Lando Norris on intermediate tyres? In the dry? This should be interesting.
McLaren could potentially have gained an advantage during the Azerbaijan sprint race because Lando Norris (#4) had used up all of his available soft compound tyres in FP1 and regular qualifying on Friday.
The new sprint format, which debuted for the first time in Azerbaijan, brought about some new rules. On Saturday, the sprint format has its own qualifying session to decide who gets to start on the grid first. Drivers can only use new medium tyres in SQ1 and SQ2, and then new soft tyres in SQ3.
However, McLaren opted to use all of Norris’s softs to help him clinch 7th position for Sunday’s Grand Prix – knowing that if he made it to SQ3, he would have no sets left to run the session.
This brings about a loophole in the regulations. While teams cannot use intermediate or full wet tyres in practice sessions unless the track is declared wet (for obvious reasons), they are free to use them during qualifying sessions.
Strange ruling, but obviously teams typically have nothing to gain by using intermediates or wets in a normal dry qualifying session, so it has never really been an issue.
But, the strict restriction to one set of new softs for the SQ3 shootout segment opened up the floodgates, inciting drivers to wear these threaded compounds to the track in dry conditions.
By making it to SQ3 but staying in the garage, Norris knew he had to be contented for 10th place. However, he only needed to post a token lap time, even if it was slow. Had any other driver been unable to run due to technical issues or crashed without setting a time, Norris could easily lifted himself up to higher grid spots.
Funnily enough, Yuki Tsunoda was also in a similar predicament and had both drivers made SQ3, both of them could have ended up competing with each other for a quicker lap on wet tyres.
Alas, in the end Mclaren had nothing to gain, and this ruling anomaly in the regulations is set to be addressed before the next sprint event in Austria.
Motorsport.com managed to catch Norris for a quick interview, and enquired about missing out on SQ3 “Yeah, of course, because I enjoy qualifying, probably more than any other part of the weekend.”
“I love the racing, but qualifying, just driving flat out, it’s the one time you get to really do that. Yeah, I guess it does kind of suck. You just want the opportunity to go out and put in some good laps and see what you can do.”