The decision by FIA during the Spa shootout forced Lance Stroll of Aston Martin to switch from intermediate to medium tyres rather than the anticipated soft tyres on a drying track. This led to a severe crash on Stroll’s final lap.
In line with the rules of the sprint shootout, drivers must use medium tyres during SQ1 and SQ2, and switch to soft tyres in SQ3.
However, the regulations also indicate that if the FIA declares the track wet, these rules are not applicable. In this case, drivers have the flexibility to choose any dry tyres throughout the three sessions.
As per the relevant rule: “Upon declaration of SQ1, SQ2 or SQ3 as wet, the specification, mileage, or number of dry-weather tyres that can be used in the remaining sprint shootout is unrestricted.”
A similar situation occurred at the previous sprint weekend in Austria. The track was declared wet but quickly dried from the start of the first session, leading to unrestricted tyre usage.
Although there’s no requirement for FIA to declare a wet track, teams anticipated that the same approach would be adopted considering the rain forecast for Saturday in Belgium. Under these circumstances, they expected the liberty to switch to soft tyres if the track was drying in SQ1 and SQ2.
Consequently, some teams based their tyre choices post-Friday’s running on the possibility of needing more softs and fewer mediums. Their preparation for the shootout also assumed a transition from intermediates to softs if the track dried during any of the three segments.
However, the FIA sporting director, Steve Nielsen, communicated to the teams just 15 minutes before the shootout that the track would not be declared wet despite the rain, effectively enforcing the use of medium tyres in SQ1 and SQ2 on a drying track.
The decision might be a reflection of the incident in Austria, where the necessity of flexible tyre choice was questioned following the declaration of a wet track.
Lance Stroll, driving the Aston Martin AMR23, exited his crashed car after a Q2 crash in the Sprint Shootout.
Photo by: Zak Mauger / F1 Flow Images
SQ1 continued to be wet, but as a dry line emerged, Stroll and his team agreed to switch to slicks in the final moments.
However, instead of transitioning from intermediates to soft, Stroll was forced to opt for medium tyres.
As he tried to warm the tyres on his out-lap, it was evident he was struggling for grip. Mid-lap, he informed his team, “it’s too early”. In response, his engineer asserted that they were now committed to their decision and had to make the most of it.
Stroll then started his flying lap, but a severe crash halfway through caused a red flag and terminated SQ2.
After retrieving his car, the final SQ3 session continued in dry conditions, with all drivers switching to soft tyres.
The intriguing aspect of this situation was that the FIA, while adhering to its standard procedures, for the first time compelled a driver to transition from intermediates to mediums on a somewhat damp track, when softs would typically be the go-to choice for peak performance.
The FIA is of the view that warming up the mediums is just as effective as the softs, hence sticking with the pre-planned tyre allocation for the shootout was seen as a reasonable choice.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about FIA’s tyre decision
What unexpected decision did the FIA make during the Spa shootout?
The FIA decided not to declare the track wet despite ongoing rain. This decision forced Lance Stroll of Aston Martin to switch from intermediate to medium tyres on a drying track, rather than the anticipated soft tyres, leading to a severe crash.
What are the standard rules for tyre use in a sprint shootout?
Under standard sprint shootout rules, drivers are obliged to use medium tyres in SQ1 and SQ2, and then switch to soft tyres in SQ3.
What exceptions exist in the rules for tyre use if the track is declared wet?
If the FIA declares the track wet, the rules for tyre use in a sprint shootout do not apply. In this case, drivers can choose any set of dry tyres throughout the three sessions.
What was unusual about the tyre decision in this Spa shootout?
The unusual aspect of the Spa shootout was that, for the first time, the FIA obliged a driver to switch from intermediates to medium tyres on a drying track, when soft tyres would usually be the choice for peak performance.
What was the consequence of the FIA’s decision on Lance Stroll?
The FIA’s decision led to a severe crash on Lance Stroll’s final lap. As Stroll tried to warm up the medium tyres, he struggled for grip. Halfway through his flying lap, he had a major crash, causing a red flag and ending SQ2.