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Formula 1 Azerbaijan GP

McLaren wanted to exploit F1 sprint shootout tyre loophole

McLaren was ready to exploit a loophole in Formula 1’s revised sprint weekend regulations by running Lando Norris on intermediate tyres in Saturday’s dry SQ3 shootout session.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

In the end the team had nothing to gain by so doing and the anomaly in the regulations is set to be addressed before the next sprint event in Austria.

McLaren could potentially have gained an advantage because Norris had used up all of his soft tyres in FP1 and regular qualifying on Friday. The rules state that on Saturday drivers can only use new medium tyres in SQ1 and again in SQ2, and then new soft tyres in SQ3.

McLaren opted to use all of Norris’s softs to help him earn seventh place for Sunday’s grand prix knowing that if he made it to SQ3 he would have none left on which to run.

However, the anomaly in the regulations is that while teams cannot use intermediate or full wet tyres in practice sessions unless the track is declared wet – thus stopping them using wets for installation laps and so on – they are free to use them in qualifying.

Teams usually have nothing to gain by using intermediates or wets in a normal dry qualifying session, so it has never been an issue. Nevertheless, the restriction to one set of new softs for the SQ3 shootout segment opened up the possibility for drivers to take to the track with them in dry conditions.

By staying in the garage Norris knew he was settling for 10th place. However, had any other driver been unable to run due to technical issues or crashed on his first lap without setting a time, Norris could have headed out and done a token lap on intermediates, lifted himself up to ninth in the process.

Had Yuki Tsunoda, the other driver with no softs left, made SQ3, then both men could have ended competing with each other for a quicker lap.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

It is understood that the grey area over wet-weather tyre usage emerged in the discussions of the sporting advisory committee that finalised the recent changes, but there wasn’t enough time to cover all bases. It is expected to be addressed before the next sprint in Austria.

Meanwhile, asked by Autosport about missing out on SQ3 having progress into the session, Norris admitted it was frustrating: "Yeah, of course, because I enjoy qualifying, probably more than any other part of the weekend.

“I love the racing, but qualifying, just driving flat out, it's the one time you get to really do that. Yeah, I guess it does suck. You want the opportunity to go out and put in some good laps and see what you can do.

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“It’s probably rare, but you could be in the state of no one goes out in SQ3 because everyone's used the tyres in Q3. You could be that position, so then it probably doesn't look too good on TV.

“And then the rules will change. But just because one or two cars are in it, probably the rule is not going to change.”

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