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Button on Qatar F1 heat issues: “Until drivers speak up, they won’t change it”

Jenson Button says Formula 1 drivers need to “speak up” if they want changes to avoid a repeat of heat exhaustion issues seen at the Qatar Grand Prix in future. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The FIA has vowed to evaluate the ways that extreme temperature and humidity meant that drivers had to take themselves to the physical limit in Qatar. 

The excessive heat and flat-out nature of the tyre stint-limited race at Losail left drivers facing one of the biggest challenges of their careers, which some described as “hell” and “torture”.  

Logan Sargeant had to retire with heatstroke, Esteban Ocon was sick in his helmet and Lance Stroll said he passed out several times.  

The FIA stated: “While being elite athletes, they should not be expected to compete under conditions that could jeopardise their health or safety.” 

Button wasn’t in Qatar in person but believes that the high-G nature of the track also played a part in the problems that drivers faced. 

“I didn’t feel how hot it was, but one of the bigger problems with Qatar is that these guys are at high G all around the track,” he said. “The heat… I mean, we’ve had a lot of hot races in the past.  

“But I think the biggest issue is for them that their bodies were at such high lateral G, for so long, that you can’t breathe. They’re not able to get the oxygen into the blood, so that’s the biggest issue.” 

Jenson Button

Jenson Button

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Speaking to reporters at the Petit Le Mans sportscar event, when asked what he thought could be done from the car standpoint to regulate the temperature of drivers in the cockpit, Button replied: “You can’t do anything, apart from air conditioning, and you’ve never heard of that in an open-cockpit car.  

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“IndyCar has a closed kinda cockpit, and it’s clearly hot in those cars, and I know they don’t have power steering, so I know it hurts them too. But then they don’t pull them same G forces as an F1 car pulls [on a road course]. 

“When I raced NASCAR in Austin, I almost stopped in the race. I said to the team, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ – I was just so hot. So different cars have different issues with heat. 

“Until drivers speak up, they won’t change it. 

“I remember racing F1 in Malaysia, when my water bottle broke, I had big issues in the race. You start shivering and then you lose your vision.  

“Then it gets dangerous, so I’ve felt how bad it can be.” 

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