This weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix saw much criticism for the way the teams held back for much of qualifying, almost afraid to put any type of wear on their tyres.
This continued through to race day, where drivers’ strategies revolved solely around getting rid of the troublesome option tyres as quickly as possible, then managing the primes for the rest of the race.
It’s a worrying scene, and only fuels many arguments that Formula 1 is only racing at 90% power, what with the increased emphasis on tyre conservation in recent years. From the teams’ points of view, there is nothing else they can do – if staying in the pits for the first 5 minutes of Q3 is the best tactical option (or all of Q3), then they must make that call, unpopular as it might be.
Pirelli have therefore come under fire for their high-degradation soft compound tyres, which only allow a handful of flat-out racing laps. However, this is exactly what they were instructed to create when they entered the sport. I feel that the adjustments necessary to fix the current tyre problem must be made by the FIA.
Obviously we can’t just revert to the days of rock-hard tyres and “cruise control” races – that would completely undermine all the improvements that have been made to the racing in recent years. However, in my opinion, changing the regulation on the Q3 tyres would encourage drivers to get out on track more. The rule that states that drivers must start on the tyre they qualified on, for example, is completely detrimental to the racing, and should be scrapped.
If this were to be removed, drivers would be more willing to push for the absolute best lap times on their Q3 laps, and it would also introduce more strategic options on race day – starting on the prime tyre would be much more feasible.
Similarly, it might also be worth having a look at the dual compound rule, which states that both the option and prime compounds must be used during a dry race. Again, this would diversify tyre strategies and reduce emphasis on conserving the option tyres.
I still think that F1 is currently in a fantastic position at the moment, with a massively talented grid of drivers, closely-fought title battles and plenty of on-track excitement, but there’s always improvements to be made. Improving the regulations behind the Pirellis would be a welcome boost to both the drivers and fans.