The top ten tyre rule is a failure


It's rare for drivers to start the races on anything other than the softest tyre

It's rare for drivers to start the races on anything other than the softest tyre

Before the season began I argued the new-for-2010 ‘top ten tyre rule’ was an unnecessary change to the rules that would do little if anything to improve the quality of racing in F1.

The first six races have shown that not only has it failed to promote better racing it has done the opposite – encouraging teams to stick to identical, conservative strategies.

As the FIA is already fixing one fault in the rule book it should get rid of this one as well.

Why the rule has failed

The idea behind the ‘top ten tyre rule’ was to force the drivers in Q3 to start the race on the same set of tyres they qualified on. In theory, some drivers would pick harder tyres, start behind those on softer tyres, but potentially get ahead of them by running longer in the race.

In practice, that has not happened at all. Almost every driver in every Q3 session this year has opted for the softer tyre.

This is most likely because of the ‘mandatory pit stop’ rule, introduced in 2007, which requires each driver to use both types of tyre compound during a race.

These two rules lead almost every team to use the same tyre strategy – start on the softer tyres, then switch to the harder tyres at around one quarter distance.

One F1 tactician I spoke to reckoned there were few – if any – likely scenarios where it would make sense for a car in Q3 to qualify on the harder tyres.

What should be done

It’s possible that if Bridgestone reversed its policy of bringing tyres two ‘steps’ apart – e.g. soft and medium instead of soft and hard – it would make the choice of which tyre compound to start on a little trickier. But I’m not convinced.

One solution would be to get rid of the ‘top ten tyre rule’. That would at least make it more likely that we would see cars starting the race on different tyres and trying different strategies.

Alternatively, the ‘mandatory pit stop’ could be dropped. This would allow teams to pursue even more varied strategies – going the entire race with anything from no tyre stops to two or more.

But I believe the best option would be to drop both rules.

For every extra rule of this kind the FIA adds to the sporting regulations, the fewer strategic options the teams have, and the less likely we are to see the kind of variety that promotes good racing.

Let’s be clear – changing the tyre rules in this way would not suddenly transform some of predictable dry races we’ve seen this year into Suzuka 2005-style thrillers.

As we discussed in the recent Making F1 Better series, technical changes such as reducing grip and increasing power are where significant progress on improving the quality of racing will be made.

But scrapping these restrictive tyre rules would be a step in the right direction and one which could be introduced as soon as the next race.

Read more: Stop the needless rules changes

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115 comments on The top ten tyre rule is a failure

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  1. Why would anyone choose the harder tyre when the softer tyre gets you grid position, and consequently a better race? There’s no overtaking, so the point of choosing the harder tyre, then going for longer during the race is pointless.

    • Mike said on 20th May 2010, 17:59

      Added to that is if you are quick in your first stint, you will get out of the pits in front, ergo the guys who go on hards first will have to still pass you late in the race, which is nigh on impossible.

      • Macca said on 21st May 2010, 2:47

        That guy suggested have the step between the tyres should be smaller but I think we should go the other way and make it bigger.

        The V8 Supercars in Australia have somthing called the sprint tyre. It needs to be used during the race but can not be used in qulifying and there is no ristriction on when you can use it. It is up to 2 seconds quicker than the normal tyre but starts to suffer after about 12 – 15 laps.

        This tyre producess great racing, some teams use it from early in the race and bolt away while others wait longer in the race for the track to rubber in and get quite an extra advantage out of it, storming through the field to the finish.

        • Dj xo2 said on 21st May 2010, 3:20

          Second that. The sprint tire has lead to some go fights on track. never even thought of applying that twist to F1. Good call Macca

          • m0tion said on 21st May 2010, 7:06

            In lieu of a lack of effort at imposing wake limits and wake testing and wake penalties, third that, but the extra level of F1 overtaking difficulty compared to the V8’s will not make it quite as effective.

