Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery has admitted that the prospect of qualifying tyres returning to F1 is now in the hands of the team owners, after the Italian company proposed their return as a means of ensuring every car runs when intended on a Saturday afternoon.
Although there have been no absentees from qualifying this season, some teams have taken the decision to save tyres once one or both of their drivers have made it through to a particular phase of the knock-out format, and this has been recognised not only by fans, but also by Pirelli and F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.
While Ecclestone suggested that the easiest solution to the problem would be to provide additional sets of rubber, Hembery revealed that that would not necessarily be the most economical method, especially with the manufacturer already having tyres returned, unused, at the end of a grand prix weekend. Instead, the Briton threw out the suggestion that the return of qualifying tyres may be a more viable alternative [see story here
Asked for further details of his proposal during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, however, Hembery revealed that the suggestion was now in the hands of the competing teams, who would have to decide whether it made sense to reintroduce the super sticky rubber some years after it was outlawed on grounds of cost and risk. Ironically, the last season in which qualifying tyres played a central role was 1991, Pirelli's last in F1 before returning this year. With Goodyear left as sole tyre supplier, there was no tyre war that required qualifying specials, and the FIA had decided to ban the short-life rubber before Bridgestone entered the sport in 1997.
"In reality, it was a discussion point," Hembery told journalists at the Belgian Grand Prix, "We're new back to the sport, [there are] certain things we have seen and we just wanted to know the teams' opinion. We've listened to fans, listened to teams [but], at the end, it's the teams' decision and it really went back to the point I've mentioned.
"We've got Sunday nights where we're having sets of tyres unused, and comments were coming through that fans were worried that teams were trying to save tyres during qualifying, so we thought we'd have another look at it. It probably needs a lot more looking at."
Hembery admitted that there had only been a lukewarm reaction to his initial suggestion, but that the idea remained on the table.
"Initial reaction was cool, I think that's the best thing to say, but sometimes these things. It's very complex, the tyre allocations have a big impact on the teams' strategy, so I think we need to go back and discuss a bit more."