Azerbaijan GP: Teams block FIA’s last-minute rule change

Saturday morning at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix will see a new shortened qualifying session trialled for the first time.

Formula 1 teams have blocked a last-minute attempt by the FIA to close a tyre loophole ahead of tomorrow’s sprint shootout; a shortened qualifying session to determine the grid for Saturday afternoon’s sprint race.

The format for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint is drastically different to any previous sprint race, given that Saturday is technically now a designated ‘sprint’ day.

Saturday morning will see a shortened qualifying session, with SQ1 (effectively Q1 just with a different name) being 12 minutes, SQ2 being 10 minutes and SQ3 being just 8 minutes.

Whilst drivers will have time to pit during SQ1, the idea behind the shortened qualifying format is that in SQ2 and SQ3, drivers won’t have time to pit for new tyres, meaning they’ll effectively have to ensure that their first lap is the best.

Want to work in Formula 1? Browse the latest F1 job vacancies

However, the red-walled Soft tyres can only be used in SQ3, with the yellow-walled Medium tyres having to be used in SQ1 and SQ2.

The idea behind the format is that a new set of Medium tyres will be used during SQ1 and SQ2, with a new set of Softs being used in SQ3.

The issue is, though, that there is a bit of a wording issue with the actual rules of the sprint shootout format, with the teams not legally being required to save a set of new Soft tyres for SQ3.

It effectively means that teams who don’t think they’ll get to SQ3 can use an extra set of Soft tyres in the normal qualifying session, which took place on Friday, in a bid to start in a better position for Sunday’s race.

Article continues below

It’s due to the new format why several of the leading teams on Friday afternoon completed runs on scrub Soft tyres, in order to save a set for Saturday morning.

With the rule being written the way it currently is, should a driver not have a new set of Softs for SQ3, then they’ll simply start from P10.

After noticing the loophole, the FIA called a vote Friday morning to change the wording of the rule, with the governing body wanting to add to the rule that all drivers must have a set of new Soft tyres saved for the shootout.

READ: Fernando Alonso almost crashes with Lewis Hamilton

The FIA needed eight teams to vote in favour of the “temporary” rule change, which would’ve then been put into official writing for the remainder of the season after being approved by the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council.

However, as reported by, the FIA lost the vote after less than eight teams voted in favour of it, meaning that for the time being the shootout qualifying rule in regard to tyres will remain as originally written.

The rule 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.”