Formula 1 is discussing whether to keep the rule which forces drivers who reach Q3 to start the race on used tyres, following concerns it increases the advantage of the top teams.
All drivers who reach the final phase of qualifying must start the race using the tyres on which they set their quickest lap times in Q2.
While midfield drivers usually need the softest tyre available to progress from Q2, drivers from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull who reached Q3 in the last two races were able to do so using harder rubber. This put the midfield runners who reached Q2 at a disadvantage.
Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola said there had been discussions about abolishing the ‘Q3 tyre rule’ and he supports the change.
“We saw some races in which we had rain in qualifying and it was interesting to see the different tyre choices. Personally I’m in favour. It creates an additional element of strategy to give them the freedom. I don’t remember why there was this rule but it’s probably coming from the past.”
The rule was introduced with the goal of varying strategies between the front-running teams. FIA race director Charlie Whiting believes that need remains and the rule shouldn’t change. “It was done for a reason which still holds true today so I don’t think we should do that,” he said.
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However Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes the rule only increases the advantage the top three teams enjoy over the rest of the field.
“The intention with starting the people not getting into Q3 with starting free tyre choice was to mix it up,” he said. “But in the end it helped the big ones because they can go into Q2 with a harder tyre which helps them in the race. So we again missed the target here with what it’s supposed to do.”
“I think the biggest problem was as we saw in Singapore and Sochi that if you’re one of the top three you go in with the harder tyre to the race and have got an advantage,” he added. “Already you’re one and a half seconds faster, plus the tyre advantage, all of a second you are two and a half seconds faster.”
When the advantage the rule confers on front runners was pointed out to Whiting, he said: “But that will always be the case, of course.
“When you’ve got cars that are significantly faster than the second group, if you want to call them that, then they can get through Q2 on their preferred tyre.”
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