F1's cars/tyres now worse for wet weather visibility, say champions

Previous world champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel say Formula 1’s current high downforce levels and wider tyres are the main cause of wet-weather visibility problems.

F1's cars/tyres now worse for wet weather visibility, say champions

With F1 still analysing exactly what went wrong at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend as it failed to run any racing laps, there have been some comparisons with how the series managed to pull off events in the past in even worse conditions.

One of the most difficult wet races was the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, which took place in atrocious rain.

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However, despite 19 laps behind the safety car, the race eventually got going and ran through to the chequered flag despite some incidents – including the famous collision between Mark Webber and Vettel.

Comparing the Fuji 2007 event with last weekend, Vettel denied that F1 had become too obsessed with safety and was no longer willing to take risks like it had previously.

Instead, he says that evolution of aerodynamics and tyres has resulted in cars throwing up far more spray in the wet than they have in the past. And it was the consequence of poor visibility that ultimately meant the Belgian GP could not run.

“I think the appetite for risk is the same as it was back then,” explained Vettel. “I think we're happy to race providing it safe.

“I think the cars have changed. I think there's significantly more ground effect with the cars that we have now, and more downforce. We seem to suck more water off the ground.

“And then the tyres have changed as well. I think the extreme wet tyres that we had, I remember those days made it easier for us to race in very, very wet conditions with a lot of water on the track.”

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Alonso agreed with Vettel’s conclusions, and reckoned that the current generation of Pirelli wet weather rubber have very different characteristics from those used in the past.

"Tyres is the biggest thing that changed over the years,” said the Spaniard.

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“I think the cars, for whatever reason, or the new aerodynamic rules, they have more spray when you are running behind people, and our tyres are wider now than what they were in 2007.

“Probably the extreme tyres were a little bit stronger back then. Maybe the size of the tyre was helping for the aquaplaning.

“Plus there is the nature of the circuit. I think Spa being at that high speed, with these long straights, the spray was holding there for a long time.

“So I think the conditions were not suitable to race. It was [only] a matter of time that a big accident could happen. And I think the FIA wanted to avoid that. That was the right call.

“Giving the points, this is a different thing. I totally disagree with that. But the conditions to not race, I totally agree.”

Additional reporting by Luke Smith

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