Ayrton Senna, McLaren, 1991

Is it time to bring back qualifying tyres?

Debates and pollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ayrton Senna, McLaren, 1991
Ayrton Senna set pole eight times in 1991, the last year with qualifying tyres

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.

I say

Stefano Modena, Brabham, 1990
Stefano Modena drives with a fresh set of sticky Pirellis in 1990

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?

You say

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

Loading ... Loading ...

An F1 Fanatic account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here.

Debates and polls

Browse all debates and polls

Images ?? Honda, Pirelli

134 comments on “Is it time to bring back qualifying tyres?”

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 4
  1. I’ve seen this format used for qualifying in another series (I think it was the Superleague Formula) and quite liked the idea of it.

    At the start of qualifying, drivers are randomly assigned, in equal numbers to either Pot 1 or Pot 2.

    Pot 1 drives first and set the fastest times they can.

    Pot 2 drives second and set the fastest times they can.

    The fastest driver overall (regardless of ‘Pot’) starts on Pole, followed by the driver who was fastest in the other pot. 3rd goes to the driver 2nd fastest in the Pole sitters pot.

    I hope I explained that well enough – but that is what i’d like to see. A certain degree of randomness but not so much that it disadvantages the fastest car.

    I realise this has nothing to do with qualifying tyres – but, for the record, I am very much in favour of them!

  2. one whole egg
    15th August 2011, 13:03

    why not save the super soft Qauli tyre’s for q3, then it would not compromise the rest of free practice running and would add a spectacular finally to qualifying?

    1. You would then be handing an advantage to the top 10. Chances are most of the teams outside that top 10 would be using the softest compound available to ensure their best position in Q2, thus reducing their number of fresh pairs. The majority of the top 10 on the other hand probably wouldn’t have used the softer set for their Q2 time and would have a fresh set (or barely touched) available for the race.

    2. There is nothing spectacular about laps on super-sticky tyres, unless you want to see a driver crash out by driving beyond the limit. If you want spectacular make them qualify on HARD tyres so they can catch the car when grip fails, nothing like a bit of opposite lock to get your attention.

  3. Yes, but only if they had enough tyres to do two runs per session.

  4. I said no.

    While I do like to see F1 cars go as fast as possible, I also want to see some sort of consistency between qualifying and the race.

    I’m a bit undecided on the ‘top-10 starting on their qualifying tyres’ rule but I would definitely like to see the same compound used in the race without a doubt.

    I enjoy both qualifying and the race for different reasons but I also enjoy having that transparency between the two sessions. I think it makes for great comparison between race pace and fastest qualifying lap and we would most certainly lose that.

  5. Bring it on. Give them 2 sets so they can used on two occasions in the three sessions. If the fastest cars can get through Q1 on supersofts then they’ll save themselves 3 sets for the following two sessions.

    If they can tweak it so they set more qualifying times and it adds to the qualifying spectacle, I’m in.

  6. I’ve being playing devils advocate so far on the issue but this time I’ll say what I really think. I think it’s a good idea as long as A) It doesn’t lead to a lack of tyres per team and B) It’s not just for the sake of the cars going faster.

    What’s the point of doing so the cars go faster? There is none. Half the rules in F1 are to slow them down.

    However. I would like to see them return.

    The problem in bringing them back lies mostly in how qually works nowadays. Give the teams enough sets for all sessions and you just have cars going faster. Mostly it would still be the same. Create excitement by giving them one set each and you compromise peoples ability to compete at the end.

    I just think it would be hard to make it work, and make it fair.

