FIA tweaks F1 sprint qualifying tyres rules to avoid inters farce

The FIA has tweaked the tyre regulations for Formula 1 sprint qualifying to avoid the “unintended consequences” that emerged in Baku at the first event held under the rules.

Intermediate tyre on the car of Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22

As the rules were originally written, drivers were obliged to use new medium tyres in Saturday’s SQ1 and SQ2 sessions, and then new softs on SQ3.

Teams realised that they didn’t have to save a set of new softs for SQ3 if they felt that those tyres would be more useful earlier in the weekend, either in FP1 or Friday’s qualifying session for the grand prix.

In Baku, Yuki Tsunoda and Lando Norris used all their soft tyres before the sprint qualifying session.

In that event Tsunoda didn’t make SQ3, but Norris did.

McLaren left the option open for him to run on intermediates – which the rules allowed – should two drivers in the same situation have made SQ3. However, Norris didn’t need to run so he remained in the garage and qualified 10th.

The possibility of intermediates being used in a dry session was seen as a farcical by many in the paddock, and has now been addressed.

The rules have changed to allow drivers to use any set of soft tyres in SQ3.

That means drivers can still gamble by using all their new softs before sprint qualifying knowing that they can at least still run in SQ3 even on used softs.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42

Photo by: Alessio Morgese

The door was open for such a change because under Article 1.4 of the 2023 regulations, the FIA reserved the right to easily adjust the new sprint rules by 1 August after the first examples in Azerbaijan, Austria and Belgium.

The relevant circumstances included that any change “must address unintended issues that have arisen as result of the changes to these sporting regulations approved by the WMSC in April 2023” and “must be solely intended to ensure sporting fairness or to avoid organisational issues.”

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In addition, eight teams had to agree, and in this case all but one backed the change.

In his notes issued ahead of this weekend’s event at the Red Bull Ring, F1 race director Niels Wittich wrote: “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 30.5h 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 soft specification.”

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