Pirelli: Better F1 rain tyres would make visibility worse

Pirelli says that improved wet tyres are not what Formula 1 needs to be able to run cars in heavy wet conditions – because they would only make visibility problems worse.

Rain pours down on the track in Russia

The red flagging of the Belgian GP after a few token laps behind the safety car reignited the debate about F1 cars not being able to run safely in heavy rain.

In Sochi on Saturday the FIA cancelled FP3 while waiting for a window in which to run qualifying.

Isola says that the conundrum is that the better Pirelli’s wet tyres are at dispersing water the more spray is created, a problem that was exacerbated by the change of tyre dimensions to a wider specification four years ago.

“I've talked to many people after Spa, because obviously nobody wants to see again another Spa, with people waiting for hours and then nothing is going to happen,” Isola said when quizzed about F1's rain problem by Autosport. 

“On the tyre side there is very little we can do, because the tyres are designed to guarantee the crossover between the full wet and the intermediate, and moving this design target is not ideal, because then you can create a gap.

“And in any case also making a tyre that is more able to disperse water, if you disperse water the water is flying and the visibility becomes worse and worse.

“So we are not fixing the issue, we are probably making the issue worse. I don't know what we can do in terms of tyres.”

Rain lashes down in the pit lane as the red light is displayed at the exit

Rain lashes down in the pit lane as the red light is displayed at the exit

Photo by: James Gasperotti / Motorsport Images

He said the change to wider tyres in 2017 increased the amount of water being thrown up by the current spec by up to 40 percent. “The fact that in 2017 we have introduced the wider tyres is also increasing this water that is flying. The old wet was able to disperse 60 litres per second at 300kph, and now we are going up to 85.

“Unless we find a way to block the water and avoid that it's sprayed and limiting visibility I really don't know what we can do. I honestly don't have a solution for that.”

Isola said that track surfaces designed to reduce spray could help, while acknowledging that venues would be required to invest heavily in any changes.

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“I believe that with the knowledge that we have now it is probably possible to design a tarmac that is able to avoid the standing water, or design circuits with a sort of camber, that is just keeping the water away from track.

“It's not easy, obviously we cannot ask the promoters to redesign or re-profile all the circuits. There is something that can be done with the experience that we have in recent races. But when we have an amount of water that is excessive, then it's difficult.

“And I believe it's the same for any outdoor sport. If the level of rain is huge any type of competition is stopped, football or any other that is outdoor.”

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