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

  1. James said on 20th May 2010, 19:04

    Just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you’re right and the FIA and the rule makers are wrong. I’m sure if you’re rules were implemented at the next race, there would be people, probably you, complaining and wanting to change the rules.

    There is no way you’re single little narrow mind in better at coming up with a rule to spice things up, is better than than all the great minds in F1. Get a life.

    • Hotbottoms said on 20th May 2010, 19:08

      You’re taking this too seriously. This is what Keath basicly said:

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

      Keywords: I believe. He’s just provoking discussion and telling his own opinion.

    • mfDB said on 20th May 2010, 19:32

      James, this is likely the dumbest comment I’ve ever read here….if you don’t what one guys (imho – very well informed) opinion, then what the hell are you doing reading his website….

      • Nathan Bradley said on 20th May 2010, 20:24

        Agreed mfDB,

        There are those of us that enjoy this website, and think Keith very well informed, with discussion provoking opinions.

        And if they don’t, then don’t bother reading it again.

      • James said on 21st May 2010, 2:51

        It’s the first article I’ve ever read on here. I just come for the high res pics for wallpapers. I knew before I even read it that it would be a pile of poop. It’s just basically a blog of one guys opinion, taken too seriously by a bunch of fanboys.

        All this chit chat will get you nowhere lads, even when the FIA let the fans have their say people still aren’t happy with it.

        One thing I will say though is that they need greater minds on the FIA e.g Ron Dennis, Ross Brawn. Then there would be stability in the rules and we wouldn’t have things like the downforce being as much as it was in 08 already in 10!. This came about because of the sharp mind of Ross Brawn, bending the rules and morals once again. (I’m not a particular fan but appreciate his mind). I’m sure if any team with a reasonable budget ran last for a couple of years and only concentrated on a certain future car and got away with what Brawn got away with then they would win the championships.

        It’s nothing much to do with tyres this time round (considering they make up a large percentage of the overall packing), it’s aero and the FIA not banning the DD when they needed to, but opting for a “fairy tale championship.” I’m sure it was great that year for Bernie and the lads and it was good to see how good McLaren are at updating their car and how great Newey still is. But a head start and a plan put together like that was never going to be beaten, the championship isn’t long enough yet! I’m sure it’s been discussed on here.

        No change in tyre rules is gonna spice things up.

        So enough with this beating around the bush tyre rubbish. Why not make the site like a forum where anyone can make a thread idea instead of only the site owner, he ain’t all that and I’m sure he thinks his opinions are the best way forward for F1 100 percent.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st May 2010, 8:01

          This came about because of the sharp mind of Ross Brawn, bending the rules and morals once again.

          Brawn warned the new diffuser rules left room for exploitation when they were discussed in 2008, but his criticisms weren’t taken on board. And don’t forget Williams and Toyota started the 2009 season with double diffusers as well.

          It’s nothing much to do with tyres this time round (considering they make up a large percentage of the overall packing), it’s aero and the FIA not banning the DD when they needed to

          I agree that more can be achieved by working on the aero (did you not read the last three paragraphs?).

          Why not make the site like a forum where anyone can make a thread idea instead of only the site owner, he ain’t all that and I’m sure he thinks his opinions are the best way forward for F1 100 percent.

          The forum is down at the moment. As I mentioned in the round-up yesterday it should be back soon.

          Also I think you should give the other readers of this site a bit more respect than dismissing them as “a bunch of fanboys”.

        • BasCB said on 21st May 2010, 8:15

          Wow James, if you mind that much, maybe just take the great Wallpaper pics and rather not read anything here, or just smile over the nonsense.

          I started following this website about a year ago because it offers a lot of pretty well funded writing by Keith bringing forward his opinion (with guest writers doing some good articles as well).
          Most arcticles invite us to give our view of these points and often result in discussion of different takes on the matter.

          Oh and it surely is not only “fanboys” there are people here in age from their teens as well as veterans “who started shaving in the 70ties” (quote from one of them) and male as well as female.