  7. Is it really time to bring the qualifying rubber back?
    I’ve done some fairly straightforward calculations on the subject and here’s what i came up with.
    The average difference between dry pole lap and fastest dry race lap this season is 4.603 seconds or 5.1%
    Then i went on to see to stats of last season when qualifying rubber was used – 1991. Back then the average difference between dry pole lap and fastest dry race lap was 5,984 seconds or 5.7%
    I believe in 1991 it was allowed to have a different spec engine for the qualifying and there was no parc ferme rule which meant car could be set up completely different for saturday and sunday.
    Also the fact that the cars were generally slower than nowadays should be considered when looking at the numbers.
    There are also many factors (usage of two compounds during the race and DRS are one of the few) which make my comparisons less accurate, but nevertheless i believe they are worth considering.
    So where are we now? Roughly, we are very close to the difference between Q and R we had in 1991.
    Should Q rubber be introduced to widen the margin between qualifying and race? I’m really not sure. We could end up with margins in lap times that look more like difference between various racing car categories rather than F1 on saturday and F1 on sunday.
    I’m all for improving the show, but i don’t believe than introduction of ultra soft rubber compound is the way to go. There should be tweaks in tire allocation for the weekend and this is a fact, but are qualifying tires is the proper solution?

    1. Thats an interesting view on it Leftie.

  8. NO, because;
    1; It will add cost for no benefit
    2; It will add work for the team to set up the cars
    3; It will cause the cars to race on a set-up compromised by having to qualify on a totally different tyre
    4; It will add another complication to less experienced teams struggling to get their car to work as designed without sufficient testing.

    YES to a separate allocation of tyres for qualifying.

  9. Quote from another post.
    “I’d love to see qualifying tires back. An F1 car from 1989-1991 on a full-beans qualifying run”
    Back then they used qualifying engines too. And the teams had full access to the cars after qualifying to rebuild the car, change the engine, suspension and possibly gearbox from a one-lap-special to something that would actually last the race – with all the associated costs and development. Is that what you want? Seriously?

    Another quote from another post.
    “So if they burn out after a driver finishes his lap, it doesn’t matter.” So if they burn out after one lap, the driver goes back to the pits and the cars spend less time on the track. How is that an improvement?

    Qualifying has been exciting almost the entire season and last year too. It’s not broken so don’t try to fix it.
    It’s irrelevant to ponder whether cars should have qualifying tyres for Q1, 2 and 3 or 3 only, and how the 107% rule might be applied if they don’t, and how the Stewards would decide if someone was impeded on their Qualifying tyres, and what the TV time would be filled with if Q3 remains empty until thge last two minutes. It’s all pointless; the drivers try their damnedest on whatever tyres now. Giving them Qualies isn’t going to make them try harder.

    1. Qualifying has been exciting almost the entire season and last year too. It’s not broken so don’t try to fix it.
      Couldn’t be more wrong, Qualifying has been extremely dull, but that is due to RBR and Vettel, the only exception has been Hamilton and Alonso in two rounds and that wasn’t exactly exciting more slightly interesting.
      Qualifying has been over before its even started most of this season (and the end of last), I’m not saying the a Q tyre is the answer but something to stop Q3 being a snooze is needed. Saying its not broken is very wide of the mark, IMO.
      PS I normally agree with you 100% :-)

      1. “PS I normally agree with you 100%”
        That’s because I’m normally 100% right! :)

        I don’t agree with you about qualifying this year or last year. On many ocassions it’s been more fun than the race in my eyes. Any disappointment has probably been generated by the dominance of Red Bull snd their driver whatsisname . . . y’know. Not the Aussie.

  10. I think it’s a great idea, because we then get to see the best drivers in the world go out (even if it’s just in Q3) and fight as hard as they can for the coveted pole position, without having to worry about saving tyres for the race.

    I also like the added benefit that it would bring more variation to race strategies. As drivers would be able to choose the tyres that they start the race on, then we could start seeing more drivers in the top 6-10 gambling on starting on primes instead, without compromising their qualifying.

    Plus, as said about Mansell in Hungary, there could be drivers deciding to set up their cars better for the race than qualifying, which does make the race more exciting.

    The first example comes to mind, is Jenson Button in Canada. It’s slightly different in terms of that it was a setup for wet conditions, but still has the same principle.

    All in all, i’m all for qualifying tyres!

    1. Why not just give each driver who qualifies for Q3 a set of the option tyres, which must be used. That would mean there only needs to be 10 more sets of tyres brought to each race, and no developement costs.

      1. 10 more sets

        24 – you’d have to mount a set for every driver. Each team have their own wheels. Not enough time to do that between the end of Q2 and Q3 so have to do it in advance, and you wouldn’t know who’s going to be in Q3.

