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Desert Heat Pushes Drivers to the Limit

Formula One Drivers Raise Safety Concerns Following Scorching Qatar Grand Prix


By: James Kinnaird


PHOTOGRAPH: RED BULL CONTENT POOL


The Qatar Grand Prix saw newly crowned champion Max Verstappen claim his fourteenth victory of the season. Yet post-race celebrations were marred by the worrying condition of many of the drivers.

 

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was seen stumbling towards an ambulance seconds after emerging from his car, while Alex Albon was taken to the on-track medical centre for further check-ups. Albon’s teammate Logan Sargent failed to make the chequered flag, retiring on lap 41, with Williams later describing him to have suffered “severe dehydration”.

 

Throughout the weekend temperatures often exceeded forty degrees Celsius with the humidity only adding to the physical challenge. The external heat coming from the engine helped make the conditions inside the cockpit like that of a sauna. Resulting in drivers suffering symptoms of heatstroke.

 

McLaren’s Lando Norris described the conditions to Sky Sports post-race: “I think we probably found the limit. I think it's sad we had to find it this way. It's never a nice situation to be in. Some people are ending up in the medical centre or passing out”. While speaking to Sky Sports Esteban Ocon revealed that he had been sick in his helmet during the race but managed to make it to the finish.

 

The Qatar Grand Prix made its first appearance on the F1 calendar in 2021, but its later running date of November 21st meant that the extreme heat did not pose an issue. Additionally, the 2024 Qatar Grand Prix is set for early December, again eliminating the problem faced this year.

 

The addition of other unique factors only served to worsen the already challenging conditions. The infamous ‘pyramid kerbs’ of the Losail International Circuit caused worries of tyre failure in the race, with Pirelli instructing teams that tyres should be run for no more than 18 laps. As a result, drivers were pushing these tyres harder and faster than they normally would during a race.

 

Track limits were again the subject of debate in Qatar, as they have been for a number of races this year. Several drivers had lap times deleted in both the Saturday sprint and Sunday race, with an astounding 51 track limit infringements being handed out, the second highest this year only behind Austria.

 

Other sports that have visited Qatar have been wary of the searing temperatures and have taken appropriate measures to combat this. The 2022 FIFA World Cup saw the first-ever winter edition of the tournament in stadiums that were equipped with air conditioning to cool both players and spectators. The Qatar MotoGP which takes place at the same track is scheduled for late November allowing cooler race conditions.  

 

This is also not the first time that F1 has faced teething issues with a new circuit in a hot country. The Bahrain International Circuit, which has gone on to become the illustrious F1 season opener, was first held in 2005 and faced similar obstacles. With similar temperatures upwards of forty degrees Celsius, it resulted in eight mechanical failures due to overheating. Formula One acted following this race and ensured Bahrain joined the likes of Singapore and Abu Dhabi as a night race.

 

Following this year’s Grand Prix, the governing body of Formula One (FIA) released a statement vowing to make changes to the event in future stating: “While being elite athletes, they should not be expected to compete under conditions that could jeopardise their health or safety”. With over a year until the next Qatar Grand Prix, the FIA have ample time to implement some clearly needed changes to both the track itself and the way in which the event is run. Hopefully, this will result in a safer event, for both drivers and spectators.

 

 

 

 

 

 


1 comentário


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Jacky April
14 de jun.

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