According to existing rules, drivers are required to start with full wet tires when the formation lap begins behind the safety car.
Yet, by the time conditions are safe enough for the safety car to exit, the track is often too dry for these specialized wet tires.
This dilemma was evident at last month’s Spa sprint race, where many drivers dove into the pits to swap for intermediate tires as the safety car left the track. The remaining racers followed suit at the end of the first lap, creating a mad scramble as teams jockeyed to manage tire changes for their two cars.
In principle, there’s nothing stopping all the drivers from piling into the pit lane at once, a situation nearly realized during a 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix restart.
On that occasion, the race started normally, allowing drivers to freely choose their tires. But the quickly drying track forced everyone except Lewis Hamilton to ditch their intermediates for slick tires, creating a pit lane pandemonium.
Zandvoort, known for having the narrowest pit lane of the season—even after some expansions this year—poses a unique challenge.
To mitigate the risk of chaotic mass pitstops, FIA race director Niels Wittich has now granted himself the discretion to allow drivers to initiate the formation lap with intermediate tires, citing both safety concerns and the layout of Zandvoort’s pit lane as the driving factors.
Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing was seen exiting his pit box, underscoring the point.
Wittich elaborated in a note to teams, stating that if the track conditions evolve to make wet tires unsuitable, he reserves the right to mandate the use of intermediate tires. Teams will be informed through the official messaging system, and ample time will be granted for the changeover.
This updated protocol is also applicable if a race resumes behind the safety car following a red flag situation.
When quizzed about this change, Charles Leclerc responded positively. “Given how much faster intermediates are than full wets, I’d say it’s a smart move. Otherwise, we’d have a hazardous situation with everyone piling into the pits on the first lap.”
Valtteri Bottas echoed these sentiments, noting, “The wet tires here last basically one lap, so everyone will be itching to switch to intermediates as quickly as possible. It’s a sensible move.”
Fernando Alonso also threw his weight behind the decision, saying, “It’s an intelligent choice that I fully support.”
Analyzing GPS Data: How Close was Norris to Snagging the Dutch F1 Pole Due to a Less-Than-Perfect Lap End?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about FIA safety guidelines
What changes have been made to FIA’s wet start regulations?
The FIA has modified the regulations to allow drivers the option to start with intermediate tires when the formation lap begins behind the safety car. This change aims to mitigate the risk of chaotic mass pit stops, especially at tracks with tight pit lanes like Zandvoort.
Why was this change in regulations necessary?
The change was introduced to prevent potentially hazardous situations arising from mass pit stops. The dilemma was evident in previous races where drivers had to swap from full wet tires to intermediates almost immediately after the safety car exited, causing chaos in the pits.
Who are some of the drivers that support the new regulation?
Drivers like Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas, and Fernando Alonso have publicly supported the new FIA regulations. They believe it is a sensible move that will contribute to safer race conditions.
How does this affect pit lane strategy?
The change in regulations could simplify pit lane strategy by reducing the immediate need for tire changes as soon as the safety car leaves the track. Teams can now better stagger their pit strategies and avoid overcrowding in the pit lane.
What happens if the track conditions change again?
If track conditions evolve to a point where wet tires become unsuitable, the FIA race director has the discretion to require all drivers to switch to intermediate tires. Teams will be informed through the official messaging system, and they will have sufficient time to make the switch.
Does this rule apply to resumptions after a red flag?
Yes, the new procedure is also applicable when a race resumes behind the safety car following a red flag situation.
What was the role of the race director Niels Wittich in this change?
FIA race director Niels Wittich granted himself the authority to allow drivers to initiate the formation lap with intermediate tires, citing both safety and the exceptional layout of certain pit lanes as reasons for the change. He elaborated on these points in a note sent to teams.
Are any specific tracks mentioned as a reason for this change?
Yes, Zandvoort was specifically mentioned as having the narrowest pit lane of the season, even after some expansions. This unique layout makes it more prone to chaos during mass pit stops, underscoring the need for the new regulations.
More about FIA safety guidelines
- FIA Official Regulations on Wet Starts
- Inside the Pit Lane Strategy: An In-depth Look
- Previous Chaos at Hungarian GP: A Case Study
- Charles Leclerc on Safety in F1
- Valtteri Bottas Discusses Pit Lane Dynamics
- Interview with FIA Race Director Niels Wittich
- The Unique Pit Lane Challenges at Zandvoort
- Fernando Alonso’s Take on FIA Changes
- Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing’s Pit Strategy
- Latest F1 Safety Car Protocols Explained