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How drivers feel about CONTROVERSIAL tyre rule being trialled at Monza

How drivers feel about CONTROVERSIAL tyre rule being trialled at Monza

How drivers feel about CONTROVERSIAL tyre rule being trialled at Monza

How drivers feel about CONTROVERSIAL tyre rule being trialled at Monza

As F1 adapts to a more sustainability-conscious world, organisers have implemented several new processes and rules to help the sport become better for the planet.

One such change has been the alternative tyre allocation (ATA) which limits the sets of tyres a driver can use over the weekend to 11 rather than 13.

The ATA only occurs at two races per season according to the sporting regulations, cutting down the number of slick tyres used in the season by 360.

Some competitors have suggested that the tyre allocation makes the weekend ‘exciting’. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc spoke positively about the system used during the Hungarian Grand Prix, saying: “Everybody’s trying different things, but it’s nice because I think we will go into qualifying not really knowing where we are and I’m sure that’s exciting, but the feeling was pretty good, so this is positive.”

But while a sense of mystery is fun and the positive environmental ramifications of reducing tyre counts at races should not be underestimated, the system has been met with hostility by several drivers who think it negatively impacts the weekend.

After the ATA was brought in for the first time at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this year, drivers including Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen voiced their concerns about the system.

But what is most at risk of being damaged by the new set-up; and is it outweighed by the system’s benefit to the environment and the advancement of the sport in terms of sustainability?

Fan experience

During a Formula 1 weekend, fans turn out in their droves, come rain or shine, to enjoy drivers excelling on track. As the sport grows ever more popular (and tickets more expensive and tricky to get hold of) that experience must be in the forefront of the minds of race organisers.

Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola has said of the move: “The target is to reduce the number of tyres that they’re going to use without damaging the show.” However, it seems several drivers disagree.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton expressed concerns about the ATA’s potential to damage the fan experience after its first implementation in Budapest, because teams get less running during practice sessions and therefore there is less entertainment for fans to enjoy.

Fans turn out whatever the weather to cheer drivers on

He suggested at the time that teams throw away several sets of wet tyres each weekend, and that ‘maybe they should look at something like that rather than taking time on track away from the fans’.

Two-time world champion Alonso was in agreement, saying he felt ‘sad’ for the audiences in Budapest on the Friday.

He said at the time: “I think it didn't add anything to the show. I feel sad for the spectators, they paid the ticket for Friday, FP1, FP2 and FP3, and cars [are] in the garage because we don't have tyres to run."

Lack of preparation

Of course, the main point of the practice sessions ahead of races is to prepare the teams for the situations they may encounter in the race and to gauge how the weekend could play out.

Several drivers have noted that because of the limited use of tyres, teams in Budapest were reluctant to run certain compounds in order to save them for later sessions.

In Budapest, defending champion Verstappen said of the new system: “With this new format, you are super limited with the tyres you can use and I didn't want to use them today to at least have better preparation tomorrow."

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have voiced concerns about the ATA

The Dutchman added: "It's a shame. There are so many people around and you basically don't run a lot so we will have to see what we can do to improve that. We are literally just saving tyres which I think is not the correct thing.”

Alonso also highlighted the importance of testing during practice sessions, explaining in Budapest: “I think the biggest downside of this format is the practice that we cannot test because we are saving tyres.

"I'm not a fan of the format. I think it was a disaster to see cars not running in free practice because we are saving tyres.”

Why bother with practice sessions?

Some drivers have suggested that the new rules make the practice sessions during that race weekend effectively obsolete, given the teams’ reluctance to use up tyres early on in the weekend.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz felt that the tyre allocation rendered the weekend ‘very boring’ in Budapest.

He said at the time: "I find [the format] interesting for quali, for the rest of the weekend, very dull, very boring.

“We arrive here on a Wednesday to prepare everything. And then on Friday you spend more time in the garage than running [in front of] the fans, because we have no tyres."

Carlos Sainz had some choice words for the new ATA system

Sainz added: “Why even bother doing two one-hour practice sessions if you don't have tyres to run? Or why even having Friday if we have no tyres to run on them and to learn from the car, the track and put on a show for the fans?”

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen felt similarly, saying: “They might as well cut down the sessions. Just have maybe one practice or two.”

What Monza could bring

Last time the system was used in Budapest, inclement weather was ‘lucky’, according to McLaren driver Lando Norris. This is because rain restricts the use of slick tyres, allowing teams to practice on track without using up their tyre compounds.

Norris said of the ATA at the time: “I think we were lucky it rained, otherwise pretty much no one would have done anything in P1. It's complicated, it's confusing to me even."

Lando Norris said he found the tyre rules at the Hungarian Grand Prix 'confusing'

His team-mate Oscar Piastri agreed that the situation was ‘tricky’, adding: "I think it would have been quite a limited day of running if it was fully dry.”

Currently, rain is on the radar for parts of the Grand Prix this weekend at Monza, where the ATA will once again be trialled. Could this help teams which are nervous about wasting slick tyres early in the weekend?

The ATA system, following the two trial weekends this year, could come into force permanently and all year round. Isola said that following the tests, “the FIA, F1 and the teams will decide whether or not to adopt it for next season”.

Drivers have often been opposed to advancements that end up helping the sport – the obvious examples being safety features such as the halo. But will the restriction of tyre usage prove innovative and sustainable, or damaging to the integrity of the sport and the value of its entertainment? Only time will tell…

READ MORE: F1 expert explains how teams decide when to RISK slick tyres in rain

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