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. David B said on 21st May 2010, 8:52

    I think that the first error is to consider exciting an overtake in pit lane. It is not.
    Much more exciting to see two drivers that started with the same compound and managed it differently, fighting for position.
    Mandatory pit stop is a nonsense, at all.

  2. Gilles said on 21st May 2010, 9:30

    I agree that mandatory pitstops & top ten tyre rules should be abolished. Let the driver manage.

    Maybe an alternative would be to have Bridgestone bring just one tyre compound to races, the hardest one. It would leave less marbles, provide less grip and hence encourage on track racing.
    Make it last and you don’t need to pit. Work them harder, would give you more gains in the race via (hopefully) overtaking, but you would struggle to make them last.

  3. russell finch said on 21st May 2010, 11:31

    I’d like to see the top 10 tyre rule dropped, and also drop the mandatory stop.

    Instead make sure the harder of the 2 compounds is just about able to finish the race, and then introduce a rule that all cars have to start on the harder compound. As the race goes on, leave it up to the drivers if they want to pit for softer tyres – chances are that drivers who are stuck behind someone else or or not in podium positions will chance their arm and chnage tyres, those at the front will try to hang on to the end. Should end up with plenty of late race charges !!

    • John H said on 21st May 2010, 13:16

      “Instead make sure the harder of the 2 compounds is just about able to finish the race, and then introduce a rule that all cars have to start on the harder compound.”

      I have to disagree. Do not manufacture the ‘show.’ Just increase the variables and see what happens.

      • russell finch said on 21st May 2010, 13:46

        I don’t like manufacturing it either but if you give the teams a free hand they all end up doing the same thing. I’m trying to force teams to adopt different strategies “on the fly” depending on their position in the race or traffic situation.

  4. John H said on 21st May 2010, 13:11

    So obvious it hurts. Even Whitmarsh can’t seem to understand logic.

    Once again, you’re right again Keith, but there’s no-one in high places out there listening!

  5. Jason Lopez said on 21st May 2010, 13:37

    Keith said it all, the more the FIA add rules the less chance of strategy manouver. I would say “stupid” rules, but hey, that is just me.

    They want less grip? Wonder why if they say technology from F1 is very likely to make it to road cars. Road cars with less grip? Nice! Anyway, they can reduce the size of those humongously ugly front wings to half their size for starters. The rear wing, make it 1.5 feet high. Less grip ahoy!!!

    • theRoswellite said on 21st May 2010, 15:43

      Yes! We need to promote the idea of increasing grip through technological innovations centering around sophisticated suspension improvements…not the high drag, low efficiency, billboard-like inverted wings we presently condone, which, of course, have no real place on road cars.

      None of us, to include mechanical engineers, are privileged to know what design directions we could be enjoying if that was the ONLY direction we could go in.

  6. Lustigson said on 21st May 2010, 15:22

    I cannot believe that either the FIA nor FOTA have come up with the simplest of solutions.

    1) Get rid of the rule that states a driver has to start the race on the compound he qualified on.
    2) Get rid of the rule that states a driver has to use both compounds in the race.

    What should happen is that, firstly, everybody qualifies on the soft tyres, ensuring that the pole sitter is truly the fastest guy on petrol fumes and soft rubber.

    Secondly, drivers may opt to start the race on hard tyres and do the race without stopping, or, in case the hardest compound is not up to that task, a single pitstop.

    Others may decide to run on softs, be a bit quicker per lap, pull out a gap, and hope to slot in again, after their stop(s), either in front of their competitors, or at least not too far behind them, to tray and — hold on, now — overtake them — yes, on the track — on their new soft tyres.

    One downside might be that cars that are quite a bit quicker than the competition — e.g. Red Bull-Renault — opt for softer tyres at the start, opening up a gap big enough to pit, then stopping for harder tyres, and cruising to the finish.

    Furthermore, the FIA may actually come up with a rule that states a driver cannot use more than one compound. So if you start out on harder tyres, you stick with them, and vice versa. This might not be such a good idea, though.+

  7. Dry Crust said on 22nd May 2010, 8:01

    I’m of the opinion that the whole qualifying process is wrong. If we look at the start of the race, it is fundamentally different to the rest of the race, namely we see fast accelerations from a standing start and lots of gear changes, all of which vary from team to team, all on a straight track with a corner at the end. The rest of the race is mostly about timing your exit into the pit lane.
    My idea for qualifying is to give each driver a single timed lap or time over part of a lap (e.g. from the start line to the end of the last sector before the pit lane entrance) from a standing start. Right or wrong doesn’t matter: run off the track, too bad; spun out, better luck next time; car stalled, tough luck. My idea is they would be the only car on the track at that time, so there wouldn’t be any of those “I got held up” or “bad air” excuses.
    In addition, the order of running would be the same as the results of the last race, so the winner of the last race is first up, and the person last gets to know what sort of times they have to beat.
    The result would be a grid which is right for the start of the race, where most accidents happen, but not for the rest of the race, which is what we want i.e. lots of overtaking during the race but not at the start. It would also mean cars which were set up better for the race may not qualify as well as a car set up for qualifying, but would pass the latter during the race.

  8. VXR said on 22nd May 2010, 16:00

    Button wanted to use the hard tyre in Monaco qualifying IIRC.

  9. Andrew White said on 23rd May 2010, 20:23

    No change to the sporting regulations will improve the races, unless you do something radical like reverse grids, which would just be rubbish anyway. What really needs to be done is big changes to the technical regulations: massively limited aero, more powerful engines with no restrictions on development and perhaps even ban (semi-)automatic gearboxes. Fiddling about with tyres won’t solve the fundamental problem that a car needs to be up to 2 seconds quicker to overtake.

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