        1. But sets would already mounted for the race, so use one of these and mount the extra set after qualifying.

          1. Qualifying tyres wouldn’t be suitable for use in the race though – we’re talking about tyres that are only good for one lap.

  11. Why not permit each driver one set of qualifying tyres per qualifying session.

    This would put pressure of teams further up the field who would be questioning whether they have to sacrifice their qualifying tyres in Q2 or even Q1 in order to make sure that they get through to the next stage of qualifying.

    I think this could really mix up the running order and make for great racing.

    1. If these quali tyres are to be 2 sec faster than the supersofts then the Lotus’s could be up into the top 10 in Q1 assuming the other teams don’t use them.

      Therefore it would end up all drivers would have to use then in Q1. This would mean no change to present qualifying.

  12. Taking the time to read why so many voted yes to qualifying tyres, I see that most of you expect a more exciting session with more spectacular drives, nothing could be further from the truth. Super sticky qualifying tyres “stick” until the limit of their grip is reached and then they just completely let go causing a spin at best but more likely a crash due to the high speeds generated before they let go. If you want to see more action and more spectacular driving you need harder tyres that not only last longer but let go more progressively so the driver can push to the limit and beyond and recover when they get into a 4 wheel slide or the tail breaks away. With high downforce and super sticky tyres the cars look like they are on rails, not spectacular at all.

  13. I’m not a fan of Q tyres.

    Fur stoval*, it would flatten the race strategies, given that all of the teams would start with the same amount of tyres during the race.

    Now it’s exciting plenty, we saw Hamilton through on softs in Q2 in Hungary which gave him good race advantage, i’d like to see more of that later in the season.

    Second, i don’t want to see big differences in performance in Qualifying, drivers need to be as close together as possible during quali for our entertainment.

    Third, and some may disregard this argument because it’s biased and based solely on current circumstances, there’s a strong possibility it would further boost certain drivers Q performance which i also don’t want to witness. I won’t tell you which one i’m on about, all i can say is that he’s driving for Red Bull and he’s not Australian.

    1. * – if you read it loud and fast, it sounds exactly like First Of All.

  14. The most simple solution is for the teams to have more sets of tires for a race weekend. Compound choices now are pretty good and most who follow the sport like what they have added to the races.

    There is little value in producing a tire that becomes worn out after 400 to 500 meters of distance. Accepting this concept will accomplish nothing and serves no practical benefits.

    At present the range of tires is good enough. They just need to be able to access more sets during a weekend. That way a team can adjust their car based on the nature of the track, their cars ability to transfer the power to the tarmac and then focus on a plan that allows the maximun performance based on how the car reacts to the demands.

    The call for more tire sets will allow a team to maximize it potential instead of what we have today, forcing teams to under utilize its potential.

    Maybe 7 or 8 pitstops during a race will become vogue.

  15. UKfanatic (@)
    15th August 2011, 17:24

    I dont know but I would say No, because I don’t think that all the possible benefits refered in this arcticle would apply nowadays, actually none, it would only waste of money. First because of the level of competion second softer tyres are provinf to split teams performance this year, and third if you make a mistake with the qually tyres you are just as limited in the number of tyres as now.

  16. What they should do is allow only one set of qualifying tyres for all teams

    that will force teams to be strategic on how/when they use it and not just a case of “i’ll put it on all the time”

  17. I don’t see the point. If anything, qualifying tyres should be made out of rocks to see more mistakes and mix the field up a little bit.

    I personally am happy with the current tyre rules and compounds. Please fix other stuff instead.

    1. Like dull Qualifying?, the dullest in the last 5 – 6 years.
      Anything to fix it, doesn’t need to be the tires.

      1. I don’t see how the qualys are dull. Maybe because the result is usually the same? Qualy tyres won’t fix this.

  18. Looks like the vote-only crowd are overwhelmingly for qualifying tyres but the no-voters are the ones explaining their vote.

  19. If all the tyres are the same and every team uses or has the opportunity to use the same tyres, it shouldn’t really matter how soft the tyres are as no team benefits. The only benefit I can see is that qualifying times would come down. The fastest cars will still be the fastest cars and the fastest drivers will still be the fastest drivers.

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.