F1 teams block last-minute FIA attempt to close sprint tyre rule loophole

Henry Valantine
F1 Tyres in tyre blankets. Austin, USA. October, 2022

Tyres in tyre blankets. Austin, USA. October, 2022

F1 teams have blocked a last-minute move from the FIA to close an unexpected loophole in the tyre rules on the revised sprint format.

The new standalone ‘Sprint Shootout’ will determine the grid for the sprint itself on Saturday, with mandatory tyre sets having to be used in SQ1, SQ2 and SQ3 respectively – mediums for SQ1 and SQ2, softs for SQ3.

But the rule in its current guise does not oblige F1 teams to keep a brand-new set of soft tyres for Saturday’s shortened qualifying format for the sprint.

The wording of the regulation currently reads: “In the period SQ3 of the sprint shootout, up to one set of dry-weather tyres may be used, and this must only be a new set of the soft specification.”

This inadvertently leaves the door open for teams who are perhaps not anticipating making it through to Q3 or SQ3 in normal circumstances to be able to use all their new sets of soft tyres in Friday’s ‘standard’ qualifying session – with the wording making it possible for drivers to make it through to SQ3 and not take part if they do not carry over a new set of softs.

In turn, this can allow teams who often need to use multiple sets of tyres to advance from Q1 an advantage if they have more fresh sets of softs available, if they choose to use an extra set in ‘standard’ qualifying – at a cost of having to stay in the garage in SQ3, should they get there on merit.

The FIA organised a vote on Friday among the teams to try and close the loophole in the rule, but the F1 teams voted against the last-minute change on this occasion, despite provisions being in place to allow “temporary” changes to rules on sprint weekends, if eight teams vote to approve them.

This vote did not get the required backing from the F1 teams this time around, but the FIA and the teams are able to discuss the rule again before the next sprint takes place in Austria in July.

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What does the new F1 Sprint Shootout format look like?

The Q1/Q2/Q3 format used in qualifying carries over into the Sprint Shootout, which sees the sessions shortened from what the drivers would normally have available to them, as follows:

SQ1 – 12 minutes (medium tyres mandatory)

SQ2 – 10 minutes (medium tyres mandatory)

SQ3 – 8 minutes (soft tyres mandatory)

As with ‘regular’ qualifying, five drivers will be eliminated at the end of SQ1 and SQ2, leaving the final 10 drivers to set the front slots on the grid for the sprint on Saturday afternoon.