Qatar’s brutal heat takes its toll on Grand Prix drivers
Severe dehydration and vomiting as temperatures stay above 36°C in the night race
Doha — Formula One drivers say the sport has reached a limit and needs to heed the warning signs after Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix ended with some on the brink of collapse, vomiting and with severe dehydration.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon said he threw in his helmet early in the race, such was the heat and humidity, while Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll told reporters he almost passed out at the wheel.
Williams’ Alex Albon was taken to the circuit medical centre after the race with acute heat exposure, and was later released, while teammate Logan Sargeant felt too unwell to continue and was treated for intense dehydration after stopping.
Others lay on garage floors to recover after the race.
“Today we probably found the limit,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris. “Sad we had to find it that way with some people ending up in the medical centre or passing out. A pretty dangerous thing.
“On TV it probably doesn’t look that physical, but when you have people who end up retiring it is too much; for the speeds we are doing it is too dangerous. It’s something we need to speak about because it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Track temperatures during the floodlit night race at the Lusail circuit never dropped below 36°C, according to tyre supplier Pirelli, while daytime temperatures nudged above 40°C.
Red Bull’s newly crowned triple world champion Max Verstappen said it was “way too hot to drive”. Mercedes’ George Russell said it was “absolutely brutal” and he felt close to fainting.
“I felt ill during this race. It was insane how hot it was. It was like you were inside an oven,” he added. “I sometimes train in saunas and you push your body to the limit and you get to a point where it’s too hot and you’re like, ‘I want to get out’. That was the feeling from about lap 12.”
McLaren’s Australian rookie Oscar Piastri, who finished second, said it was “definitely the hardest race I’ve had in my life. It was hot and basically flat-out the entire time.”
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur said the sport should take note. “I think we are close to the limit when you have drivers stopping because they are not able to continue.
“They have the lucidity to stop but they could also crash. It means that we have to pay attention. I think we were very close to the limit or over the limit this weekend,” said the Frenchman.
“It was really extreme, probably too much and we have to pay attention to this.”
The first race in Qatar in 2021 was held in late November while next year’s is scheduled for December. There was no race in 2022 due to the football World Cup.
Sunday’s problem was made worse by restrictions on tyre usage for safety reasons, forcing all drivers to make at least three pit stops but also taking away the need for tyre management.
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