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

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Images ?? Honda, Pirelli

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

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  1. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. I should have specified that the allocation would be on a “use them or lose them” basis.

  2. 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.

    1. A very good post Damon, I must say I am as of yet undecided (vote No opinion?) but going from being very positive to rather sceptical during the day.

    2. Yes it would need a redesign of the current system, which is why I’m for it. Qualifying has been so dull. However there are other solutions, like an extra set of S.soft just for Q3.

    3. Agreed Damon. We are in a very good era to be a Formula 1 fan. We should embrace where we are, not where we were.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. and on another note:

    If the quali tyres were brought back into F1, they should give each driver 2 sets for the whole of qualifying, that they can use at any stage. So virgin would probably use both in q1, where as redbull would probably try not to use one in q1, running the risk of going out early…..

  7. If only to end the unspeakably oligophrenic rule about starting the race on the qualifying tyres, this is a great addition, even if they are made of stone. Now, for good measure, if the @@@@ing rule about the mandatory use of both compounds in the race could be scrapped too…

  8. What is next? Return of qualifying engines? Special qualifying aeropackages? Hell, unique fuel only for qualifying?

    For the people complaining about drivers not doing laps during qualifying this year, how often has that happened? Not often and rarely done by the top three teams. More importantly, the risk doesn’t always pay off.

    1. You make a good point. Where does it stop? Personally I love seeing the continuity we have between qualifying and the race.

  9. Just what F1 needs, more gimmicks !. Oh come on F1 is looking micky mouse as it is, now where talking bubble gum tyres for 1 lap…(holds head in hand slowly nodding).

  10. Can’t help but feel that some are watching the wrong series of motorsport.

    It used to be that F1 had ‘one lap wonder’ tyres, and now people just want to see something akin to touring car racing. They’ll be wanting success ballast next!

    Each driver will have to get a banker or two in on the harder tyre anyway, before they go for their run on the qualifiers. No point just going out on a qualifying run without first making sure that you’re the fastest on the harder tyre.

    If they want to please themselves, they’ll do it. If, however, they listen to want fans want….

  11. I would go along with ballast – why not?

  12. Memo to FIA, Bernie, Pirelli:

    Don’t mess with qualifying. It’s not broke! Sometimes it’s the most exciting part of a race weekend. So don’t screw it up!

  13. It’s not, that would be to much. We have KERS, which is pretty cool, DRS, which is a little less cool but still nice to have, and we have these awesome, quickly degrading pirelli tyres. Why do we need a forth gimmick?

  14. You don’t need qualifying tyres. If Pirelli takes a compound of tyre that is really too soft for the conditions as one of the mandated two compounds that pretty much does the same thing.

    We haven’t seen a race yet this year where the harder ‘prime’ tyre was the one to be on in race conditions. I think it’s high time we saw that.

  15. I think its could be good; they “fixed” boring races, but made qualifying boring instead; so qualifying tires could remedy that… or would it be too perfect to have both races and quali sessions exciting at the same time? :D

  16. I don’t like the idea of quali tyres for 2 reasons:

    1. A far easier solution is to give all teams a maximum of 2 sets of options for the race and 2 for qualifying. That would simply mean 1 extra set per race than what they have today. They cannot burn up a 3rd set in quali, nor can they save a 3rd set for the race. So, everyone can push in qualifying on the options, without having to worry about the race. So, no more drivers that refuse to set a time in Q3 to save a set of options. It would also provide 2 fresh sets of options to the slower teams for the race, which would can help brining the field a little closer.

    2. Quali tyres would last only 1 lap. That would have serious consequences:
    – if that lap is compromised, they’d have to come in the pits, get a fresh set, a little refuellig maybe and head out again. In Q3, there will not always be time for that. Therefore, “luck” would play too big a part in qualifying, which I would not like.

    – Just like safety, so did the financial interests in the sport evolve in the past 2 decades. Teams are now under more pressure than ever to deliver results. Crashgate was an extreme indication of that. With tyres that last only 1 lap, how tempting would it be to block a competitor on a hot lap? You can try to take away the temptation by making the penalties more severe. But that means that an honest mistake is also penalised much more severe. More negative pressure on the drivers. And more pressure on the marshalls too, to take the correct decision, given the implications on the affected drivers.

    All this for what, exactly? What would be the added value of a totally different 1-lap quali tyre over a slight change in the tyre allocation suggested in point 1?

  17. My idea:

    Every driver gets 1 set of Quali tyres for the entire session.

    It’ll bring up interesting strategies, as some teams will use theirs right away in Q1 (like HRT etc.) and the odd Lotus could knock out a Williams/Toro Rosso that took a chance on saving them for Q2. In Q2 you get the same thing but with the big teams risking not making Q3 if they save theirs.

  18. As the post-qualifying parc fermé will continue to exist, I believe the so-called re-introduction of qualifying tyres will only make the sport even more complicated for the casual fan.

  19. the thought of alonso hamilton vettel webber given it all with sticky pirelli makes my mouth water oh yes bring it on, and while we are on qualifing engines too.

  20. I simply cannot understand why having qualifying tyres would bring anything to the show. Other than additional costs and a environmental waste in producing tyres for just one lap, it would bring nothing meaningful to qualifying that is not already provided under the current system.

    No need to fix something that in my opinion isn’t broken

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