Is it time to bring back qualifying tyres?

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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

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

  1. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 15th August 2011, 14:18

    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!

    • W-K (@w-k) said on 15th August 2011, 15:14

      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.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th August 2011, 15:20

        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.

  2. Mark Martin said on 15th August 2011, 14:31

    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.

    • W-K (@w-k) said on 15th August 2011, 15:22

      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.

  3. HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th August 2011, 15:50

    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.

  4. Randy said on 15th August 2011, 16:33

    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.

  5. TED BELL said on 15th August 2011, 17:13

    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.

  6. UKfanatic (@) said on 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.

  7. rabi_sultan (@rabi_sultan) said on 15th August 2011, 17:25

    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”

  8. dennis said on 15th August 2011, 18:30

    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.

  9. HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th August 2011, 18:36

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

  10. scoobiesnoop (@scoobiesnoop) said on 15th August 2011, 18:40

    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.

  11. Fixy (@fixy) said on 15th August 2011, 18:44

    I think they should come back. One set that last three flying laps, so that Q3 won’t be all about one lap, per qualifying session.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th August 2011, 19:17

      Fixy, this seems to be why we have 100 more fans wanting a qualifying tyre but I think you would get the result you want with a separate allocation of the option tyre for qualifying, so the teams don’t need to save the tyres for the race. This is different to having a special compound qualifying tyre, and a solution I support. What about you?

  12. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 15th August 2011, 18:59

    No. I don’t agree with the people that say qualifying would be made more dangerous by introducing a qualifying tyre, but with the current Q1-Q2-Q3 structure, it’s difficult to imagine how it would work. Besides, qualifying in recent years, especially since the race-fuel rule was abolished, have been anything but boring.

    I suspect that a lot of the reason this idea has been so popular is because it is seen as a return to the “golden years”, when in fact, I think the current era of Formula 1 is perhaps the most exciting ever, even if it is for different reasons. The qualifying tyre could be used, but it would mean the entire qualifying system would have to be completely redesigned to accommodate it.

  13. HoHum (@hohum) said on 15th August 2011, 19:26

    Just a quick thought, we could probably achieve what everybody ( statisticians excepted) wants simply by banning use of the option tyre in qualifying.

  14. maxthecat said on 15th August 2011, 21:06

    NO, i for one don’t want to go back to the 80’s/90’s where qualifying times were sometimes 10-15 seconds a lap quicker than the race. Knowing they were driving well within the car spoilt race day.

  15. Mike-e said on 15th August 2011, 21:32

    Qualifying should be about ultimate one lap pace. Take the world superbikes for instance, the place where this format of qualifying came from, they use qualifying tyres and the result is spectacularly exiting flat out pace. You shouldn’t have to worry about saving tyres or any of that nonsense in quali, it should be about pure unadulterated speed. The race is the place where you worry about all that, the 2 shouldn’t be connected in this way.

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