Alonso: New-spec fireproofs and pre-race anthem timing made Qatar heat worse

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by and

Fernando Alonso believes the severe dehydration drivers experienced during the Qatar Grand prix was exacerbated by the current generation of fireproof overalls.

Many drivers suffered from dehydration and fatigue during the last round at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar after low winds on Sunday caused the temperatures in the cockpit to reach unexpectedly high levels, the effect compounded by a rise in humidity.

Williams driver Logan Sargeant, who had gone into the weekend recovering from an illness, withdrew from the race due to his physical condition. Team mate Alexander Albon was one of several drivers who had difficulties getting out of their cars after the race, while Esteban Ocon admitted to being physically sick in his car after the early laps.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, where temperatures are expected to be cooler than in Qatar but still relatively hot, Aston Martin driver Alonso said something should be done to help protect driver wellbeing in similar circumstances in the future.

“I think the conditions were a little bit too extreme to race,” Alonso admitted, “but obviously no one could anticipate it, probably. Saturday was not as bad, humidity was much higher on Sunday and the temperature as well. So that was maybe a little bit of a surprise.

“We need to learn from this episode. I think we were just, as I said, too on-the-limit for the physical aspect of the drivers.”

The former World Endurance Championship racer proposed adopting the driver wellbeing measure used by the sportscar series in F1.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“In WEC, for example, there is a sensor in the cockpit that the temperature inside cannot be two degrees more than the outside temperature,” Alonso explained.

“If you are above that temperature, you have to stop. The FIA tells you to stop. So those kind of things, I think maybe in Formula 1 it has to be implemented somehow and has to be discussed about something that there is a limit and probably Qatar was over the limit.

“There is some kind of air conditioning [in WEC] and I think there has been work behind those regulations to make sure that there were not electrical boxes in the cockpit and things like that just to make sure that you are within the regulations on the temperature. I think Formula 1 that is the least of the priorities. Maybe in Qatar we found an episode that we want to improve.”

Alonso complained about a painfully hot seat in the cockpit of his Aston Martin during the race. He said his team had done all they could to try and make his car as comfortable an environment as possible.

“We try to isolate the best we can all the boxes and all this kind of thing just to make sure that we can gain some temperature there,” he explained.

“We are trying to do our best in terms of preparation as well. Try to start the race as cool as possible. Just the body temperature. For sure we will discuss with the FIA a couple of different scenarios and procedures.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

He said the timing of the national anthem performance before the race, which drivers are required by the rules to attend, makes it harder for them to keep their temperature down.

“I’m not a big fan, for example, of the national anthem being 14 minutes before we go in the car. I think this is unthinkable in any other sport that you will put your body in the limit. So if that can move a little bit earlier and then you can cool down before going in the car or whatever, it’s just putting that temperature limit further into the race instead of reaching that limit in lap 15, maybe you reach it in lap 40 and it’s only 15 laps of struggling.”

Drivers are required to wear multiple layers of fireproof clothing at all times while behind the wheel of their cars. Alonso suggested that the current generation of FIA-compliant overalls brought into the sport in the wake of Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix may have contributed to drivers’ struggles in Qatar.

“The racing overalls, the fireproofs underneath, etcetera, are very thick right now to be within the regulations after the Grosjean crash, obviously,” he said. “So it is a difficult topic, because you need to have very safe equipment for fire in case it happens.

“But that equipment – in some conditions, in some races – it’s just not evaporating the heat. It just stays with you for the whole race. So the body cannot perform at this normal level.

“They are different. I think it has been from last year or this year. The regulations are just much tougher for the companies to pass the fire test and now they are thicker. But as I said, they are safer. So it’s about where you put the the right balance.”

Alonso believes the lack of cooling in the cockpit of a modern Formula 1 car is part of the sport’s nature, but that some support should be considered for the more extreme races.

“The priority in Formula 1 is just to put all the boxes and all these things into the cockpit because like this you can tighten the bodywork and you make priority for aerodynamics, which is obviously good. But in some cases – rare cases, maybe Singapore, Miami, Qatar – that is something that maybe we need to [do] better.”

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Qatar Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Qatar Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

10 comments on “Alonso: New-spec fireproofs and pre-race anthem timing made Qatar heat worse”

  1. Looks like even the drivers have identified one quick fix for an element of the problem:

    Get rid of the anthem playing.

    A bit of air flow through the cockpit would help, but I can see that the vents for that flow also allow hot gasses through in the event of a front end fire.

    1. Bring back the McLaren F-Duct as a ventilation system!

    2. Yeah, that engine and fuel tank in the nose cone is a fire hazard

    3. Pee in your suit …

  2. I think this is just Alonso trying to get the FIA to mandate heat generating elements be kept out of the cockpit by regulations to avoid the heat seat issues for himself in the future. There are any number of improvements and elements of comfort that could be added to F1 cars but whatever you add would have an associated weight or an impact on aerodynamic performance which would hence slow the cars so team are never going to make changes unless regulated to do so.

    I think Alonso’s point on the anthem is absolutely correct, having drivers having to negotiate themselves up and down a busy paddock while in sweltering heat and wearing multi layered clothing is clearly not ideal. They could have that ceremony an hour earlier in the day.

    1. I think Alonso is making a fair general point and not just looking out for himself. Yes, driver safety has a weight impact, but you wouldn’t want to get rid of the roll bar, the halo, and the wheel tethers with the argument that they add weight, slow down the car, and are only their to protect drivers complaining about safety.

  3. I thought the driving suits are relatively lightweight these days & while humidity was higher on race day, evening temps were roughly the same across all three days.
    I don’t get his complaint about the national anthem 14 minutes before the scheduled formation lap start time, though, which is the norm for all events.
    How does ‘when’ drivers stand for 2-4 minutes affect their body temps?
    Zero correlation, so earlier & thus more minutes between the end & formation lap start wouldn’t make a difference, so weird argumentation.

    1. He seems to be saying that now the time between the anthem and the start of the race is too short to properly cool oneself between the two moments @jerejj, but I also think that @slowmo has it right above: the most significant thing he might be saying to the FIA is to also look at all the electric equipment the teams put in the cockpit for aero (and access perhaps) reasons.

    2. Grosjean ruined another thing: the suits. Now, it’s not good enough to keep you safe while sitting in the middle of a fireball for 30 seconds with only minor burns.

    3. It [anthem] only became the “norm” when that Russian president wanted it out of respect in 2014. Before that, the drivers never needed to bother and it’s a complete waste of time. Hopefully it will be moved forward by an hour so nobody (apart from Jere) has to watch it.

Comments are closed.