrari had a history of making suspension systems that was very kind to the tyres. They could use the super-softs with its superior performance for a longer period. A very big advantage.

    If Ferrari in 2007/2008 were allowed to choose their tyre compound i think they would have won all races.

    1. Why should teams be forced to use tyres from only one manufacturer? Why should teams not be allowed to use traction control?

      The reason: It’s all part of the spectacle. Overtaking and driver skill is what the public wants. Sometimes less than ideal car setups put more emphasis on the skill of the driver. Strategy more important too.

  10. Wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep choosing a compound that is basically a Qualifying tyre only.

    Which makes wonder, are the only compound hardness’ super soft, soft, medium, and hard? If so Bridgestone should add a Medium-Soft and Medium Hard in addition to medium

  11. I agree completely with Mikkowl. I think it’s easy to forget sometimes how much of what we think of as F1 today comes from completely arbitrary rules.

    I also disagree that passes that happen because of the tyre performance difference are meaningless. Artificial, yes; but meaningless, no. In fact, the urgency for overtaking is increased because if you’re running on the stronger tyres, you need to get by as quickly as possible to open up a gap over the course of your stint to offset the upcoming stint in which you will be at a disadvantage. In a sense, the drivers are now in the position of the Red Queen–you now have to to overtake just to maintain your position. Passes aren’t meaningless; instead, it places a premium on overtaking (as well as defending), and those drivers who have the ability to overtake quickly and efficiently (or defend relentlessly) now have greater opportunity to use it.

    You could even argue that this is more fair, because all other things being equal, two drivers of equal pace but on different strategies will each have an opportunity to overtake on one stint and to defend on another. It’s a bit like a home-and-away football series–the winner of the position is going to be decided on the aggregate of their overtaking and defending abilities.

  12. ConcedoNulli
    17th April 2009, 18:07

    So the drivers who can manage their tyres have an advantage? I can’t see anything wrong with that. I agree with the idea that they choose one compound and use it for the whole of the race – and have a stricter limit on the number of sets they have for a weekend. That would certainly differentiate who the smooth, technical drivers are.

  13. Robert McKay
    17th April 2009, 18:08

    I also disagree that passes that happen because of the tyre performance difference are meaningless. Artificial, yes; but meaningless, no.

    I understand you’re argument.

    But I think it becomes increasingly meaningless the bigger the performance difference in the tyres. If someone is a second, 2 seconds a lap slower than you on the soft and you’re on the hard, yeah, you’ve still got to work to pass them.

    But when you’re getting to the 5, 6 second gap that we were seeing in Melbourne, it gets silly.

    Anyway, remember we were a bit lucky in Melbourne to get a decent race because the Ferraris running the softs had rather blown the field apart with their slow pace and only the intervention of the SC made things close up again. The top 2 were over half a minute ahead of the rest only a few laps in. That sort of thing doesn’t particularly make for good racing.

    1. All good points, but my impression was that the 5-6 second gap appeared only when miscalculations were made and drivers were left out on the softs for too long. The super softs were lasting for about 8 or 9 laps in Melbourne, which seems reasonable to me. I think the problem is that the performance falls off so quickly the teams get caught off guard at the end of the stint. I would think that this would go away over time as the teams get more experience with the softs.

      For example, looking at Vettel’s lap data, his 9th lap of his soft stint at the end was only 1s slower than his fastest lap that stint, which came on the 6th. But his 10th lap was 9/10s slower than the 9th. The 11th lap was when he and Kubica wrecked, but still, the lap time differential at the beginning of that lap was less than 2 seconds. At the start, Massa was 4.4s slower on lap 10 than his fastest, but had he pitted two laps earlier, the differential on lap 8 was only 1.5s.

      If the drivers were able to only get 5 or 6 laps in before hitting a 5 second gap, then I’d say it’s too extreme. But so far, I think the balance Bridgestone has struck appears to be healthy. I suppose China’s abrasive surface may throw a wrench into things, but even so, I seem to recall Massa saying after practice that the softs were lasting for about 10 laps, which again, seems close to the ideal to me. I guess I wouldn’t mind if they lasted a few laps longer, but I wouldn’t want it to be very much more.

    2. Robert, just saw your comment a ways up. I certainly wouldn’t complain if Bridgestone regraduated the lineup to 5 or 6 compounds! Might be a bit expensive for them, though, and I still think that the yawning gap will be mitigated somewhat when the teams get a handle on just how quickly the softs fall off.

