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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Gasly "didn't feel safe" racing in Spa F1 sprint spray

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly “didn’t feel safe” starting Formula 1’s wet Belgian Grand Prix sprint race even after five formation laps to clear standing water and with intermediates appropriate.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Gasly’s opinion centres on the ongoing visibility problem F1 drivers face when running in the wet with the new ground effect generation of cars, which lift huge volumes of spray into the air and push it over a wider area.

In the sprint race that Max Verstappen won on Saturday, Gasly ended up third behind McLaren’s Oscar Piastri – that pair opting to pit at the end of the formation lap to switch from the full wet tyres mandated by F1’s rules, as the safety car had led the pack once the delayed proceedings eventually got underway on another day impacted by rain during this event.

Verstappen said he thought the FIA’s decisions on starting the 11-lap race, reduced from the scheduled 15 by the five formation laps, was “probably quite a safe view on things”.

But when asked by Autosport if race control had made all the right decisions under intense focus at the track where two young drivers have died in the last four years – with Dilano van’t Hoff's occurring just four weeks in a Formula Regional Championship by Alpine race – Gasly disagreed.

“I think I have a slightly different view than Max, based on the comments [so far],” Gasly told the post-sprint race press conference.

“Obviously you can only compare to your position at the time and I was in sixth position [behind the safety car during the formation laps] and pretty sure like when you’re first or second it’s slightly different and when you’re at the back it’s worse.

“So, I don’t think my opinion is really [important alone], you’ve got to ask all 20 drivers based on what they felt. But, I couldn’t see a thing.

“If Oscar or Max was [crashed] in the middle of the straight I would’ve been straight inside him [his car, after Gasly had risen to third with his final formation lap stop and before the safety car was called again following Fernando Alonso’s crash].

“I just couldn’t even see 10-20m in front of me and even when we were all warming up the tyres and stuff, it was just… you were just hoping for the best. I didn’t feel safe.

“When they restarted, I was really hoping no guy gets off the track or collides and gets stuck in the middle of the straight because we know obviously what’s happened.

“It’s not really a question of conditions because the conditions were probably raceable since the first lap.

“The problem is the visibility. And the spray at the moment is so huge out of these cars – the water just stays in the air.

“I was in P6 and I couldn’t see anything. So, I can only imagine how bad it was at the back of the field.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

“I wanted to box already straightaway for inters and this just added another sort of incentive to box and just have visibility.

“Because down the straight you just don’t know what could happen.

“It’s a tricky call. You want to race, but at the same time I’m glad everything went safely today.

“But all you need is just one person to be stopped in the wrong place in the straight and it can go wrong very quickly.”

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Verstappen then clarified that “I fully get Pierre’s comments” because he feels the spray issue has “become worse from when I started in F1 [in 2015]”.

“Today, sometimes I couldn’t see the safety car and I’m the first car,” Verstappen added. “That’s not even an F1 car.

“So, if we really want to get rid of it [the spray issue], we can’t do a race at the moment in the wet if we want good visibility.”

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