The new qualifying format and tyre rules in place at Imola

Thomas Maher
Start of the sprint qualifying race. Imola April 2022

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the start of the sprint qualifying race. Imola April 2022

Formula 1 will use a revised qualifying format this weekend at Imola, while a new specification tyre will also be rolled out.

While this weekend is not a Sprint format event, the Formula 1 teams still have to contend with a different approach to the standard qualifying procedure on Saturday.

The usual Q1, Q2, and Q3 sessions are in place to determine the grid for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix but, following months of rumour, it was recently confirmed that a rule change has been put in place for the all-important qualifying hour.

Rather than having free choice of tyre, drivers will be made to go through each portion of qualifying on a particular compound – Q1 will see the teams obliged to use the Hard tyre, Q2 the Medium, and Q3 the Soft.

The reason for this is to allow Pirelli to reduce the amount of tyre sets brought to the Grand Prix, with a not-insignificant two sets of tyres per car no longer required to be ferried to the race.

“The first round of the 2023 season in Europe will feature two important innovations in terms of tyres, both aimed at improving the environmental sustainability of our sport,” Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola said coming into the weekend.

“The first centres around qualifying. At Imola, we will be testing a new regulation that requires teams to use a different type of compound for each of the three sessions, with the hards fitted for Q1, the mediums for Q2, and the softs for Q3. This means a reduction – from 13 to 11 – of the sets of dry tyres that each driver has available for the entire event, therefore decreasing the environmental impact generated by the production and transport of the tyres.”

Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Damon Hill welcomed the changes ahead of the weekend.

“I’m wetting my lips. I think it’s a great idea because it means that the race is not going to be one-stop, probably,” he said.

“And, in Q1, you’re probably going to have people doing more than one lap. They might even just fill them up and say, ‘off you go and try and get the heat in the tyres’.” recommends

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Added to the changes is the introduction of a brand-new specification full Wet tyre, the purpose of which is to allow full use on track without needing to be brought up to temperature with a pre-set tyre warmer before being fitted.

F1 intends to phase out the use of tyre blankets for all tyre compounds, although the move is not yet finalised due to ongoing concerns regarding the viability of creating tyres that are able to cope with the far wider temperature and pressure variations that such conditions would create. A vote on whether or not to use tyre warmers or not in 2024 will be held at F1 Commission level before 31st of July.

“Starting from this grand prix, a new compound of full wet tyre will be introduced which will not require the use of tyre warmers beforehand,” Isola explained.

“Track tests have shown even better performance than the previous Cinturato Blue full wet, even without the electric heating of the tyre. The result of studies carried out by Pirelli, it is the first concrete step towards the use of dry tyres without preheating.

“Finally, we have chosen to bring our range of softer compounds (C3, C4, and C5) to Imola, which could offer the teams a wider range of strategic options ahead of the race.”

Discussing the topic with Tom Clarkson on F1 Nation, Hill said the potential for drivers to make the difference in tyre warm-up adds a whole new dynamic to the challenge of a race weekend.

“The reason [for the new tyre] is that tyre warmers, obviously they’re plugged in and use up a lot of electricity for no apparent gain,” he said.

“The drivers will say something different because they much prefer to go out on preheated tyres than stone-cold tyres. But the argument is, ‘well, you are the best drivers in the world, can’t you heat up the tires carefully?’

“That’s another challenge because the energy used in heating up all these tyres all weekend is huge. Formula 1 is looking for opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint – that is an objective.

“With the wet tyre particularly, it should light up, it should start working almost immediately because they lose temperature more quickly than any tyre because they’ve been doused in water, usually!”