The Spa-Francorchamps circuit experienced persistent downpours that severely affected the lone free practice session on Friday and continued to create chaos. Consequently, the start of Saturday afternoon’s sprint had to be postponed by 35 minutes.
The race eventually began after conducting five formation laps aimed at clearing the significant amount of standing water and minimizing the spray, which severely hampered visibility. This has become a pertinent issue following the tragic accident of Formula Regional driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff at a Spa race conducted under similar weather conditions.
The drivers appreciated the race control’s efforts to wait for better track conditions while also managing to execute a truncated 11-lap race. However, they contended that despite the track being fit for racing, the visibility challenges caused by the spray remained as serious as ever.
AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo, while speaking to F1 Flow.com, articulated, “While racing down the straight in fourth gear, and not even at full throttle, I couldn’t even spot George [Russell]’s light ahead of me. While I’m relieved the race happened and everyone seems safe, the visibility problem is disappointing. Even though wet races are enjoyable, we can barely see anything above fourth gear.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Steven Tee / F1 Flow Images
Experienced driver Hulkenberg echoed this sentiment, noting that the spray problem has only exacerbated since the switch to ground-effect cars in 2022. Haas’s driver said, “It’s like you’re constantly guessing, hoping, and on the lookout for those blinking lights. But eventually, the spray gets so dense that you completely lose sight. It’s far from ideal.”
Esteban Ocon of Alpine lauded the FIA’s efforts to clear as much water as possible, but acknowledged the “extreme” spray conditions once the race commenced, even though the track was ready for intermediates. He said, “I’m glad the FIA took the time to manage the water situation. But when we restarted, the conditions were still quite severe.”
GPDA director George Russell suggested the visibility problem is more severe at Spa than at other circuits. He proposed allowing a few laps at full racing speed before neutralizing the pack with the safety car for better water management.
Russell said, “It’s incredibly challenging and dangerous. You’re driving at 300 km/h on the straight and can’t see beyond 50 metres. The spray doesn’t seem to disperse, making it feel like you’re driving into a cloud. Maybe they could let us race a few laps at full speed, then bring out the safety car, because after two laps of racing things were much better.”
Additional reporting by Adam Cooper
Russell criticizes F1 wet tyres as “fairly useless” after Spa sprint
Wolff: Mercedes needs to “step up” driver communication during F1 qualifying
Marko: Perez needs a reality check regarding F1 “world championship dream”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Visibility
Q: What were the weather conditions during the Spa F1 sprint?
A: The Spa-Francorchamps circuit experienced heavy showers that disrupted the Friday free practice session and continued to cause havoc during the Saturday afternoon sprint, resulting in a 35-minute delay.
Q: How did race control handle the visibility issues?
A: Race control took measures to improve visibility by conducting five formation laps to clear standing water and reduce the spray. However, many drivers still found the visibility problems caused by the spray to be severe.
Q: Was there any prior accident that brought attention to visibility concerns?
A: Yes, the fatal accident of Formula Regional driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff in a Spa race under similar conditions drew attention to the visibility issues and their potential dangers.
Q: What were some drivers’ opinions on the visibility challenges?
A: Drivers, such as Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, expressed their concerns about the poor visibility due to thick spray, making it difficult to race safely.
Q: Did the weather conditions affect the racing experience?
A: Yes, drivers mentioned that while they appreciated wet races for the excitement, the limited visibility above certain gears posed significant challenges and made the racing experience more dangerous.
Q: Were there any proposed solutions to improve visibility during wet races?
A: GPDA director George Russell suggested allowing a few laps at full racing speed before using the safety car to neutralize the pack, as this approach could help manage the spray and improve visibility during wet conditions.