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3 Dec 2015

The WMSC last night ratified the changes that Pirelli will implement for the 2016 season.  The statement itself was quite confusing and I profess to having to read it several times before it became a little clearer.

Even with the help of a press release from the Italian tyre giant I can see it is still confusing to many and so I thought I'd try and break it down into a more digestible format...

Pirelli will supply an additional slick tyre in 2016, increasing its offering from 4 to 5 dry weather compounds: Ultra Soft (Purple banding), Super Soft (Red banding), Soft, (Yellow banding), Medium (White banding) and the Hard (Orange Banding).  These will continue to be supplemented by the Intermediate (Green banding) and Wet (Blue banding) weather tyres.

Leading up to each event the tyre manufacturer will designate three dry weather compounds that can be used at the event by each driver, allowing them to select 10 sets from their 13 set allocation.  From this point forth I'll be calling these the "Selected Tyres"

The other 3 sets, made up of two compound choices, will be determined by Pirelli and CAN differ from the compounds given to the drivers to select.  Two sets of the softest compound from the selection will be made available and one of the harder.  One of the softest selections will be used for Q3 in qualifying.  From this point forth I'll be calling these the "Control Tyres"

Sounds a bit confusing doesn't it, well that is because of the format issues and the way tyres are handed back to Pirelli at different points throughout a weekend.  Of the thirteen sets available to the driver he must hand the following back:

  • One set after the first 40 minutes of FP1 
  • One set at the end of FP1
  • Two sets at the end of FP2
  • Two sets at the end of FP3
This leaves the driver with 7 sets of tyres to complete qualifying and the race.  One of the sets of the "Control tyres" given by Pirelli MUST BE used during the race, perhaps leading to some interesting strategies in terms of both qualifying and race deployment.  As is currently the case, drivers competing in Q3 will start the race on the tyres they set their fastest time on in Q2.

At any one point it could be possible for us to see three different compounds in use.  Drivers, even within the same team will be able to make their choice from the "Selected Tyres" from the three in the selection list, whilst Pirelli may choose altogether different "Control Tyres", although on safety grounds we'll never see the Ultra Soft and Hard compounds used at any event.

It's important to note that the "Control Tyres" are only chosen by Pirelli once the drivers/teams have made their "Selected Tyre" choice, this eliminates any chance of extreme strategy options being run by the drivers/teams and then blaming Pirelli for allowing it.

Pirelli chose the Soft and Medium for Melbourne in 2015 producing just a singular pit-stop for the entire field.  Disappointing given their remit to produce races with 2 to 3 stops...

As such they'll look to be more aggressive in 2016 (and whilst I hear they'll only allow the Ultra-Soft on street circuits I hope this includes Melbourne and Montreal ;) ) hopefully (see previous caveat) giving the teams freedom to choose from the Ultra Soft, Super Soft and Soft.  Then selecting either the Super Soft and Soft or Super Soft and Medium as the control tyres.  This would open up the window in terms of strategy and also allows the teams to select the Ultra Soft as a one lap wonder tyre for qualifying.  This could allow the weakest teams to challenge for Q2, the midfield challenge for Q1 and/or give us a superb battle for pole.  Meanwhile for the race all of the teams will have undoubtedly used the Ultra for Q2 and have to start on those, forcing them into at least a 2 stop race...

The biggest problem with this format change is it really removes the Prime and Option tyre scenario we currently have, making it a little difficult to follow for those used to the current format.  Whilst I understand why Pirelli have done what they have, as it is an attempt to spice up the racing and give the teams some of the control they wanted I can't help thinking there are easier ways to go about it, especially for the fans.
Monaco 2009 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) on the option tyre (green band) battles with Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) on the Prime

When Bridgestone provided a Prime and Option tyre the viewing public were not aware of its potential and/or if the compound had changed from race-to-race, even though they were...
Whilst I admire Pirelli's transparency, for the sake of the casual viewer it may have been easier to just switch back to this method, with the decisions being taken behind close doors.  Had they chose to do so, they could have just introduced a qualifying tyre and moved around the allocations to allow for it.


  1. Matt, on what source do you conclude that the teams can freely choose the compounds out of the five dry weather options for their selected tyres? Because according to the pirelli statement

    - 'The remaining 10 sets can be chosen by each team, from the three compounds nominated for the race weekend.'

    Furthermore this statement adds about the control tyres: 'The two mandatory sets nominated by Pirelli cannot be given back during practice and must be available for use in the race. At least ONE of these two sets must be used during the race - but the teams can decide which one.'

    And last, i think the drivers who won't make it to q3 will have 7 sets of tyres for the race, since they won't have to return the softest control tyre to pirelli.

  2. Hi
    I haven't said that they can choose freely, I said they can choose freely from the three options selected by Pirelli to form their 10 sets. The remaining three sets will be from the control sets selected by Pirelli independently of this.

    In regard to your second statement I've covered this too "One of the sets of the "Control Tyre" must be used during the race, which will lead to some interesting qualifying and race deployment strategies"

    Perhaps I should have also pointed out that this does open up the possibility of teams using just that compound for the entire race too.

    Nothing to say that the Q3 runners have to give their tyres back either.. Could just return to the allocation..

    1. Then i've misread the article a bit, i'm sorry that i've mistakenly brought that up. For the Q3 runners, the official Pirelli statement says:
      -'The top 10 at the end of qualifying will still have to give back the set of the softer compound nominated for Q3, and start the race on the tyres with which they set their fastest time in Q2 (the same rule as is the case currently). All other drivers will be able to use the set that is saved for Q3 during the race.'

      But in the end i hope the racing will get better, than digesting such statement, which i think Pirelli could've done a better job explaining by making a video tutorial...

    2. No problem, you're right about the Q3 runners giving those tyres back, it will remain as it currently is havin re-read the last part of the press release. I'm sure Pirelli will produce some content to explain all of this..

  3. Going back to the days when everything the FIA did was published in French wouldn't make this any more confusing.

    Our sport is run by idiots.

  4. Everything Pirelli and the FIA have done in F1 feels to me to be overly obfuscated and complex - but that's why a good solid technical blogging site is so useful ;)

  5. I'm really losing interest in F1, its sad for me because it has been my #1 for motorsport.

    1. I've been an F1 fan for about 45 years (and boy was it tough in the USA to be a fan back then, you had to wait for Autoweek just to find out anything about each race).

      I do feel sometimes like Anonymous has said, that I'm losing interest. Then I read the articles like these and the engine (sorry, "power unit") analysis and remember that it's really a sport that has to studied and reviewed. What happens on Sunday is really just a part of it.

  6. This has to be the most complex way of achieving something that should be quite simple.

    The current problem is that front wing design does not allow a following car to get sufficiently close to another car on a similar strategy. F1 is data driven and so the strategy that maintains track position with the fewest stops is the preferred option. This strategy will apply to both drivers in the same team, QED, they will be on the same tyres, on the same strategy. Their only risk is if a mid-field team is on a softer tyre strategy in Qually. So they just sit it out - a bit like how Mercedes eventually passed Williams at Silverstone. I do not see how this can be a game changer in terms of making outcomes more unpredictable and the racing more exciting.

    Given some free thinking, can you say how you would achieve better racing? I thing that mandating a minimum number of pit stops for a given track and mandating say 10 guys in the pit lane for a mandatory 10-15 second stop would ensure that track position is lost as well as throwing a dice for potential finger issues.


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