Lando Norris, McLaren, Baku City Circuit, 2023

FIA fixes sprint race qualifying rule which stopped Norris running in SQ3 in Baku

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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The FIA has changed the rules for Saturday morning’s sprint qualifying session to fix a problem which occured when the format was used for the first time earlier this year.

This weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix is the second sprint event of the 2023 season. It follows the introduced of a revised format which was used for the first time in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix two months ago.

In the revised sprint race format, Friday’s qualifying session sets the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. Saturday’s sprint race has its own grid which is decided by a separate, three-stage qualifying session the same morning.

However, unlike in a typical qualifying session, the rules specify which tyre drivers may use in the three phases of sprint race qualifying. Under the rules used for the first time in Baku, all drivers must run new sets of medium tyres in SQ1 and SQ2, and were only being permitted to run a new set of soft tyres in SQ3.

This led to a situation during the first sprint round of the season in Baku when McLaren driver Lando Norris reached SQ3 but was unable to participate in the final phase as he did not have an unused set of soft tyres available to run.

However ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend FIA race director Niels Wittich has confirmed the rules have been modified to permit drivers who reach the final phase to take part using with new or old soft tyres if they wish. However, the rules still only permit drivers to run with a single set of tyres in each session, meaning drivers will not be able to use an old set for a first SQ3 run before switching to a new set for a second.

The rules change was agreed by the FIA, F1 and nine out of the 10 F1 teams.

Last year’s Austrian Grand Prix was also a sprint race round run to a previous format where Saturday’s sprint race grid was set by Friday’s qualifying session and the finishing positions set the order for the grand prix. Max Verstappen took pole position for the sprint race and won on Saturday, but Charles Leclerc took victory in the grand prix.

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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5 comments on “FIA fixes sprint race qualifying rule which stopped Norris running in SQ3 in Baku”

  1. I wonder which team didn’t agree to this change

  2. Good tweak

  3. The rule didn’t stop Norris running, it was a tactical choice by McLaren to use their chosen sets of tyre compounds in this manner.

    That said, a gimmicky format conceived to mix up the grid doesn’t need the FIA telling people what tyres can be used. That takes away some of the variables and the unpredictability the Sprint Qualifying/Race/whatever was brought in for.

    1. The rule didn’t stop Norris running, it was a tactical choice by McLaren to use their chosen sets of tyre compounds in this manner.

      Successful tactic, though, wouldn’t you say?

      McLaren didn’t think much of the rule and sort-of-accidentally generated a situation where Norris couldn’t run without breaking the rules.
      Result? The rule gets changed – possibly not the prime target, but as they say aim high, and you can drop onto a lower target.

      If all ten teams disliked the rule, what would be the chances of all teams generating the same no-run scenario?

  4. Sprints are a joke anyway so change the rules who cares.

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