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Formula 1 Qatar GP

Alonso: F1 should consider race delays in extreme hot weather

Fernando Alonso says that Formula 1 should consider delaying races in the sort of extreme conditions that were seen in Qatar last weekend.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, Lando Norris, McLaren, on the grid

Drivers suffered in the heat and humidity in Losail, with most saying afterwards that it was the toughest race of their careers.

Logan Sargeant was not able to finish, while his Williams team-mate Alex Albon also sought medical treatment after the flag.

On the Monday after the race the FIA promised an investigation, noting of the drivers that “while being elite athletes, they should not be expected to compete under conditions that could jeopardise their health or safety.”

Next year’s Qatar event is scheduled for December 1, which should alleviate the heat issue.

However, Alonso says that there should be an option to run later in the day if necessary.

“It was a surprise, to be honest, because it was not that bad in free practice,” he said of Qatar race day. “Maybe it was windy or something and today we missed that wind or something, that ventilation.

“It was extreme. We need to see if in the future there is any solution, and in some extreme conditions we can agree on delaying the start or whatever.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing leads at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing leads at the start

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Valtteri Bottas agreed that the 2021 Qatar GP, held in cooler conditions in late November, was much less extreme.

“Yeah, [there was a] big difference,” said the Finn. “Even it's three degrees. When it gets hotter in the car than your body temperature, then that's not good news. Any hotter than this would be not safe anymore.”

Asked if there should be a ceiling for what’s acceptable he said: “There should be. Because of course, every driver, we've tried to complete the race, and you're not going to stop if you still can drive. But at some point, it gets unhealthy and risky. I wouldn't go hotter than this.”

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Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur agreed that the Qatar event was on the limit, adding that the sport as a whole should “pay attention” to what happened on race day.

"Well, I think we are close to the limit that when you have drivers stopping because they are not able to continue,” he said. “They have the lucidity to stop, but they could also crash. It means that we have to pay attention.

“I think we were very close to the limit or over the limit this weekend. But for the future, I think that next year, the race in Qatar is at the beginning of December, and it's a huge difference in terms of temperature and humidity.

“But yeah, this weekend on top of the temperature and humidity, it's also very challenging for the drivers with the succession of 16 corners. When you’re always in corners at very high speed it's very demanding.

“And I think for them, it was really extreme. I don't want to say if it's too much or not, but it was really extreme, probably too much. And we have to pay attention to this."

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Vasseur said that the race would have been tough on drivers even without the mandated shorter stints obliging drivers to push harder.

“On the paper, I think it was still a one-stop race without any limitation,” he said. “And for sure in this situation, you are pushing more when you are doing four stints or three stops.

“But I think even if you do one stop in the normal conditions, it would have been tough. At the end, you saw that nothing happened, and it's good. But it's not very often that you have a driver not able to finish a race."

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin agreed that conditions for next year’s race should be more acceptable.

“Fundamentally, when the air temperature is near body temperature around 36 degrees you can blow air at the driver, but it doesn’t have the same cooling effect as when the air is a bit lower,” he said.

“The added humidity also makes it very difficult for them. Now, what is the real solution to that? Next year the race moves to December. That's a cooler part of the year and that's probably the biggest thing that we can do to help.”

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