        • BasCB said on 21st May 2010, 7:26

          Sounds like a nice idea. Not sure about the cars having to use it during the race, sounds like the 2 compounds in F1.

          Would it work with the problems to overtake in F1 it would have to make a difference of almost 3-4 seconds.

          But it might be something to be discussed with the tyre suppliers for next year.

  2. wasiF1 said on 20th May 2010, 17:06

    It was one of those GOOD FOR NOTHING decision by the FIA.

    • All it’s done is stop drivers from taking a gamble on strategy. Completely stupid idea.

      • Mark Hitchcock said on 20th May 2010, 23:16

        Without these silly tyre rules we could see some really good races.
        Some drivers lower down the grid would surely try to make a whole race distance on the harder tyre (like Alonso essentially did in Monaco). And like Alonso, they would be low on grip at the end of the race which would actually give us the thing we crave most: “more power than grip” and consequently more overtaking opportunities.

        It really is a no-brainer.

    • wasiF1 said on 21st May 2010, 2:40

      They should drop the idea of mandatory pit stop.With new tyre manufacturer in 2011 I hope they drop those two horrible ideas.

  3. CRM said on 20th May 2010, 17:12

    I fully agree with this article. A totally silly and arbitrary rule that no one asked for and no one wanted.

    A rule made purely for the sake of making a rule.

    • flatbeat said on 20th May 2010, 17:22

      coupled with the no refueling policy this was fairly retarded… if we still had refueling it would be marginally more relevent.

  4. slr said on 20th May 2010, 17:19

    The FIA and FOM obviously haven’t heard of the saying “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”.

    • Adrian said on 21st May 2010, 8:49

      They have…they used it in the results of one of their surveys…and then ignored it ;-)

      • Patrickl said on 23rd May 2010, 9:53

        Actually you could get anything you want from those surveys. People gave amzingly conflictive answers.

  5. kapow said on 20th May 2010, 17:19

    Hopefully discussions like these are being held with Pirelli & Michelin!

    • Hallard said on 20th May 2010, 18:55

      I was just going to bring that up. It was my understanding that Bridgestone played a part in the implementation of the mandatory pit stop rule, so without them, can we get rid of this rule (which has to be one of the worst of all the sporting regulations) for once and for all?

  6. The genuine Jim said on 20th May 2010, 17:20

    Good, then we’re all agreed. I wish the FIA read this blog.

  7. Jake said on 20th May 2010, 17:20

    The reason the teams go on softs in qually is not only beneficial in qually, but also the race under these rules. Because of the lack of overtaking the first person to pit is going to have the advantage, if you’re last to pit then sure, you tyres will last longer but even if you started on the hard tyres the others will have only just changed to the hard tyres, and with starting on race fuel it means they are going to be faster than you. Yes, you could then catch the others up but with so little overtaking (and FOTA not using kers; ugh…) it makes it pointless.

    I think the only way to get staggered strategies is to add a THIRD tyre to each race (or bring a qually tyre) and make pitstops optional. But then we go back to the lack of overtaking, everyone will just qually on hard tyres and run to the end unless the tyres become undrivable knowing that if your car is wide enough no one will get past. Just bring back a more powerful, longer lasting KERS and that will solve most problems… probably.

    • Hallard said on 20th May 2010, 18:58

      I think that making pitstops optional would work, but only if the harder tires are made to be less durable. Otherwise, as you’ve said, everyone would just qualy on soft tires and run the whole race on hard tires. I would like it to be DIFFICULT to make the tires last a whole race.

      • mfDB said on 20th May 2010, 19:20

        I don’t think the hards would last all race in most situations. We saw it in Monaco with Alonso. He did 77 laps and while he made it to the end, he was having some pretty serious tire wear. And this is from a track that is rated as one of the easiest on tires. If drivers were trying to go all race, they would have to drive very conservatively…

  8. Scott Joslin said on 20th May 2010, 17:24

    I fully agree, they should drop both rules. The FIA were guilty if trying to “over fix” the rules

    By allowing dropping the mandatory pitstop rule we allow drivers to attempt to go through the race on one set, while other more aggressive drivers will probably need a pitstop or two.

