FIA promises F1 driver action in wake of extreme Qatar GP

The excessive heat and flat-out nature of the race at Losail on Sunday left drivers facing one of the biggest challenges of their careers, which they described as “hell” and “torture”. 

Logan Sargeant had to retire with heatstroke, Esteban Ocon was sick in his helmet, Lance Stroll said he passed out several times and other racers struggled to make it to the chequered flag before needing to go to the medical centre. 

Lando Norris reckoned that the way the event had played out was right on the edge – as he made clear he did not think it had been safe. 

“It’s never a nice situation to be in, some people ending up in the medical centre or passing out, and things like that,” he said. “So, a pretty dangerous thing to have going on. 

“But it’s not a point where you can just go, the drivers need to train more or do any of that. We’re in a closed car that gets extremely hot in a very physical race. And it’s frustrating. 

“I guess on TV, it probably doesn’t look very physical at all, but clearly, when you have people who end up retiring or in such a bad state, it’s too much, you know, for the speeds we’re doing. It is too dangerous.” 

In response to the events, motor racing’s governing body has promised to open a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Qatar GP – as it made clear drivers should not be expected to compete in such conditions. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

In a statement issued on Monday night, it said: “The FIA notes with concern that the extreme temperature and humidity during the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix had an impact on the wellbeing of the drivers.  

“While being elite athletes, they should not be expected to compete under conditions that could jeopardise their health or safety.  

“The safe operation of the cars is, at all times, the responsibility of the competitors, however as with other matters relating to safety such as circuit infrastructure and car safety requirements, the FIA will take all reasonable measures to establish and communicate acceptable parameters in which competitions are held.” 

While the return to Qatar next year will be in late November, when conditions are cooler, the FIA said that further measures need to be taken to better understand the factors at play – so it can issue guidelines going forward. 

“The FIA has begun an analysis into the situation in Qatar to provide recommendations for future situations of extreme weather conditions,” it added. 

“It should be noted that while next year’s edition of the Qatar Grand Prix is scheduled later in the year, when temperatures are expected to be lower, the FIA prefers to take material action now to avoid a repeat of this scenario. 

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 2nd position, rests in Parc Ferme

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 2nd position, rests in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“A number of measures will be discussed at the upcoming medical commission meeting in Paris. Measures may include guidance for competitors, research into modifications for more efficient airflow in the cockpit, and recommendations for changes to the calendar to align with acceptable climatic conditions, amongst others.” 

The FIA added that it will see if there are any lessons that can be learned from desert rallying, where dealing with the heat is common, that can be applied to F1 and other single-seater categories. 

“Research from other series, such as cross-country events in extreme climates, will be examined for potential applications to circuit events,” it said. 

“The FIA’s commitment to closer cooperation between technical, safety and medical departments under the leadership of the FIA President will facilitate this process.”

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