Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon was sick in his helmet during the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix. AFP / Peter Kohalmi

Motorsport governing body FIA is seriously considering modifying the Formula 1 calendar in the future after the catastrophic effects of extreme temperatures during the recently concluded Qatar Grand Prix.

The event took place from October 6-8 at the Lusail International Circuit near Doha, Qatar. While autumn has arrived and the main race was held at night, the temperatures reached over 40°C with close to 70 per cent humidity. This meant that walking around in race suits and helmets felt like the drivers were in a sauna for hours on end, and the situation became even more unbearable once they got in their cars and started racing.

The FIA has proposed calendar changes

After observing a number of drivers suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration, the FIA is reportedly looking at solutions to the problem apart from moving the Qatar Grand Prix to a cooler time of the year.

In a statement published on its official website, the governing body said: "The FIA has begun an analysis into the situation in Qatar to provide recommendations for future situations of extreme weather conditions.

"It should be noted that, while next year's edition of the Qatar Grand Prix is scheduled later in the year, when temperatures are expected to be lower, the FIA prefers to take material action now to avoid a repeat of this scenario."

There are still five races left in the 2023 season, and the FIA believes that if there are any measures that can immediately be implemented to ensure the safety of the participants, then these need to be looked at as soon as possible.

The horrible conditions in Qatar will also be discussed in an upcoming medical commission meeting in Paris. The statement added: "Measures may include guidance for competitors, research into modifications for more efficient airflow in the cockpit, and recommendations for changes to the calendar to align with acceptable climatic conditions, among others.

"Research from other series, such as cross-country events in extreme climates, will be examined for potential applications to circuit events."

How bad were the conditions in Qatar?

Several drivers unfortunately needed medical attention both during and after the race last Sunday due to the heat and humidity. While the race was ongoing, the problem was already evident after two-time world champion Fernando Alonso complained over the team radio that his seat was getting extremely hot. He asked them to try to find a solution that could help him during his pit stop, but it did not seem like there was anything that his engineers could do.

Mercedes driver George Russell was seen taking his hands off the steering wheel and guiding it with his wrists as wriggled his fingers in front of his face in what seemed to be an attempt to get some airflow into his cockpit. Russell was also seen opening his visor several times in order to let air in. He admitted after the race that he felt at times that he was about to faint.

In the latter stages of the race, worried Williams engineers asked Logan Sargeant to retire after finding out that he was feeling ill in the car. On his way to the pits, the American was seen slowing down and struggling to get back to safety. He was immediately seen by the medical team and was luckily cleared of any serious medical issues. His teammate Alex Albon was also taken to the medical centre after the race to be treated for dehydration and heat exposure.

However, others were not as lucky. Alpine driver Esteban Ocon admitted after the race that he had vomited in his helmet due to the nausea caused by the extreme conditions.

A video of Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll has also gone viral, with the Canadian seen barely being able to stand as he got out of his car after the race. He braced himself against a tyre before mustering up enough strength to approach an ambulance for help.

Even the top three drivers were clearly affected by the conditions. McLaren driver Lando Norris, who finished third, sought medical attention after the race due to dehydration. His teammate and second-place finisher Oscar Piastri was seen slumped on the floor of the cool down room before heading to the podium to receive his trophy.

Race winner Max Verstappen also hunkered down on the floor near Piastri as he too, did not seem to have enough strength in his legs despite dominating the race.

It has to be pointed out that these are some of the fittest athletes in the world, and even they were unable to cope with the dangerous conditions. Verstappen said after the race: "It was too warm and nothing to do with more training. The guys struggling are extremely fit but the whole day is like walking around in a sauna."