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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Visibility issues in wet Spa F1 sprint 'as bad as ever'

Veteran Formula 1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg felt the visibility problems during Saturday's wet Belgian Grand Prix sprint were worse than they've ever seen.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Heavy showers, which had all but prevented running in Friday's single free practice session, continued to wreak havoc on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, with the start for Saturday afternoon's sprint delayed by 35 minutes.

Eventually the race got under way after five formation laps to clear out some of the standing water and try to reduce the spray that limited visibility, a topic that has been put back on the agenda since the fatal accident of Formula Regional driver Dilano van 't Hoff in a Spa race held in similar conditions.

Drivers were appreciative of race control's efforts to do everything it could to hold out for improved track conditions and clear water off the racing surface, while still getting a shortened 11-lap race in.

But many felt that while the track itself was ready to race on, the visibility problems caused by spray were still as bad as they've ever been.

"I was in fourth gear down the straight, not even full throttle, and I couldn't see George [Russell]'s light in front of me," AlphaTauri's Daniel Ricciardo said when asked by Autosport to relay how bad the issue was.

"In the end, obviously I'm glad we got the race done. Everyone I think is safe, but visibility... it's a shame.

"I've been doing this for a while now, and I don't remember it like this. Obviously, the last few years it's been bad. But five, 10 years ago we raced in these conditions.

"We want to race, because the wet is also fun. But honestly, I think the onboard captures it well that we really don't see. Anything above probably fourth gear, you're just like this [crosses fingers]."

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Fellow veteran Nico Hulkenberg felt the spray has only gotten worse since the move to ground effect cars in 2022.

"I would say these ground-effect cars have made it worse. I've never known it to be that bad," said the Haas driver.

"It is a lot of guessing and hoping and you're just looking for those flashing lights. But at some point, the spray just gets so thick that you just lose the sight of that. So yeah, not great."

Alpine's Esteban Ocon felt the FIA did the right thing by trying to clear as much water as it could, but felt the spray was still "extreme" once the race got underway, even if the track was ready for intermediates.

"It was pretty, pretty bad but happy that the FIA took the time to really try and clear the water as much as possible," Ocon added.

"But yes, even when we restarted it was better, but it was still quite extreme.

"I think there has to be a restart point at some point but the rolling start and the way it spread out the field was the right decision, so I think the FIA did a good job."

GPDA director George Russell felt the lack of visibility is a bigger issue at Spa than at other circuits and proposed a solution to try and clear more water.

"I think they did a good job under the circumstances. It's very challenging, incredibly dangerous conditions. You are doing 300 km/h on the straight and you can't see 50 metres in front of you.

"It seems particularly bad in this circuit. I don't know if it's the humidity or the trees or what, but the spray just doesn't seem to disperse and it's like you're driving into a cloud.

"I felt like those four laps under the safety car didn't really give us a lot. Maybe a solution for the future is if they allow us to do 2-3-4 laps at full racing speed and then bring the safety car out to neutralise the pack, and go again, because after two laps of racing things were much better." 

Additional reporting by Adam Cooper

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