During this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix in Formula 1, the Alternative Tyre Allocation, a new experimental regulation for tyre allocation during the race weekend, will make its debut at the Hungaroring racing track.
Originally, the first weekend featuring this particular format was supposed to be Imola in May of last year. However, due to the cancellation of the event following the tragic flood that hit the circuit and the surrounding areas, it was postponed to another date.
With this experimental format, which requires the use of the hard compound in Q1, the medium in Q2, and the soft in Q3, the idea is to save two sets of tyres per driver for the weekend, reducing the total number from thirteen to eleven sets.
The tyre allocation will be divided into three sets of hard tyres, four sets of medium tyres, and four sets of soft tyres. The allocation for wet conditions remains unchanged: four sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of full wet tyres. Each driver will have a total of seven sets of tyres for Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race, with at least one set of hard and one set of medium tyres to be preserved for the race, as per regulations. Of the remaining four available sets, one will be returned after the first free practice session, one after FP2, and two after the final practice session.
The alternative allocation rules were primarily conceived to improve the sustainability aspect in Formula 1 by reducing the number of tyre sets that Pirelli has to bring for each weekend, amounting to a total of 160 tyres. This experiment with the format will also be repeated at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, providing the Federation and the manufacturer with the necessary data to evaluate its potential permanent implementation in the future.
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For this weekend, Pirelli has introduced an additional aspect to consider by bringing the softest available tyre compounds to Budapest, which are softer than the allocation from last year. “With the alternative tyre allocation, all teams will have two sets of hard tyres, two sets of medium tyres, and two sets of soft tyres for the race,” explained Mario Isola from Pirelli in an interview from earlier this year.
“So, we can go for softer compounds, and even though this increases the number of pit stops, they have enough tires. With the current system, I don’t want to say it’s risky, because it’s just that they have to make more pit stops, but if they come into the race with only one set of hard tires, one set of medium tires, and all the rest soft tires, and the soft ones are too soft, it doesn’t represent an ideal situation for the race. In this case, a situation is created that is not natural and not what we want.” – the Pirelli boss explained.
“If things work, we will keep [the ATA rules], if they don’t work, we will go back to the previous ones. The approach is the right one because, unfortunately, even if you try to predict every possible detail, there is always something that is unpredictable.” – he added.
The teams are willing to see how the new regulations will evolve this weekend, although there are teams that haven’t hidden some doubts about this format. Max Verstappen was the first to speak negatively about it a few months ago, criticizing mainly the safety risks of having to run with the hard tires in qualifying on tracks with low asphalt temperatures.
“I think the alternative tyre allocation is something positive to try. I don’t think the drivers mind it at all. We have already used different compounds in qualifying in the sprint events, obviously in Baku and not in the last race in Austria due to the peculiar weather,” said Tom McCullough from Aston Martin.
“It’s just about adapting to understanding the different tires and trying to give the drivers enough practice on the different compounds before qualifying and still having good race tires. That’s the challenge for everyone. I think it’s interesting to try something like this.”
Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, admitted to being somewhat frustrated that there is a mandatory choice in qualifying. “We’ll have to wait and see how it goes. I would always prefer to have the freedom to choose what to do, to be honest. Even if we sometimes don’t use it, at least we had this opportunity,” he pointed out – “The more things are prescribed, the less chance there is to do something. But I’m open to seeing how it goes. We’ll find out.”