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F1 teams block FIA's attempt to close sprint race tyre loophole

A tyre anomaly in Formula’s 1’s new sprint race format regulations has emerged in Azerbaijan – and teams have blocked the FIA’s attempt to change the rule at the last minute.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The rule in question relates to tyre usage for the three-part Saturday shootout session that determines the grid for the sprint later in the day.

The intent of the rule is that teams have to use new medium tyres in SQ1 [Sprint Shootout Q1] and again in SQ2, and then use new softs for the final SQ3 session.

However, the rule as written doesn’t actually oblige teams to save a new set of softs for Saturday.

It 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.”

It means that a team that doesn’t anticipate it making Q3 or SQ3 in normal circumstances can gamble on not needing a new set of softs for Saturday.

Instead they can deploy all their soft tyres in Friday qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Pirelli tyres on a Nico Hulkenberg branded Haas F1 Team trolley

Pirelli tyres on a Nico Hulkenberg branded Haas F1 Team trolley

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

That could be particularly advantageous for teams down the order who often have to use several sets of tyres to get out of Q1.

In effect, a team can have an extra set of softs relative to rivals to use in Q1 or if the drivers get through, in Q2 – giving it a potential advantage over rivals.

If the driver does unexpectedly make it to SQ3 on merit with no new softs to use the team would simply not participate in the session and in effect settle for 10th place.

The anomaly has been the subject of much discussion in Baku and on Friday morning the FIA arranged a vote among the teams in an attempt to change the regulation and close the loophole by obliging teams to keep new softs for Saturday.

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In a recent change to the sporting regulations, provision was included for “temporary” changes to the sprint race rules to be made on race weekends with the agreement of at least eight teams.

The rule would then be looked at again by the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council and then permanently changed for the remainder of the season.

However, on this occasion teams objected to the last minute change, and the FIA did not get the required eight votes.

The rule thus remains unchanged for this weekend but it could be looked at again and adjusted before the next race at Imola.

In reality, teams are unlikely to take the gamble this weekend in Baku given the potential for mayhem that could leave unlikely cars making SQ3, but it could become more relevant at normal tracks if the rule isn’t changed.

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