          A nice read on our opinions of F1 can be found in the series about how to improve F1.

    • Just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you’re right and the FIA and the rule makers are wrong.

      What are you on about? The fact that this is Keith’s website makes him absolutely right about everything, ever. They don’t just let anybody have a website, you know.

      True story.

  2. James said on 20th May 2010, 19:07

    Your I meant! Gonna get deleted anyway so who cares.

  3. Renzo said on 20th May 2010, 19:15

    bridgestone should bring to each race all 4 types of tyres in the same number of sets as now.
    This will mix up strategies because no one will be 100% on a single set up:
    example: 3 sets of supersoft
    3 sets of softs
    3 sets of mediums
    3 sets of hard

    this will give a lot more combinations adding even the chance to not a have a mandatory pit stop during the race.
    Some teams should try to do a race distance on a the hard compound and using all the supersofts sets during qualifing or the opposite doing qualifing on a soft/medium compound and try to do the race on supersofts compounds…
    I don’t know, the are a lot more combinations like this.
    Maybe is just nonsense, but this will give more freedom to the teams.
    Another good thing is (as it happened this year but even in the past) that some teams goes faster on softer compounds others with mediums other with hards. Like this each team will have their optimum compound at every venue without any complaining with bridgestone anymore

    • Glenn said on 20th May 2010, 20:38

      This blurb just made me think of the exact opposite.

      How about you elimate tire options. There is only one tire. Supersofts. You combine that with significantly less downforce. Now you have a car that has maximum mechanical grip to make up for the lost aero downforce. Then combine this with refueling and smaller fuel tanks that cannot make a 1/3 race distance. And you have cars that are extremely fast all the time, but have to stop at least 2 times in a race, putting some pressure on not only the driver but the teams making sure they have fast pit stops.
      And you add on top of this. KERS!

      Voila! I just fixed the Overtaking problem.

  4. Metallion said on 20th May 2010, 19:19

    I completely agree as well, it’s been a total failure. I also think that the mandatory pit stop would have to be dropped for it to make any change. If a driver qualifies 10th and decides to start on hard tires he’ll drop too far back if he has to make a pit stop compared to ones blasting away on soft tires and also making a pit stop.

  5. -A- said on 20th May 2010, 19:27

    One area where I would have expected to see some little effect would have been not within the top ten themselves, but rather in that area between P8 and P12. There should have been some opportunities for a driver who didn’t make it to Q3 to jump one or two guys in front of him on a different tyre choice and/or a fresher tyre. Otherwise, I agree it’s not making things very interesting, as it does seem to promote the same tyre strategy for all of the top three a lot of the time.

    I think this rule could still work if there would be a greater performance differential between the two tyre compounds at least as they wear off. Ideally, I’m thinking the option compound should enable just a few quick laps and then degrade somewhat, while the prime should not be as fast in the extreme, yet definitely not strong enough to drive the majority of a race or basically the entire race, as seen with Alonso in the Ferrari last weekend, for example. Right now, my impression is that both compounds hold out a little too long to provide any significant differences in strategy.

  6. DaveW said on 20th May 2010, 19:28

    The elephant in the article is refueling. In terms of “what should be done,” its reintroduction is curiously absent. But this top ten tire rule issue begs the question of why we dropped refueling, and emphasizes that dropping it has done nothing to improve the racing.

    As I said before the season, with the end of refueling, the optimal tire strategy would not vary among teams and the result would be competition that is more or less the same. And that it might turn out worse because with refueling teams could start the race with distinct performance to endurance trade-offs, giving rise to potentially more strategic entropy. We did see more drama from short-fueling or long-fueling pre 2008 and changes of strategy on the fly produced some strategic dividends too. We saw big performance gaps on the overlap due to fuel mass.

