The Hungarian Grand Prix‘s trial of Alternative Tyre Allocation rules stirred debate around the sport’s progression towards sustainability. During the Hungaroring weekend, drivers were limited to 11 sets of dry tyres as opposed to the regular 13. Additionally, the hard, medium, and soft compounds had to be used in the three qualifying segments.
The downsizing of tyre sets is said to save approximately 17 tonnes of equipment being shipped to each race; a significant move towards Formula 1‘s sustainability objectives. Although this manoeuvre spurred an exciting race for pole position, some drivers were less thrilled, feeling that lesser tyres impede substantial track action during Friday practice.
Among the vocal critics was Mercedes team driver, Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton openly doubted the effectiveness of the sustainability drive focusing merely on the reduction of dry tyres. “I think when we’re talking about sustainability, just taking one set of tyres or two sets of tyres away is not enough. Each weekend there’s a lot of wet tyres that get thrown away, every single weekend,” he pointed out.
Countering their claims, Pirelli, F1‘s official tyre supplier, clarified that unused wet weather tyres from European races are always carried over to subsequent races. Mario Isola, Pirelli‘s head of F1 and motorsport, explained to F1 Initiative, “For the European events, we keep the tyres fitted on rims, and we carry over the tyres that are new. So we supply the teams with the same sets [as previous races].” However, he admitted that for races outside Europe, the carry-over process becomes more intricate due to customs reasons.
Isola shared that Pirelli is actively investigating measures to reuse rain tyres, even those separated from their rims. “The idea for the future is to have the possibility to dismount the tyres from the rims, and fit them again, at the following event,” he mentioned.
In continuation of their sustainability plan, Isola confessed to exploring options to not fit specific tyres in sunny weather races (such as Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, or Jeddah) to be reused in the following events. In the vein of reducing tyre waste, they are developing a method to check whether tyres stripped from rims can be reused. He stated, “When we strip the tyres, and we dismount the tyres from the rims, we send them back to the UK to Didcot and we have people checking all the tyres to understand if there is any damage to the bead.”
Improving tyre usability is also compatible with the non-pre-heating of wet weather tyres. Using these tyres more than once is viable as they are not subjected to a heat cycle. He clarified, “We can do that with the wet tyres because they are no more in blankets and we will do that for intermediate tyres with the new version without blankets.” These measure make no small difference, as this approach ensures only damaged tyres are replaced, leading to sizable savings.