The inside story from Pirelli on the new F1 2023 qualifying format trial

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads away the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Imola, April 2022. Qualifying

Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads away the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Imola, April 2022.

Pirelli have explained the logic behind the new qualifying format which will be trialled at two Grand Prix weekends this season.

F1 is set to try out a revised qualifying format at two individual Grand Prix weekends this season, separate to the Sprint Qualifying format which will be used at six events in 2023.

The revised format will see drivers forced to use the Hard compound for Q1, the Medium compound for Q2, and the Soft compound for Q3, and is aimed at reducing the amount of tyre sets Pirelli ship to each Grand Prix – the change would allow the tyre manufacturer to bring just 11 sets of slick tyres per car, a reduction from 13.

While the two race weekends are yet to be officially confirmed, understands the first such weekend will be at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

Speaking after the Bahrain Grand Prix, Pirelli boss Mario Isola explained why the change is being evaluated – and it’s all down to F1’s collective efforts to achieve complete carbon neutrality by 2030.

“There is a plan from sustainability in Formula 1 where they are going to analyse every single detail to find a way to make the sport more sustainable and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030,” Isola explained to media in response to a question from

“That’s the plan, and it is a long journey, we know that there is a lot to do. Part of the discussion was how can we reduce transportation of material, because logistics in Formula 1 – in any motorsport championship – is a big part. In this discussion, there was a proposal to reduce the number of tyres.

“Obviously, it’s not easy, because we have a current situation that is working well – they have enough tyres for practice, qualifying, and the race. But we needed to find a way to reduce the tyres. So we needed to make a clever decision and that is to do that step by step, not to damage the show, for example, we test a format that is not going to work.”

Mario Isola explains the logic behind the changes

“One consideration was, in the current situation, you have a number of tyres that are used for free practice, and a number of tyres that are aside for the cars that are not reaching Q3, a batch of tyres that you have to use in qualifying, and the race – basically the same tyres,” he said.

“In free practice, with a current allocation of two, three, eight – two Hard, three Medium, and eight Soft, most of the teams focus on qualifying, they want the minimum number of sets for qualifying.

“Obviously, the sets suitable for qualifying are the Soft compound, because they don’t want to take any risk of making a mistake in qualifying, but the problem is that then you come to the race where you have maybe only one set of Hard, one set of Medium, and a lot of sets of Softs that are useless for the race.

“So, discussing this, we said that it’s good to keep qualifying and the race connected, but is there any other way to do that in order to have a better breakdown of compounds in the race?

“The idea was to stay on the six sets but why don’t we impose to have the Hards on for Q1, the same for everybody? Two sets, multiple attempts, because with the Hard compound, it’s not just two laps, it’s more. recommends

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“Q2 with the Medium, Q3 with the Soft – you have a progression in lap times, you have the possibility to do at least two runs for each part, if you like that.

“Then, for the race, you have two sets of Hard, two sets of Medium, and two sets of Softs available. So you can make any combination, you can decide to have either Medium-Soft-Soft, two-stops, or Hard-Medium one stop.

“Here, for example [in Bahrain], Red Bull was not able to run a strategy of Soft-Hard-Hard because they decided to use the second set of Hards on Saturday morning so they had only one set available.

“The idea was why don’t we do that? Two sets of Hards, Mediums, and Softs, and, for free practice, instead of six sets, they just need five. For me, it works. On paper, it works.

“There are a couple of races that I believe will be announced soon. And, in these races, we’ll test it. But I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work.”

Why the change will have an effect on finances and carbon emissions

Isola explained how the situation has evolved from the ruleset of just four years ago, when teams were able to select their own tyre allocations per compound – a rule that was removed in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was decided to remove this possibility because of COVID, to give more flexibility to Formula 1 to create a new calendar in 2020 because it was impossible to predict what was going to happen,” he said.

“We said, in 2021, to the teams that if they wanted to go back to the previous situation where they choose the sets, for us it’s fine – if we have time to produce the tyre and to ship the tyres – it is not an issue for us.

“They said no, they prefer to stay with the current situation with a fixed allocation because, in the past, they had people that were dedicated to making a plan of selection. So, it was an additional cost. With the current situation with a fixed selection, they have what they have, and then they make a plan for the race weekend and not also in advance.”

With Pirelli able to reduce the number of slick tyre sets in transit, this will have an effect on logistical costs and carbon emissions – although the exact figures for this are yet to be calculated.

“We will make an evaluation obviously, this kind of calculation must be certified by third parties to be monitored,” he said.

“But yeah, [Pirelli] are interested in doing that – we are working around reducing emissions in any step of the lifecycle of the tyre and we will be carbon neutral from 2023.

With the likes of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and Sergio Perez questioning the changes as being made with only the end spectacle in mind, Isola said he couldn’t see how the changes will have a detrimental effect.

“Every time that we have discussions about new proposals, teams and drivers want more and more tyres, more choices and all this, but this journey towards sustainability was agreed, involving everybody and we have to accept that,” he refuted.

“If we need to make modifications, we need to make modifications. We don’t want to damage the show. Because now, Formula 1 is very successful. We have very good races, we have a lot of action.

“I don’t see how we can have a worse situation as long as, for the race, they have exactly the same tyres. Or, even better, because they have more flexibility in the tyre choice. I don’t see a reason. Maybe qualifying is not the same because they don’t have soft, soft, soft, soft, soft, soft, whatever. It is what it is – two sets of Hard compounds and however many fast laps you can try in 18 minutes!”