    The mandatory stop rule is a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the ideal strategy without refueling is necessarily uniform. Which is why removing it won’t do much, beside expose the refueling ban for what it is. It is like requiring all cars to come a complete stop for 4 seconds per race for no reason, or for a reason that doesn’t affect competition. Wait, that is exactly what it is.

    The “top ten” rule is a weak add-on to the mandatory stop supposed to allow a weaker team to mix up the order by running longer or being able to attack later in the race. The perfect futilty of running this strategy has been laid out by others already. The real justification seems be making the mandatory stop have some formal purpose.

    Fiddling with the tire steps doesn’t get us anywhere either. Making the soft softer squeezes the amount of time it is ideal to run the softer tire, making strategies even more uniform. Making the hard harder risks a situation where you can run the whole race on that tire, making a farce of the mandatory stop.

    Banning refueling created no benefits and these additional rules can do nothing to remedy the situation. The justification for banning it, lest we forget, was that it would create on track passing by generating situations where cars/drivers that couldnt preserve tires were caught and passed in the end by those who could, and by abolishing those hated passes in the pits. How are we doing on that? Are certain drivers consigned to failure because they are known to abuse their tires or whatever? The answer that we need to address aero to deal with passing is not a recomnendation for banning refueling.

    1. Bring back refueling and permit use of any available tires at any time. You start the race on your Q3 tires. Qualify on fumes. Teams declare race-start fuel volume serially, in ascending order from pole sitter to P24—that is, teams bid on optimal relative initial fuel strategy.

    2. If no refueling, get rid of mandatory stops, get rid of two-types rule. Ensure tire supplier does not bring its stone hard tires that last the whole race or fine them if a car runs to the end on one set of tires without the steel belt showing through.

    3. If no refueling, get rid of mandatory stops, no two-types rule, require top ten to start on harder tires. Everyone else can do as they please. No super hard tires, please.

    4. Require that the test driver take a stint: mandatory driver change during the race. Or have a driver girlfriend stint. Sherzinger versus Michibata for a dozen laps. OK, maybe not that one.

  7. Reminded of Nascar, why? Lets NOT go in that direction.
    This is Formula one – the pinnacle of motor sport. Best of the best motor racing.
    The best drivers and the best racing cars in the world.

    • Glenn said on 20th May 2010, 21:06

      I will explain… To me the best on track racing in the entrie world in any series is NASCAR. The stats of an average NASCAR race reads like this;
      Daytona 2010
      Average Speed: 137.284 mph
      Margin of Victory: 0.119
      Time of Race: 03:47:16
      Lead Changes: 52
      Cautions: 9-12, 67-70, 79-81, 118-125, 144-146, 161-168, 195-198, 200-202, 204-206

      In one race there are more overtaking done in one race than there was in an entire season in F1. If you want a model for what racing on track should be, I think there to be no more a logical choice.
      Can you imagine an F1 race with 52 overtakes? Let alone 52 overtakes for the lead? Seems crazy, but it is being done in America.
      That is why in a discussion about improving the racing in F1, I cant help but to think of NASCAR as a model of what they do that F1 can use to help the current processional racing in F1.

      I wrote this earlier in the blog;

      “How about you elimate tire options. There is only one tire. Supersofts. You combine that with significantly less downforce. Now you have a car that has maximum mechanical grip to make up for the lost aero downforce. Then combine this with refueling and smaller fuel tanks that cannot make a 1/3 race distance. And you have cars that are extremely fast all the time, but have to stop at least 2 times in a race, putting some pressure on not only the driver but the teams making sure they have fast pit stops.
      And you add on top of this. KERS!

      Voila! I just fixed the Overtaking problem.

      You combine the racing model of Nascar and combine that with the Technical mastery of F1 cars and you have the most exciting racing series in the entire world.

      • “Overtakes” in NASCAR aren’t really overtakes in the road course-racing, F1 sense of the term though. They’re just guys drifting past one another because they happened to be in the right line of cars at the right time. Very rarely in NASCAR, particularly on the ovals, do you see anybody “pull a move” on anybody else. Most of the skill involved is being able to change lanes at the right time.

