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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Pirelli agrees with drivers that F1 wet tyres are "useless" now

Pirelli's Formula 1 boss agrees with driver complaints that the full-wet tyres are "useless" if used only for running behind a safety car now visibility concerns dictate when races begin.

Race start behind the safety car

A late downpour caused the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race to be delayed. The field was then led by the safety car for five formation laps ahead of a rolling start.

The safety car train helped clear standing water to cut spray and help visibility, but all cars pitted within two laps to fit intermediate tyres since the wet weather crossover had arrived.

As such, drivers reckoned the blue-walled full-wet construction now only served a purpose as 'safety car tyres', with Mercedes' George Russell calling them out as "pretty pointless".

Pirelli head of motorsport Mario Isola surprisingly sided with the drivers, so long as the FIA's erring on the side of caution during limited visibility meant the conditions for which full wets were designed would always be run behind the safety car.

He said: "I believe that we have to, first of all, divide two problems: one is the performance of the wet, one is the visibility [amid driver complaints].

"Performance-wise, when we were developing the tyres, we found a result in terms of performance that was much, much better [five seconds per lap] than the old wet tyre.

"It's not enough, maybe, but we did a step… the warm-up was not an issue. All of the teams voted to introduce the new wet during the season because they had the data from our test.

"Maybe this performance is still not enough to generate the right crossover with intermediates…"

He added: "Are they safety car tyres? We discuss many times about visibility. It is an issue and clearly, the FIA, together with the teams, are working around some devices [spray guards] that can improve visibility in order to reduce the spray that is coming from the tyres and the diffuser.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23,Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23,Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23,Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23,Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Erik Junius

"If the idea is to continue to look for a device that is able to reduce the spray and therefore give [drivers] the possibility to run in full-wet conditions, we have to keep the two products [inters and full wets].

"But if the full wet tyre is used only behind the safety car, I agree with drivers that, at the moment, it is a useless tyre.

"So, we have to decide which is the direction we want to take for the future in order to develop the product that is needed for Formula 1."

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Isola has proposed the development of a 'super intermediate' or 'intermediate plus' compound that could be introduced sometime during the 2024 season as a solution.

This single construction, the tread of which Pirelli designed several years ago, would be used to span the crossover between when the FIA rule visibility is too limited and dry tyres.

As a by-product of a single catch-all compound, it would help Pirelli reduce its cargo to improve sustainability – an issue that motivated the recent Alternative Tyre Allocation qualifying experiment in Hungary and the suspended ban on the use of tyre blankets.

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