Formula One has been making rules on the hoof over the past few weeks and anyone with just a paralegal background will know this never ends well.
When the sporting regulations were finalised for 2023, the Sprint events were set to follow the previous format that saw qualifying in Friday for the 100km shorter Saturday afternoon race.
In season rule changes often rushed
However, it emerged in Australia that Liberty Media were arm wrestling the paddock powers that be to agree to a change in format.
The teams eventually gave tacit agreement at the F1 commission which then had to be ratified by the World Motorsport Council (WMSC) on Tuesday this week.
However, there was clearly a degree of reticence expressed by the teams because the final wording of the WMSC regulation change allowed for ‘on the hoof’ adjustments by the FIA and a review after the first three Sprint events of the year.
New frantic Sprint qualifying session
The new Sprint qualifying came with a new format that differentiates it form the Grand Prix qualifying on Friday afternoon.
Firstly the sessions Sprint qualifying 1-3 (SQ1-3) are shorter and created a more frenetic sprint style qualifying yet buried in the detail of the rules was a rule that precluded both Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda from participating in the Sprint Qualifying top ten shootout (SQ3).
In Grand Prix qualifying the drivers can choose to run whatever tyres they choose yet for the Sprint Shootout each driver was mandated to use a new medium compound tyre for SQ1 & 2 and a new soft compound tyre should they make it into SQ3.
F1 teams veto rule banning Norris from Q3
Rule demands only new tyres
Article 30.5 (iv) states: “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 new set of the soft specification.”
Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda had better than expected Friday’s and both made Q3 for setting the Grand Prix grid. This meant they used their last set of new soft tyres and by default were banned from running in SQ3 today.
Tsunoda failed to make the final qualifying for the Sprint race, however McLaren’s Lando Norris squeezed in a few hundredths ahead of his team mate Oscar Piastri.
Of course head this been qualifying for th eGrand Prix, Norris could have competed on a set of used softs.
McLaren drivers were the wrong way round
Piastri ironically had a spare set of new soft tyres and would have been able to participate in the final shootout for the Sprint race.
McLaren were accused of poorly managing their drivers’ positions though the team refuted this after the Saturday morning session.
They argued they preferred to have their drivers P10 and P11 rather than attempt to manipulate the times and suffer Norris down in P15 for the Sprint.
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Teams veto allowing used tyres
However it emerged from a TJ13 source that the teams had the opportunity to change the new tyre rule and effectively allow Norris in as part of the WMSC ‘on the hoof’ adjustments principle.
A consensus was not found and so Lando Norris was forced to sit out the final session of Saturday morning qualifying.
Pirelli’s Mario Isola remarked, “If you look at the regulation you are obliged to use a new set of tyres.”
Pirelli back rule change
Yet clearly he believed all the cars should be running in final qualifying and added, “Obviously it’s a new regulation and it’s probably needed to do some fine-tuning.”
The scenario was not just happened upon as following Norris excellent Q2 runs, it was envisaged on Friday evening as the teams assessed their remaining tyre allocation for 5th weekend.
If Formula One wish to take the fans along with them by tweaking the weekend format on the hoof then petty vetos against changing them further not be allowed going forwards.
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Lewis getting the camera guy to get a tear-off off of his car 😅 pic.twitter.com/FpDPtsAz5p
— Mercedes-AMG F1 News ✇ (@MercedesNewsUK) April 29, 2023