The FIA has initiated an investigation into the excessively hot conditions inside the cockpits during the F1 Qatar Grand Prix.
The FIA has initiated an investigation into the Qatar Grand Prix held on Sunday, following criticism from top drivers about the extreme heat conditions during the race. The drivers deemed it to be a hazard and deemed it unacceptable.
On Sunday, Max Verstappen emerged victorious at the Lusail circuit. However, as the race came to an end, numerous drivers endured temperatures as high as 50C (122F) in their cockpits.
Esteban Ocon, driver for Alpine, shared that he experienced vomiting while wearing his helmet due to the intense heat. Lance Stroll of Aston Martin also admitted to being at risk of passing out, and Alex Albon of Williams had to seek medical attention due to heat exhaustion. Logan Sargeant, Albon’s teammate, was unable to finish the race due to dehydration, as he had been sick with the flu earlier in the week. Both Stroll and Albon required assistance from their team members in exiting their cars after the race.
The Mercedes driver George Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said he too had come close to losing consciousness and was explicit in stating that drivers’ lives should not be put at risk.
“He stated that it went beyond the accepted level. More than half of the team expressed feeling unwell, unable to continue driving, and on the verge of losing consciousness. It is dangerous to pass out while driving at speeds of 200mph, which is how I felt at certain points.”
Lando Norris, who was third in Qatar, was equally forthright. “We found the limit and it is sad we had to find it this way,” the McLaren driver said. “It is never a nice situation to be in when people are ending up in the medical centre or passing out. Clearly, when you have people who end up retiring or in such a bad state it is too much. It is too dangerous.”
The circumstances in Qatar were like a combination of factors that led to a difficult situation. The extreme heat was made worse by concerns about tire safety, which led to the FIA requiring a race with three pit stops. This allowed the drivers to push themselves to the maximum on every lap without worrying about tire degradation. They did this on a track that was mostly composed of high-speed turns, making it one of the most physically challenging courses on the schedule.
This was only the second staging of the Qatar race and the first of a 10-year deal which, in the region of £45m each season, is among the most lucrative for the sport’s American owners Liberty Media. Next year’s edition will be held two months later in December when it is expected to be cooler, but the FIA acknowledged action must be taken now to avoid a repeat of the scenes.
The FIA expressed concern about the Qatar Grand Prix’s extreme temperature and humidity affecting the drivers’ wellbeing. They believe that as elite athletes, the drivers should not have to compete in conditions that could put their health and safety at risk.
The competitors are responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the cars at all times. However, the FIA will also make efforts to establish and communicate acceptable parameters for safety, similar to those for circuit infrastructure and car safety requirements, during competitions.
The FIA is currently examining the situation in Qatar in order to make suggestions for future instances of severe weather. It is important to mention that although the Qatar Grand Prix for next year is planned for a later date when temperatures are anticipated to be cooler, the FIA would rather take proactive measures now to prevent a recurrence of this situation.
The FIA announced that potential solutions will be talked about at the upcoming medical commission meeting in Paris. These solutions may involve providing guidance for participants, conducting research on ways to improve airflow in the cockpit, and suggesting adjustments to the schedule to accommodate suitable weather conditions.
The problem added to a negative weekend for the race organizers in Qatar. The tire problems were attributed to their decision to use the high “pyramid” curbs, which Pirelli had already noted as causing tire blowouts at Lusail in 2021. However, the curbs were not altered for this event. The race is scheduled for December of next year, when temperatures will be lower. However, Norris expressed his belief that F1 should not have put safety at risk in the first place.
He stated that although the race will be held later in the season next year, it is still a matter that must be attended to. He believes that they will discuss the issue as it should not have occurred in the first place.