        I do enjoy watching NASCAR but appreciate it for its difference to F1. I wouldn’t want one to become the other.

        • Glenn said on 20th May 2010, 21:53

          Trust I wouldnt want F1 to become NASCAR either. Id it really boring to watch cars on an oval for 4 hours. But what i am taking from Nascar is the options they give teams and the way the cars are set up. The cars run on slicks (maximum mechanical grip) Limited Aerodymanic downforce (less wake, Drafting, Cars can literally “bump” one another down the straight) Refueling (Small fuel tanks, promote action in the pits) Yellow flags = Safety Cars (Cars bunch up every yellow flag sometimes 15 times a race)
          All of these things help Cars bunch up allowing close on track racing.
          This is the very thing that F1 is trying to acheive at the moment.
          All things that make the race exciting and enjoyable to watch.

          I am by no means saying make the F1 cars soapboxes like the NASCAR, but instead to take the elements that make a NASCAR race exciting, and apply them to the F1 arena.

      • BasCB said on 21st May 2010, 8:22

        you are right, in saying we can have a look at NASCAR when wanting to improve F1.

        But the changing of the lead every 4-5 minutes takes away something of the heroics of it, don’t you think? Look at the video of the great battle for second Keith posted yesterday. It is fondly remembered by fans even now. Is there any battle like that you can remember from NASCAR that can be compared to it?

        So you might have solved the overtaking problem, but you got rid of the overtaking exitement at the same time. But good one for trying.

  8. In reference to NASCAR and annoying sounding Americans , NASCAR chooses the tire for each event. There have been several races where tire wear is extreme and tire failures occur often. It does force the teams to pit more. I dont think Bridgestone want to put a tire out that will fail quickly under race conditions , but it would make the racing more interesting.
    Some of the best racing ,in my opinion were the ones with teams on wildly different strategies coming back out of the pits within tenths of their competitors.
    Schumachers 3 or 4 pit strategy in France , i think , was one of the coolest. Maximum attack the whole way, no tire saving or conserving the car type racing.
    Do away with refueling and have bridgestone bring some gumballs for every race with some good tire degradation and will have some good racing.

  9. Icthyes said on 20th May 2010, 19:48

    I would agree, but…

    It’s hard to overtake in F1. Yes, it would be exciting to see a guy on fresh tyres catch and pass someone gambling on making one set last the whole time. But this sin’t 1986. We all saw what happened with Hamilton and Webber in Australia.

    I want F1 to get rid of the two tyre rules as well, but it won’t really improve things. You might get races where the front-runner goes for it and makes two stops, hoping to build enough of a lead, but it’s not likely. And people going for it will be thwarted by the overtaking problem.

    I realise Keith has already said it wouldn’t be a magic cure. But making the tyres nearly impossible to last for the whole race might. In that situation you might get a guy with neatly ruined tyres being chased by a guy on fresh ones, and there would be overtaking. And if everyone just went for two-stop strategies to cover everyone else, you could still see situations where a driver pits a few laps earlier to jump someone, knowing he will have to go for it on the new set but then make them last longer.

    It’s not just the rules, but the tyres themselves. Heck, even if you kept the rules and made the tyres less durable, there would be an improvement.

  10. Spaceman Spiff said on 20th May 2010, 19:51

    I completely agree with dropping “top ten” rule, but I’m not sure dropping the two compound rule is wise. Either way, a decision needs to be QUICKLY… in time for the candidate tyre suppliers to know exactly what they are getting into before the supplier decision is made.

  11. f1yankee said on 20th May 2010, 20:24

    agreed, ditch both tire rules.

  12. Sven said on 20th May 2010, 20:34

    Absolutely take away these stupid rules. Bring 3 different compounds to the races and let the teams do as they please.

  13. If mandatory pit stops to be banned, then no one would ever pit. Those tyres are joke. They can endure on the road between Spain and Russia.

