Tyre Shortage May Derail Norris & Tsunoda’s Sprint Ambitions
In a high-stakes twist ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, McLaren’s Lando Norris and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda find themselves in a precarious situation, potentially unable to compete in the climactic ‘sprint shootout’ stage of the Formula 1 sprint qualifying. The crux of their predicament lies in a shortage of new soft tyres, a requirement for participating in SQ3.
Lando Norris of McLaren and Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri may not participate in the final stage of Formula 1 sprint qualifying at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, known as the ‘sprint shootout,’ if they manage to advance to it on Saturday, due to having no new soft tyres remaining.
As per the revised sprint weekend format in F1, drivers are required to use one set of new medium tyres in both SQ1 and SQ2, and one set of new soft tyres in SQ3. Previously used tyres cannot be utilized during any sprint qualifying stages.
Each driver has access to 6 sets of soft tyres for the weekend, but Norris and Tsunoda have already employed all of theirs.
Although they have used soft tyres with minimal mileage left for the sprint or Sunday’s grand prix, they do not have the necessary new set to compete in SQ3.
Both drivers made it to Q3 during Friday’s qualifying session, which establishes the lineup for the grand prix. They chose this approach to optimize their performance in the main race’s qualifying, even if it potentially means sacrificing positions by not participating in SQ3, should they reach it.
If Norris and Tsunoda advance to SQ3, they will be unable to exit the pits, and their respective positions will be determined based on prior lap times.
Earlier in the weekend, discussions took place between the teams and the FIA about potentially modifying the regulation to require teams to reserve a fresh set of soft tyres specifically for SQ3. This change would align with the existing rule for the main qualifying session.
However, the proposal did not receive enough support from the teams to implement an immediate change, so the rule will remain unchanged for the rest of the weekend. Nonetheless, it is likely to be revised for future sprint events.
Additionally, there were concerns about the clarity of the regulations in situations involving a red flag interruption or pit stop during any sprint qualifying stages. According to the current rules, once a set of tyres has been on the track, it is no longer considered new, which could imply that drivers would not be allowed to rejoin the race, as their tyres would not be new.
The FIA addressed this issue during a meeting with team managers on Friday morning, agreeing on a “pragmatic approach” that will permit the single set of tyres to be used throughout the entire SQ segment, even under such circumstances.
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