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Formula 1: Top competitors express disappointment over ‘useless’ extreme wet tyres

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Belgian Grand Prix

Stay updated with live text and radio coverage of the Belgian Grand Prix on the Sport Newes Center website and app, starting from 12:45 BST on Sunday.

Pilots criticize the low performance of Formula 1’s ‘extreme’ wet tyre, saying it complicates race starts under poor visibility conditions.

They also supported the decision of race officials to postpone the start of the Belgian Grand Prix sprint due to spray concerns.

Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Charles Leclerc have all demanded improvements to Pirelli’s wet weather tyres.

Mercedes racer Russell described the tyre as “essentially useless” and in “serious need of enhancements.”

All participants concurred that inadequate visibility was the main issue when commencing races in wet conditions, but acknowledged tyres also played a role.

F1 regulations stipulate that drivers must start on the extreme tyre in races that begin behind the safety car, such as the incident at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday due to a heavy rainfall causing a delayed start.

The drivers completed five laps behind the safety car to help reduce standing water on the track and enhance visibility.

When the race finally started, 10 cars instantly halted to switch to the more lightly grooved intermediate tyres before even reaching the start line, with the remaining 10 veering off into the pits after the first lap.

Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, stated: “The extreme tyre is significantly subpar. It is six, seven seconds slower than the intermediate and would only be used if you aquaplane on the intermediate. This needs serious enhancements.”

Russell compared the current situation in F1 to 2007, when multiple brands, including the Japanese company Bridgestone, which is competing with Pirelli for the upcoming tyre contract beginning in 2025, supplied tyres.

He reflected on old onboard videos from 2007 with Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica, noting they were able to race flat out in heavy rain. Russell stated that aquaplaning was hardly an issue during his test days on Michelin and Hankook tyres in F3, though acknowledged the challenges of racing at over 200mph.

Ferrari’s Leclerc stated that the extreme tyres, while good for preventing aquaplaning, were too slow. He suggested these tyres should be closer in speed to the intermediate tyres, making them a more viable choice during races.

Verstappen won the sprint on Saturday by six seconds over Oscar Piastri but will start the main race on Sunday from the sixth position on the grid due to a penalty for excessive use of gearbox parts.

Pirelli’s motorsport director, Mario Isola, acknowledged on Friday that the performance of the new-design extreme tyre needed further enhancements.

Verstappen, the sprint winner, concurred with Russell and Leclerc about tyre performance, but pointed out that visibility was a more pressing issue.

Referring to two fatal incidents at Spa in the last four years, Verstappen highlighted the need to address visibility issues, stating that in his experience, visibility during races in wet conditions, even in the junior categories, has been very poor.

Gasly, who finished third in Saturday’s sprint, echoed these concerns, emphasizing the danger of poor visibility during a race restart, not due to track conditions, but the enormous spray from the cars. He expressed relief that everything went smoothly in the race but voiced concern over the potential for serious accidents in such conditions.

Verstappen agreed with the decision to complete extra laps behind the safety car, stating it was a safer option than rushing the start. Meanwhile, Russell suggested a possible solution for the future could be to allow drivers to complete four laps at racing speed before bringing out the safety car to neutralize the pack, as visibility tends to improve after a couple of laps at full speed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Belgian Grand Prix

What was the main concern of the drivers during the Belgian Grand Prix?

The main concern of the drivers was poor visibility during wet conditions, which was worsened by the use of ‘extreme’ wet tyres.

Why were the drivers critical of the ‘extreme’ wet tyres?

The drivers criticized the ‘extreme’ wet tyres because they were slower than the intermediate tyres and only used in conditions where aquaplaning was a risk. They argued that these tyres need to be substantially improved.

Who were the drivers that called for improvements to Pirelli’s wet rubber?

Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Charles Leclerc were the drivers who called for improvements to Pirelli’s wet rubber.

What was the result of the Belgian Grand Prix sprint?

Max Verstappen won the Belgian Grand Prix sprint, finishing six seconds ahead of Oscar Piastri.

Did the race officials take any measures due to poor visibility and wet conditions?

Yes, the race officials decided to delay the start of the Belgian Grand Prix sprint due to spray concerns and poor visibility. They also made the decision to have the drivers complete five laps behind the safety car in an attempt to reduce standing water on the track.

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MaxFanatic July 30, 2023 - 11:23 am

Max again proving he’s the best, no matter the conditions! Let’s get that main race win tomorrow!

RubberGuru July 30, 2023 - 3:33 pm

Tyre tech is complicated guys! Can’t just make them perfect overnight. Pirelli needs to test multiple iterations to ensure safety and performance.

SpeedyGonzalez July 31, 2023 - 7:39 am

Russel making some sense there, get them to race a bit before the safety car neutralises. visibility should improve.

F1Geek July 31, 2023 - 7:57 am

The visibility issues have been a problem for years now. Not sure how they’ll solve it with the current cars and tyre setup.


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