The Qatar Grand Prix schedule has been changed to allow an extra practice session on Saturday ahead of the Sprint Shootout, while maximum stint lengths and a mandatory three-stop race could be imposed due to tire safety concerns.

Following Friday’s practice and qualifying session, Pirelli carried out its usual analysis, and in “tires that have been used for approximately 20 laps” a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords on many of tires that were checked was discovered.

“It is the view of the FIA and Pirelli that a significant number of additional laps on these tires could result in circumferential damage of the tires with subsequent air loss, and tires analyzed with lower lap numbers showed a much-reduced extent of the issue.

“This issue has likely been caused by the high-frequency interference between the tyre sidewall and the 50mm ‘pyramid’ curbs used extensively at this circuit, aggravated by the propensity to ride those curbs.”

The curbs are new for this year’s race compared to the only previous visit in 2021, while the track has also been resurfaced, and drivers were previously concerned about floor damage if they ran too far wide.

To try and negate the issue, the track limits will be revised at Turn 12 and Turn 13 – where drivers have been running onto them at high speed through the three-part left-hander – with the white line on the exit brought in by 80cm. The gap from the existing exit curb to the new track limit will be painted to make it clear visually for the drivers.

There will therefore be a 10-minute practice session at 16:00 to allow drivers to familiarize themselves with the new limitations ahead of the rest of running on Saturday. That was the original time the Sprint Shootout was due to start, so the start of that session will now be delayed by 20 minutes until 16:20 local time.

Turn 14 will also be monitored closely – as well as the exits of other corners – to see how wide drivers are running, but on Friday it was only 12 and 13 that saw the furthest extreme of the curb used regularly.

The FIA says “there will extensive tire analysis following the Sprint (19 laps), to decide whether further action needs to be taken ahead of the grand prix,” and if the problem is still evident then on safety grounds a directive will define the maximum stint length for a new set of tires to be 20 laps on Sunday (or 22 laps for a used set to allow for in and out laps in qualifying), and a three-stop race will be mandatory.

“Pirelli and the FIA will carry out extensive research and simulations in order to establish with complete confidence the reasons behind this issue, and to work on solutions to avoid it in the future,” the governing body added.