During the last race weekend, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery revealed they were talking to teams about bringing back qualifiyng tyres.
The one-lap specials, super-sticky rubber designed for use in qualifying, haven’t been seen since Pirelli’s last appearance in F1 two decades ago.
Is now the time to bring them back? Or are the practical problems of having qualifying tyres too great to overcome?
There’s a lot to like about Pirelli’s plan to reintroduce qualifying tyres in F1.
They would give drivers a burst of extra performance in qualifying – in the knowledge that a single mistake could cost them several places on the grid.
We saw some terrific upsets and fascinating races thanks to qualifying tyres in the past. Remember Pierluigi Martini putting his Minardi on the front row of the grid for the 1990 United States Grand Prix?
Nigel Mansell’s thrilling and improbable victory from 12th on the grid at the Hungaroring in 1989 was born from his difficulties getting the most out of the qualifying tyres and focussing on his race set-up instead.
There’s potentially an added bonus: the rule forcing the top ten drivers to start the race on the tyres they qualified on would have to be scrapped. This has proved a worthless and unnecessary rule, and F1 would be better off without it.
Hembery indicated he would like to make the tyres available for all three stages of qualifying without increasing the number of tyres it brings to a race weekend. This is not going to be easy to achieve, and could compromise the amount of running done throughout the rest of a race weekend.
For example, teams only have three sets of tyres for three hours of running on Friday, and it’s hard to see how that could be reduced.
There may be scope to reduce the number of harder tyres provided for races but there’s precious little wiggle room in this area of the rules.
Qualifying tyres are associated with some bad memories, notably Gilles Villeneuve’s fatal accident in 1982 as reader Ted Bell argued in a recent Comment of the Day.
Qualifying tyres means spectacular flying laps, greater variation in qualifying performances and a tougher challenge for the drivers. All of that sounds very appealing.
I also like the idea suggested by a fan and taken up by Hembery to colour the tyres purple to match the fastest sectors on the timing screens.
I do not believe they would make qualifying any more dangerous than it is at present.
We already have circumstances where faster cars catch slower ones in qualifying, but advances in radio technology mean both drivers are more likely to be aware of the situation. Almost three decades have passed since Villeneuve’s tragic accident and car and track safety has moved on enormously in that time.
But a lot of thought needs to be put into how qualifying tyres would work within the current framework and tyre restrictions. Would it turn Q3 into eight minutes of tedium followed by two minutes of action in which we can only see one complete lap?
Do you want to see qualifying tyres back in F1? Cast your vote and have your say below.
Should qualifying tyres be reintroduced in F1?
- Yes (71%)
- No (22%)
- No opinion (7%)
Total Voters: 281
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Images ?é?® Honda, Pirelli