Fernando Alonso, the double-world champion, will kick off the condensed Saturday afternoon race at the Red Bull Ring from the seventh spot, just a place ahead of Lance Stroll, his team-mate from Silverstone.
Alonso described the one-lap performance by the Aston Martin pair as somewhat of a “miracle”, attributing it to a flaw in the regulations, exposed by an additional qualifying round for the sprint race and a drying track session.
Under normal circumstances, drivers are required to use a fresh pair of medium tyres for the SQ1 and SQ2 rounds, before transitioning to a new or previously used set of soft tyres for SQ3. However, morning rain, despite the appearance of a dry line, led to the session being declared wet, granting teams the liberty to choose their tyre sets.
In the 12-minute SQ1 session, drivers opted for a variety of Pirelli compounds: intermediate, medium, and soft. The colder weather, however, favoured the more reactive soft tyres.
That said, drivers who had advanced to Q3 in the Friday qualifying round for the grand prix had already used up their allocation of soft tyres. As a result, teams including Aston Martin, were left without a new set of soft tyres to compete in the SQ3 on Saturday.
Alonso believes this provided an unjust advantage to teams who didn’t perform well on Friday, prompting him to urge the authorities to address this apparent loophole in the rules.
Alonso noted, “It’s somewhat miraculous to have both cars in the top seven, top eight. With the existing rules, we had to qualify today with used tyres. In dry conditions, we all use medium tyres in Q1 and Q2, and then whatever we have left in Q3. But the regulations permit us to use any dry tyres under these conditions, which puts us, who made the top 10 yesterday, at a significant disadvantage since we used all our soft tyres. I’m not entirely pleased with the rules.”
He added, “I hope we can enhance the sprint format. This year is essentially a trial run to make improvements.”
Alonso further pointed out that Aston Martin, currently battling Mercedes for the second position in the 2023 constructors’ championship, should not be subjected to qualifying behind theoretically slower teams due to tyre conditions.
He explained, “We’re vying for significant achievements in the world championship, so it’s not fair for us to be in a position where we have to qualify with used tyres if we performed well yesterday and reached Q3. The qualifying conditions should be the same for everyone, regardless of whether or not they made it to Q3 yesterday. But the sprint race is still ahead. Hopefully, everyone will have the same tyres. That would be more exciting.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 sprint regulations
Q: What did Fernando Alonso criticize regarding the F1 sprint rules?
A: Fernando Alonso criticized the F1 sprint rules for allowing teams that underperformed in the Friday qualifying session to have an advantage in tyre choice during the Saturday sprint race. He believed that teams that had already used up their soft tyre allocation in Q3 on Friday should not be at a disadvantage during the sprint race due to different conditions. Alonso called for a review of the regulations to address this issue.
Q: What did Alonso consider a “miracle” in Aston Martin’s performance?
A: Alonso considered Aston Martin’s performance in the qualifying session to be a “miracle” because both cars managed to secure positions in the top seven or top eight, despite the disadvantage of using old tyres. He attributed this achievement to the challenging rules and the unforeseen circumstances, such as the wet session and drying track, that exposed the flaws in the regulations.
Q: Why did the Aston Martin duo face a disadvantage in tyre choice?
A: The Aston Martin duo, along with other drivers who reached Q3 in the Friday qualifying session, faced a disadvantage in tyre choice during the sprint race due to the wet session and subsequent rule changes. The rain led to the session being declared wet, allowing teams to freely choose their tyre sets. However, drivers who had already used their soft tyres in Q3 on Friday did not have a fresh set available for the Saturday sprint race, giving an advantage to teams that had not reached Q3.
Q: What changes did Alonso hope to see in the sprint format?
A: Alonso hoped for improvements in the F1 sprint format. He suggested addressing the issue of tyre usage for teams that had reached Q3 on Friday but had already utilized their soft tyre allocation. Alonso believed that these teams should not be qualifying with different conditions and that all teams should have equal opportunities in terms of tyre choice. He expressed the desire for a fairer and more exciting sprint format in the future.