The top ten tyre rule is a failure

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

    agreed, ditch both tire rules.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. theRoswellite said on 21st May 2010, 1:33

    A possible consideration which doesn’t seem to have been mentioned…

    As the FIA doesn’t seem to be always getting these tire/pit-stop regulations right vis-a-vis better or closer racing, why don’t they stop trying to set the rules in stone and instead allow there to be a period of evaluation following a new rules introduction.

    This would allow for input from all the interested and knowledgeable parties, to include this site, then instead of feeling reluctant to implement changes because of a reticense to “admit mistakes”, they could arrive at rules that work.

    Obviously many rule changes would require an extensive lead time, but others, like the mandatory pit stop rule could certainly be changed almost immediately.

    They, the FIA, need to build a bit more flexibility into their operating procedures and do it in a transparent manner.

    (…oh, and I guess I was absent when we decided that the answer to our lack of passing problems was “more horsepower and less grip”?)

    • John H said on 21st May 2010, 13:20

      Very good idea. Keep all options open and only narrow the ones (in order to save money) that give rise to the most influential variables.

      In the words of Alan Partridge, we need to ‘evolve not revolve.’

  12. jess said on 21st May 2010, 2:45

    My thought, get rid of the two tire rule. One tire type is all you need.

  13. ElliottB said on 21st May 2010, 2:47

    I’m actually for a completely opposite approach. I want to see them make the top ten places start on the OPPOSITE tire compound. This might mix things up more, and you’ll see teams qualifying on the hard to start on the soft, while slower teams like force india might qualify on the soft in hopes of a pole and start with the hard.

  14. James said on 21st May 2010, 3:00

    I’m sorry I’m just ****** off at all the talking around the real problem. All the aero changes have been pointless since about 04. We had great racing till the latest big changes then a farcical 09. A decent 10 since it’s stated fair. Now we are gonna get more changes next season. Brilliant. Let’s hope someone like Brawn doesn’t exploit any grey areas that a peon has forgotten to clarify.

  15. Arun Srini said on 21st May 2010, 3:01

    I am convinced the leadership in FIA is way better than last year and that they’d change/drop this in months to come.

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