Formula 1 has approved the use of a new “cooling scoop” on the car in extreme heat in order to help prevent a repeat of the illness and exhaustion that followed October’s Qatar Grand Prix.
Several drivers complained about the heat and humidity in Qatar, with temperatures reaching almost 48C in the cockpit.
Esteban Ocon was one such driver who suffered, admitting he threw up in his helmet during the race, while Alex Albon was taken to the medical centre after the race and Lance Stroll claimed he passed out at the wheel.
As such, Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, this week ratified the installation of a “cooling scoop” – placed underneath the chassis – to allow more air to flow into the cockpit during high temperatures.
The scoop has been approved, at the final meeting this year of the World Motorsport Council (WMSC) in Baku, despite concerns it could be used as a means of gaining an aerodynamic advantage.
“That [the scoop] was a rejected idea from the teams previously, but that has now been approved,” said Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single-seater director.
This year’s race in Qatar was only the second staging of the Lusail race and the first of a 10-year deal.
Next year’s edition will be held two months later in December, when it is expected to be cooler, but the extra demands of a sprint weekend will still be a test for the 20 drivers.
Lewis Hamilton, who retired after the first lap of the Qatar GP after colliding with Mercedes team-mate George Russell, insisted the sport must not become “too soft” in wake of driver complaints in the Middle East.
“This is an extreme sport and you don’t have marathon runners who pass out after a marathon saying the event should be shorter,” Hamilton, 38, said.
“We get paid very highly for what we do, and, from my perspective, when I have not been feeling great at the end of a race I just train harder.
“So I don’t want them to shorten the races and make it easier for us. I want it to be extreme. I want to feel the difference. I want to feel pain in my body. That’s what this is about. We have got to be careful with the changes we make. It’s like, ‘let’s not get too soft’.”
The 2024 F1 season, which has a record 24 races, starts on 2 March with the Bahrain Grand Prix.