Pirelli seeks talks with FIA and F1 teams over flawed wet-tyre rule

A new way of allocating wet-weather rubber for 2024 meant teams were reluctant to use any intermediate tyres in Suzuka’s damp FP2 session because they wanted to save them for later in the weekend.

It meant that drivers sat in garages for most of the session, with the only major running coming very late on when conditions were dry enough for slicks.

The lack of action left fans frustrated and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton bemoaned new regulations having triggered the situation.

“It is shame we didn’t get that session,” he said about FP2. “They have changed the tyre rule, so therefore no one goes out and runs on the intermediate, which just doesn’t make sense, really. But there you go.” 

The situation Hamilton was referring to is tweaks made to the F1 sporting regulations over the winter that were originally aimed at increasing the allocation of rain tyres for all teams.

Instead of four sets of intermediates and two sets of full wets as they got in 2023, teams are now allowed five inters and three wets per grand prix weekend.

However, as part of the deal agreed to allow this extra set, a rule that gave teams a free set of tyres on wet Fridays was removed.

Previously, at events where there was no sprint race scheduled, if either of the two Friday practice sessions were declared wet, then an additional set of intermediates would be made available to any driver who used that compound in the session.

This effectively meant there was a free tyre set available, and it encouraged teams to run in the session because there was no downside to adding life to the inter.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Now, however, burning through an intermediate could leave teams exposed to not having as good a tyre allocation as rivals who have saved sets if qualifying or/and the race are wet – which is why so few drivers ran with inters at Suzuka.

Pirelli’s chief engineer Simone Berra said the rule change was not something the manufacturer had had any influence over, and it was obvious how it had contributed to what took place in Japan on Friday.

“This [rule change] was obviously voted by all the teams together with FIA and F1,” said Berra.

“Obviously nowadays a team doesn’t have to return one set of intermediates after it is used in free practice, like it was last year. So especially at this circuit, where you have, let’s say, a high level of degradation, and considering that we could have some rain on Sunday, most of them decided to keep the five sets unused apart from RB and other teams that did an out- and in-lap.

“It is something that we will discuss further with the FIA and with the teams, to try to find a way to make them run in practice. It is not our decision in the end, but in the next weeks it will be a topic for discussion.”

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Berra believed a simple tweak could work in encouraging teams to run in damp practice session: making it mandatory that all teams had to return one set of intermediates after a session that has been declared wet.

“They can keep the five sets from the start but, if a session is declared wet, then you have to return one set of intermediates,” he explained.

“It then makes no sense not to use it and [instead] return a new set. So that will be a way to encourage them to run.”

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