    I think Bridgstone has contributed to this situation through the type of compounds they are bringing to the races.

    Back in the late 80’s and 90’s I remember races where there were at least 3 different compounds for the drivers to choose from, and drivers were also allowed to mix compounds.

    The rules restrict creative thinking, which if allowed would had a great tactical reward to those taking risks.

    • LewisC said on 20th May 2010, 17:58

      Alonso has already proved that the harder tyres at least can go a whole race distance :)

      • mfDB said on 20th May 2010, 19:21

        not really, that was Monaco and he was struggling at the end. It wouldn’t work at the other tracks.

        • mfDB said on 20th May 2010, 19:22

          Drop the mandatory 2 compound rule and you might have drivers doing the entire race on 2 sets of softs….

          • MouseNightshirt said on 21st May 2010, 1:33

            But even that would be better – you need to choose when you stop wisely? Early push for position with new tyres and suffer later or the other way around. Yes passing is difficult, but it would be much better than our current system.

        • BasCB said on 21st May 2010, 7:27

          And the Safetycars helped in tyre wear as well.

  9. Scribe said on 20th May 2010, 17:26


    actually this one was a Fota decision I think. WMSC rubber stamped though.

    Keith could we have a poll on this? Then possibly send it to the FIA or Fota or something?

    Totally agree with the article as well, quali tyre rule never made the slightest bit of sense, don’t know why the teams though it would do any good in the first place.

    Still Button was all for putting mediums on in Monaco, might have done him some good, although his grid postion might have seen him go the way of Rosberg.

    I reckon what would happen if the rule was scrapped would be near universal starting on primes, with a later universal swap to softs. Still if you could hold on with the mediums till late in the game, then put on softs for the last ten laps or something. Proably not an optimum strategy though.

    But still freeing up tyre choice completley is a cheep easy and obvious way of creating more varied races, especially as the original rule was creatd to put more strategy in the racing now refuelings gone, as it kills strategy completley it’s cleary failed. No mandatory stops could spice things up no end.

  10. sumedh said on 20th May 2010, 17:30

    Agreed!! There has been no strategy difference between any of the teams.

    But, I am still in favor of the ‘mandatory pit stop’ rule.

    Without that, Alonso would have been nowhere at Monaco. Similarly, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Alonso would not have made up as many places at Malaysia.

    Lets face it, overtaking in Formula One is difficult. Only Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher on the current grid can do it. And just these three together can’t provide an exciting race. People like Webber, Massa, Button rely on strategy to jump people. And this option must be made available to them.

    Pit-stop windows are something to look forward to in a dry boring processional race (3 out of 6 this season: Bahrain, Spain, Monaco). Let them stay.

    • Scribe said on 20th May 2010, 21:14

      Errrr, well I disagree that Webber and Button can’t overtake, both made some spectacular moves last year.

      Button made a huge number of vital championship passes during the season, easily overtaker of the year. An Webber on Alonso in Spain was fantastic, granted the Renault wasn’t great but repassing a KERS car in Spain? Both are definatley more than compertant passers

      In Malysia Hamilton fought his way up, his tyre strategy neither helped nor hindered him, however Massa jumped an equal number of places through a well timed tyre change, personally I prefered Hamiltons mthod, 10 times more exciting, we can’t keep rules because it evens the field for less talented drivers, but it’s still variation like that which can make Grand Prix racing exciting. If tyre strategy was completley free more teams would be able to use strategy to get their drivers up positions, an more overtaking would probably take place because drivers on new tyres would come up behind drivers on knackered tyres more often, whereas now all the tyres tend to be the same age.

      Incidentally the permanantly present elephant in the room with Monaco is that it is highly likley to produce boring races, that just it’s character.