  14. No mandatory pit stops, no need to use all tyres, no need to start the race on the same tyre as qually.

    Then bring 4-5 different tyre compounds, that wouldn’t be much different. Make them last one third of the race at most, making races with 2 or 3 pit stops at least. And very different strategies.

  15. Robert McKay said on 20th May 2010, 22:11

    Keep the top 10 rule and drop the mandatory use both rule.

    Then in the top 10 you can either qualify on the hard and try go the whole race without stopping, or start on the soft and go for two equal stints on the softs and try and build a gap. Or you could start on one and change to the other as appropriate/desired and have twon stints of pretty unequal length.

    But either way I think the top ten tyre rule ONLY works, if it does at all, if you drop the mandatory stop. With the mandatory stop, yes, the top ten rule simply makes no difference and indeed is a complete non-talking point.

    But I fear if anything they’ll go the other way and add a second mandatory stop.

  16. mateuss said on 20th May 2010, 22:31

    I agree, but I think dropping the ‘both tyre’ rule this year would mean no pitstops at all, because I think this years tyres can go the distance relatively easily.

  17. Chalky said on 20th May 2010, 22:40

    I agree only if you can convince Bridgestone to make less durable tyres.

    I do not like the mandatory pit stop rule, but unless the durability can be reduced drivers will run very long on tyres. This is F1 and not Le Mans. I want to see drivers who manage tyres well run better, but I also do not want them to run 90% of the race on one tyre like Alonso at Monaco.

    I also do not like the top 10 tyre rule. But removing it would only reverse the strategy with drivers running the harder tyre for the 1st 75% until they have the best gap to fit back in. Again less durable tyres would eliminate this option.

    • Icthyes said on 21st May 2010, 0:10

      Kinda. But new soft tyres will usually be faster than the hard tyres, so there’ll be a temptation to go onto the softs earlier to get a few quick laps in. Everybody would be trying to second-guess each other, so there’d need to be some tyre preservation skill at the very end as they’ll have gone “too long” on them.

      And if it’s a choice between pit-stops after 25% of the race or 75% of the race, I';d go for the latter! As much as I love F1, the longer the race goes on the more I start to get bored.

      I do wonder if top ten rule was in part made to stop the drivers being on the soft tyre when they’re lighter, thus keeping down cornering speeds a little. You know how paranoid the FIA is about that.

  18. Ian said on 20th May 2010, 22:49

    Why not start in 10th place on hard tyres, go on until 10 laps from the end and work out such an advantage that the change for the mandatory “other” tyre be completed and still come out in front?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st May 2010, 8:06

      I would say two reasons:

      First, you’re not guaranteed to have built up enough of a lead over your rivals to come out of the pits in front of them.

      And, because overtaking is so difficult, even if you come out right behind them on fresh tyres that are going to make you, say, two seconds per lap quicker, you’ve still got basically no chance of passing.

      Second, it leaves you vulnerable in the event of the safety car coming out.

  19. Patrickl said on 21st May 2010, 0:16

    The sad thing is that it’s failure was clear from the moment they came up with this rule.

    • FOTA panicked at the refuelling ban, correctly identifying that it would remove the strategic element from races without improving the prospects of on-track overtaking. Unfortunately their supposed “solution” doesn’t reintroduce any strategic element because everyone ends up doing the same thing.

      The only way to encourage different strategies would be to allow greater freedom in the building of F1 cars, so that some needed to refuel and others didn’t, some needed to change tyres and others didn’t. Because the cars are so similar they all hit upon the same optimum strategy.

  20. HG said on 21st May 2010, 0:49

    I like what V8 supercars has done. They switched to a super soft tyre which gives lots of grip, but goes off. The las couple of rounds have seen some very exciting races with people on opposite stratigies. This leads to the situation where some drivers are coming through the field with better tyres, whilst others who are ahead are holding on for dear life. It has been great, pitty more of you can’t watch it.

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