Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda incidents prompt sprint qualifying rule change

Thomas Maher
McLaren's Lando Norris at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, April 2023. Sprint Qualifying

McLaren's Lando Norris at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, April 2023.

The FIA have made a rule change ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix sprint weekend.

The rules have been tweaked ahead of this weekend’s sprint qualifying and race to ensure no drivers are running intermediate tyres during a dry session, as might have happened at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Originally, the rules stated that all drivers were obliged to use new medium tyres for the first and second part of qualifying on Saturday, and then use new softs in SQ3. But, teams prioritising Friday qualifying for the Grand Prix could use their new softs up and, as a result, this left open the possibility that a team could send out drivers on intermediates onto a dry track in order to obey the wording of the rules for the Saturday qualifying session.

Lando Norris had intermediates on standby in Azerbaijan

At the first sprint event of the year, in Baku, both Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda had used up all their new soft tyres before the Saturday sprint qualifying. As a result, both McLaren and AlphaTauri prepared to have a set of intermediates ready for their drivers in SQ3 if they were needed.

With Tsunoda not getting through into SQ3, AlphaTauri didn’t need to do it. But Norris did make it into the final part of qualifying and, with no new softs available, McLaren were ready to send him out on intermediates.

In the end, McLaren opted against running on track at all, and accepted a 10th place grid slot for their driver.

But the possibility of seeing a team running the intermediate on a dry track has been quickly addressed by the FIA.

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F1 Race Director makes rule clarification for Sprint Qualifying

In the event notes issued ahead of this weekend’s racing at the Red Bull Ring, F1 race director Niels Wittich clarified: “In order to avoid the acknowledged unintended consequence whereby in certain situations at sprint events it becomes attractive to run intermediate tyres on a dry track, the following amendment to Article 30.5.h of the Formula 1 sporting regulations is made.

“Consultation has occurred with the commercial rights holder, stewards and teams. The agreement of the FIA, the commercial rights holder and nine competitors has been obtained in accordance with Article 1.4.

“Accordingly, my decision is that Article 30.5 h) iv) be modified to read as follows – Article 30.5 h) iv revised wording:

“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 set of the new soft specification.”

The important part is the strikethrough on the word ‘new’, meaning teams will now be able to run any soft tyre from their weekend allotment. This still allows the drivers to prioritise the Friday qualifying if they so wish, using up their softs, knowing that they can still participate in Saturday’s SQ3 with softs that have already been used.

The rule change has been brought about as a result of the regulations leaving open the door for tweaks for sprint weekends as the format is perfected. Up until August 1, the FIA reserves the right to make alterations to address “unintended issues that have arisen as a result of the changes to the sporting regulations approved by the World Motor Sport Council in April 2023”.

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