  14. Sometimes less than ideal car setups put more emphasis on the skill of the driver.

    Read my previous post first. The problem is that those weird rules cause having “less than ideal setups” in some teams to a greater extent than in others.

    They introduce more and more factors that make it harder to figure whether a driver’s good/bad performance is due to his skills or a lucky or an unlucky correlation of those factors.

    Now imagine that FIA ruled that all teams should use the same front wing. Sounds like making things even, sounds fair, right? For now…
    Now, and if the front wing that everybody had to use from now on was McLaren’s wing?
    The McLaren’s would be fastest by a long shot – whereas the other teams would struggle with a wing that doesn’t work the way it works on a McLaren, obviously.
    You’d have Hamilton winning races, and everybody could say: “Hey, they’ve all got the same wing. So it’s down to the driver’s skill. Lewis is the best!”

    But that would obviously be not the truth.
    The 2-compound rule works in a similar fashion.
    It is just another factor that makes the overal result more car-oriented, BUT this time with a random distribution “good cards” among the teams.

    @ ukk
    You’re right, and that’s why teams should have the right to choose a tyre compound that suits their cars best.

  15. random distribution of “good cards” among the teams*

  16. Damon, if you turn it around you can also see it as that the teams and drivers should be more flexible and aware of that they must learn to adapt to different tyre compounds. Both in engineering, setups and driving techniques.

    As it also is, there are two different types of tyres no matter what, so ones car can be dialed in to work better with one than the other, and even varying cars and teams will probably profit from one compound more than the other, regardless of which one that is.

  17. Personally, I like the idea of pitstops as I think the racing is more exciting to watch when the cars run lighter, as opposed to running with full race fuel from the start. This was not the question however but I’m getting there. With pit stops one is in a position to change tires as well. This is a good thing as tires that would need to last a whole race would necessarily be quite hard and in turn , more than likely be difficult to get up to temperature and not be able to exploit the characteristics most of us watch F1 for which ,in my oppinion, is the phenomenal cornering speed and capabilities of the cars. However, I think having teams being required to use both compounds in a race, is an unnecessary bit of regulation, especially when the gap between the compounds is so great.
    If I’m not mistaken, Goodyear supplied Qualifying tires and 2 additional compounds for the teams to choose from ,for use in the race. So what I think would be good for F1 would be; No qualifying tire per se, but two compounds reasonably different in hardness and allow the teams to choose which and when to use them. That would allow the teams to choose when to go to the harder or softer compound as best would suit their strategy for the race. Most would probably gualify on the softer of the two, but from then on racing and tactics, rather than ill conceived rules, would prevail.
    And neither Bernie nor Max’s opinion should be consulted.
    One last thing. It’s my opinion that if the cost of hosting an F1 race is to continue to be as extortionate as it is at present, then the the race organizer should determine when the race should start and not Bernie. If he can’t get Europeans to get up in the wee hours as the rest of the world has to in order to watch a race, to bad for him and the european audience. What makes you guys different from the rest of us, other than geography. Don’t tell me F-1 is happy about losing the American and Canadian audience. Just ask Mercedes, Bmw, Toyota, Ferrari and even Renault. Not to mention any of the non automotive sponsors.

    That’s it for now. Barry

  18. i don’t like the idea of multiple types of tires. however since the system is running, and i understand why it is, why is bridgestone bringing forth such a wide range of rubber? they are supposed to be the rubber experts. and clearly after reading what Alonso said the super softs are definetly not supposed to run in shanghai…

    i think this is a screw up on Bridgestone’s side rather than the FIA’s rules…. but again i stress that i would prefer one type of rubber like the old days.

  19. you can also see it as that the teams and drivers should be more flexible and aware of that they must learn to adapt to different tyre compounds

    You can tell them to be flexible by forcing drivers to drive with closed eyes or with a chicken onboard as well ;)

    – Lewis, just squeeze the chicken with your thighs. No, it won’t fly away, chickens don’t fly… well especially if you suqeeze them too tightly. But you don’t wanna get minus points for a late chicken, do you?! You gotta be flexible, Lewis!

  20. I wouldn’t agree with “drivers being forced to run uncompetitive tyres” – They all have to use them so it’s fair. Whoever uses them best will reign greater than those who don’t, it’s another variable and Alonso’s outburst is just another case of him “throwing a fernando” (tantrum). I love the guy – he gives F1 drivers character but he’s just annoyed he’s not winning and well, fair enough.

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