Horner opposed to fixed tyre stint limits in future

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Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner is against the idea of the FIA handing down tyre life limits and mandating the number of pit stops during races in future.

Last weekend, tyre providers Pirelli detected some worrying issues with the sidewalls of their tyres at Lusail International Circuit, and told teams that they could run each set for no more than 18 laps in total on safety grounds.

That fundamentally changed how the teams approached the race by removing any 'out of the box' thinking about long stints on the hard compound, and meant that teams couldn't spring a surprise on their rivals.

In the end most teams opted for very similar strategies for each of what turned out to be three stops during the 57-lap race. "It made it a lot more predictable because you know what the maximum stint length for each car was," said Horner.

The only driver to make four visits to pit lane was George Russell, who had an early extra stop after a first corner collision with his Mercedes team mate obliged him to head in for repairs and fresh tyres.

And the emergency stipulation about tyre life made little difference to Max Verstappen, who cruised his way to victory on Sunday having led every lap.

But more flexibility might have helped help team mate Sergio Perez strategise to better than P10, having started from pit lane because of repairs to the car under parc ferme conditions following an accident in the Sprint on Saturday.

Perez was unique in starting the race on hard tyres and rose to third place before pitting for mediums on lap 17, but plummeted to P16 after stopping leaving him with a hard slog for the rest of the evening.

Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal celebrates with 1st place Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. 24.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Horner said Perez' prospects had been 'diluted' by the tyre life limits, which he felt had made the GP too prescriptive and predictable, and that therefore there was no case for it to happen again in the future as a regular feature.

“From a safety point of view I fully understand why they did it [in Qatar]," he told the media in the paddock last weekend. “[But] I think you've got to give the freedom and that creates the creativity.

“You want to run your fastest race," he insisted. "Whether it's a one-stop or two-stop or three-stop, that's where we need to be at.

“Mandated pitstops will have effects on the end of qualifying and how many laps you do in qualifying to save tyres for the race," he explained. "So that to me doesn't make sense."

The tyre life restrictions did mean that Verstappen's winning margin over the two McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris was 'just' 4.8 seconds - big by most standards, but virtually a knife edge by Red Bull standards this season.

Verstappen has been outstanding at managing his tyres throughout the season, and the tyre limits on Sunday eliminated this factor from the race. An early safety car also affected team strategy.

"It was a different race and it tested the strategists in a different way," Horner said. “Maybe strategically it wasn't the optimum strategy for this race - two stop and tyre deg and some of the other things would have come into play.

"It was about managing the risk and exposure of a safety car within the last ten laps, which is why we went past an optimal strategy.

"[We wanted] to make sure that we had the coverage in the event the drivers behind had a free stop to give Max the best tyres possible," he explained.
“So it was a risk limitation strategy, particularly in that last ten.”

Pirelli was confirmed as the winner of the FIAs latest tender as F1's sole tyre provider, extending their tenure from the end of 2025 until 2027 with the option to extend an additional year.

The Italian manufacturer fought off a rival bid from their Japanese rivals Bridgestone despite criticism from some quarters about the way the tyres have been designed and manufactured in recent seasons.

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