    • Fer no.65 said on 21st May 2010, 2:21

      Webber is no way at the same level with Massa and Button in terms of overtaking…

      the one that lacks it is Vettel. Remember last year he got stuck behind everybody… We’re yet to see a race with Vettel overtaking a lot of people on track…

    • m0tion said on 21st May 2010, 7:10

      You need to look at the series of the most spectacular overtakes from last year and reassess your opinion of Webber’s overtaking ability, especially when the RB5 was the worst follower and Vettel made so few by comparison.

    • dragon said on 23rd May 2010, 8:49

      Remember Webber’s pass on Button around the OUTSIDE of turn 7, in the wet? Or his pass / repass on Alonso in Barcelona? Clearly not, or you wouldn’t make such comments. One was a great example of pushing the level of grip to the limit, the other how to brake as late as possible and still pull the car up in time to make the apex. Not to mention Button’s entire montage of beautiful, clean overtaking moves throughout the entire season (did you even watch the brazilian gp?!) Saying they rely on strategy is, well, rather dim.

  11. Nixon said on 20th May 2010, 17:40

    Great article Kieth! I agree with you 100%. Also I think that instead of bringing this stupid rule the FIA should have canseled the mandatory pit stop rule.And Kieth i am not being by anyways sarcastic, but i really think that you should work in the FIA “Improving the show” group. Seeing that you have brillient ideas, really.

  12. Steve K said on 20th May 2010, 17:47

    Bring back refueling or always start on a wet track. Passing even if artficual beats watching Bahrain again.

    • Sideshow bob said on 20th May 2010, 17:56

      Watering the track before a race would be sacrilege. It would be a sad day when that is the best idea the minds in F1 can come up with.

      • David A said on 21st May 2010, 7:26

        I agree, it should only be suggested as a joke. The excitement of looking forward to rain will be wiped away (no pun intended), too.

  13. John M said on 20th May 2010, 17:57

    “But I believe the best option would be to drop both rules.”

    Agree 100%

    • macahan said on 20th May 2010, 20:11

      I to agree best option would be to drop both rules.

      Dropping the quali race tire rule alone I don’t see change anything. More then likely I would suspect they would still start on the softer tire just as today and change to hard tire. Reason track would be rubbered in better for hard and softer would allow them to race faster with the heavy load but go off quickly. Track temp has a better chance of being up a bit for the second stint on the hard making tire warmup easier.
      Now if you did NOT have to run both compounds at all some teams might gamble on 2 stops running all three stints on soft and some would try no stop starting on hards.
      If the quali tire rule persisted they would all probably start on soft but you could see 2 strategies unfold after that one team going for another set of softs and then a third set while another team might go to hard to finish the race. If the soft tire givs 1sec/lap advantage then it could give the 2 stopper the advantage to jump someone on hard but could go the other way around if the planned 2 stopper get stuck in traffic and might need to change strategy to go 1 soft 1 hard and just go for 1 stop instead of planned 2 stops.

  14. Horacio said on 20th May 2010, 18:08

    I agree, Keith.
    To be honest, I still fail miserably to understand the logic of forcing a driver to use TWO different compound during a race. Why not forcing them to use two different types of brake discs or two different kinds of fuel during the race? Am very sorry but to me this is just nonsense.
    I can see the benefit of the mandatory pit, but fercrissake, let the driver and the team decide which tyre let them have the best from the car.

    • mfDB said on 20th May 2010, 19:26

      Agreed, I think it was B’Stone trying to artificially create tire issues during the race. This way the announcer says Bridgestone and tire a bunch of times. Back when there was Michelin and B’Stone, there were tire wars and it wasn’t necessary. now with one supplier, they need the drama or else no one will care what tire they are using….

  15. Steven L said on 20th May 2010, 18:11

    count me in as Agree 100%. The forced pit stop is an artificial rule that take away strategy options.

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