Russell Deems F1 Wet Tyres “Essentially Useless” Following Spa Sprint

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According to F1 regulations, all drivers are mandated to use wet tyres during rainy conditions, especially when trailing the safety car before the race commences.

Nonetheless, a peculiar situation arises when the race conditions become suitable for racing, the wet tyres are deemed practically insignificant.

During the Spa sprint, a scramble to the pit stops for intermediate tyres marked the commencement of the race. Half the grid made their pit stop right at the start while the remaining racers did so at the end of the initial flying lap.

Russell has a particularly dismal opinion about the extreme tyre, labeling it as a “practically useless tyre,” which performs quite poorly. He says, “It’s likely six, seven seconds slower per lap than the intermediate. You would only opt for the extreme wet tyre to prevent aquaplaning when using an intermediate, implying that substantial improvements are required.

“The propensity to aquaplane even with slight water is quite high. I have seen old onboard videos from 2007 with Massa and Kubica in Fuji, and despite the large amount of water, they were pushing hard.

“I can recall test days in F3 and Formula Renault, on Michelin and Hankook, where aquaplaning was rarely an issue, but I recognize that we’re reaching speeds well over 200 miles per hour. It’s not an easy task, but yes, some significant improvements are needed.”

Photo by: Andy Hone / F1 Flow Images

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari’s driver who will start the Belgian GP from pole position on Sunday, concurred with Russell.

He pointed out, “There’s a necessity for improvements because our extreme tyres, despite being very slow, are effective for aquaplaning. But we seldom drive in such conditions due to visibility issues.

“So, when conditions become drivable, we are all forced to use intermediates. It’s quite a challenge at present. I believe the extreme tyre should have a faster performance, closer to the intermediates, encouraging more use of the extreme rather than intermediates.”

Earlier during the Spa weekend, Russell suggested that bold decisions regarding racing in wet conditions would have to be taken by the FIA, expressing satisfaction that the sprint was commenced after the heavy rain had subsided, followed by several laps behind the safety car.

“In my opinion, they performed well under the circumstances,” he said. “It’s very challenging, yet extremely perilous, as you are clocking 300 kilometres per hour on the straight and visibility is limited to just 50 metres.

“This circuit seems to amplify the problem. I’m unsure if it’s due to humidity, the trees, or something else, but the spray does not seem to clear. It’s akin to driving into a dense fog.”

He also proposed that laps under the safety car should be substituted by allowing cars to run at full speed – without competing – to help clear the water.

“My feeling is that those four laps under the safety car did not provide much benefit,” he said. “I believe the situation was similar in Japan, with numerous laps under the safety car that didn’t improve conditions.

“So, a potential solution could be to permit us to complete two, three, four laps at full racing speed, then bring out the safety car to normalize the pack, and then restart, because the conditions were noticeably better after two laps of racing.”

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 Wet Tyres

What was Russell’s opinion about the F1 wet tyres following the Spa sprint?

Russell opined that the F1 wet tyres, particularly the extreme tyre, were “pretty pointless” or essentially useless. He observed that they were significantly slower than the intermediate tyres and only served the purpose of preventing aquaplaning in extreme wet conditions. He suggested that the performance of these tyres needs to be substantially improved.

Did any other driver agree with Russell’s views?

Yes, Charles Leclerc, a driver for Ferrari, agreed with Russell’s views. He also noted that while the extreme tyres are effective for aquaplaning, they are rarely used due to visibility issues. He suggested that the extreme tyre’s performance should be closer to the intermediates, to encourage more use of the extreme tyres in wet conditions.

What changes did Russell suggest regarding safety car laps in wet conditions?

Russell suggested that instead of doing slow laps behind the safety car to disperse water in wet conditions, drivers should be allowed to do a few laps at full racing speed – not racing each other – to help clear the water more effectively. He felt that doing so would improve the conditions much better than the current practice.

What did Russell say about racing in wet conditions in general?

Russell acknowledged that racing in wet conditions was extremely challenging and dangerous, with drivers reaching speeds of 300 kilometres per hour with limited visibility. He also pointed out that the spray from the wet track doesn’t seem to disperse effectively on certain circuits, making it feel like driving into a cloud. He called for “bold decisions” from the FIA regarding racing in such conditions.

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