FIA puts roadblock on F1’s sprint race expansion

Formula 1’s plans to increase the number of sprint races to six in 2023 hit a roadblock on Tuesday when the FIA blocked the vote going through, sources have revealed.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, the field away at the start

Following a meeting of the F1 Commission in London, plans by F1 owner Liberty Media to increase the number of sprint events met little resistance from teams.

But, when the matter came down to getting the majority support it needed, the unanimous backing from the competitors and FOM was not enough to push the matter through as the FIA did not support the plan in its current guise.

For the sprint expansion to get put in to regulations for 2023, it needed what is known as a ‘simple majority’ of 25 votes from the 30 on offer between the teams (10), the FIA (10) and FOM (10).

With only the teams and F1 in agreement, the FIA’s resistance meant the proposal failed for now.

Sources have indicated that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who chaired the meeting, told participants that he was only willing to go ahead with having more sprints if a financial contribution was made to the governing body.

While his stance prompted some anger within the room – with one source suggesting it was motivated by ‘greed’ – the FIA did later agree that it would investigate exactly what impact the extra sprints have on its personnel before reconsidering the matter.

In a statement issued by the FIA after the meeting, the governing body said: “With the first of three sprint events of the 2022 season popular with fans and stakeholders last weekend at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the teams were supportive of an extension to six sprint events for the 2023 season, running with the same format as in 2022. 

“While supporting the principle of an increased number of sprint events, the FIA is still evaluating the impact of this proposal on its trackside operations and personnel, and will provide its feedback to the Commission.” 

Talks also took place about the latest on the 2026 engine rules, but one of the initial issues that emerged is about ensuring that a proposed reduction in power does not make F1 cars too slow.

The current turbo hybrids are among the most powerful in F1 history, but the tweaks for 2026 – which include losing the MGU-H – could see horsepower figures drop.

With F1’s 2022 generation of cars being heavy and quite draggy, there are worries that straight line speeds could suffer if the powerunits do not produce as much performance. F1 teams have therefore been asked to go away and look at how best to ensure the cars deliver what is needed.

The FIA has outlined proposals that it wants the cars to be able to produce so they can complement the changes to the engines.

These are, according to the FIA, to maintain and improve on recent lessons learned about close racing and cars being able to follow each other, make the cars smaller and lighter, increase the amount of standard or sustainable parts and continue innovation on safety, moving towards active and connected safety systems.

The F1 Commission unanimously approved an update to the 2023 Technical Regulations that will make the use of helmet cameras mandatory, and it will reduce the tyre allocation over a race weekend from the current 13 sets down to 11.

The meeting also covered the impact that rising costs and inflation were having on teams as they battled the cost cap. 

It was agreed that F1’s Financial Working Group will be asked to discuss the matter and come up with a proposal that can help ease any problems over both the short and long term.

The F1 teams also discussed the latest on the 2022 calendar, but it is understood that no final decision has yet been taken about which event will replace the cancelled Russian Grand Prix.

While Qatar had emerged as the early front-runner to get the slot, concerns about the extreme temperatures at that time of the year, and logistics as the country prepares for the football World Cup, has quelled some of the momentum behind the event happening.

Instead, as first reported by Autosport, one idea that is gaining traction is for Singapore to host back-to-back events, which would be logistically quite straightforward.

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