The lead of the safety car helped dissipate some of the pooled water, reducing the spray and improving visibility. However, within two laps, all the cars headed to the pit stops to change to intermediate tyres as the conditions warranted a transition from wet-weather tyres.
Therefore, drivers expressed that the blue-walled full-wet tyres seem to have a limited role as ‘safety car tyres’. Mercedes’ driver, George Russell, criticized them as being “largely ineffective.”
Surprisingly, Pirelli’s Head of Motorsport, Mario Isola, aligned himself with the drivers’ opinions, provided that the FIA’s preference for safety in conditions of poor visibility necessitates running under the full wet conditions behind the safety car.
He explained, “We must distinguish between two challenges: one is the performance of the wet tyre, and the other is visibility [amid drivers’ complaints]. In terms of performance, our development efforts produced a wet tyre that is significantly better [by five seconds per lap] than the previous version.
“While this may not be enough, it’s an improvement… and we didn’t have any issues with warming up. All teams agreed to use the new wet tyre during the season based on the data from our tests.
“However, the improved performance may still not be sufficient to determine the correct transition point to intermediate tyres…”
Continuing, Isola asked, “Are these tyres just for safety car scenarios? Visibility has been a long-discussed topic. It’s a concern, and the FIA, along with the teams, are trying to find solutions [like spray guards] to enhance visibility by reducing the spray from the tyres and the diffuser.
“If the aim is to continue searching for a solution that minimizes spray and thus allows driving in full-wet conditions, we need to retain both products [intermediates and full wets].
“But if the full wet tyre is only used during safety car scenarios, I concur with the drivers that it is, in its current state, an ineffective tyre.
“Therefore, we must decide our future direction to develop the product that Formula 1 truly requires.”
Isola proposed a potential solution: the creation of a ‘super intermediate’ or ‘intermediate plus’ compound that could be launched sometime in the 2024 season.
This single type of tyre, which Pirelli had designed a few years back, would be employed to cover the transition period from when visibility is deemed too poor by the FIA rules to when dry tyres can be used.
By doing so, Pirelli aims to reduce its cargo footprint, thereby increasing sustainability. This goal echoes the recent Alternative Tyre Allocation qualifying trial in Hungary and the suspended ban on tyre blankets.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pirelli Wet Tyres
What issue arose during the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race?
A late downpour caused the race to be delayed. All cars had to pit within two laps to switch to intermediate tyres from the full-wet tyres, highlighting the perceived inefficiency of the wet tyres in such conditions.
What is the drivers’ opinion on the blue-walled full-wet tyres?
Drivers believe these tyres serve a limited purpose, essentially acting as ‘safety car tyres’. Mercedes’ driver George Russell even referred to them as “largely ineffective.”
What was Pirelli Head of Motorsport Mario Isola’s response to the criticism?
Isola agreed with the drivers’ assessment if the wet tyres were to be used only during safety car scenarios due to limited visibility. However, he argued that Pirelli’s new wet tyre performed much better than its predecessor during testing.
What solution has Mario Isola proposed for this issue?
Isola has proposed the development of a ‘super intermediate’ or ‘intermediate plus’ compound that could be introduced in the 2024 season. This single construction tyre is designed to bridge the transition between poor visibility and dry tyre conditions.
How is Pirelli addressing sustainability in its operations?
Pirelli aims to reduce its cargo footprint and increase sustainability. This goal is reflected in their proposed introduction of a ‘super intermediate’ tyre, which would help decrease their cargo. This intention aligns with recent efforts like the Alternative Tyre Allocation qualifying trial in Hungary and the suspended ban on tyre blankets.