Delays to the start of last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix have reignited the debate over whether F1 needs to rethink how its cars cope with bad weather.
The most critical aspect of safety in wet conditions is ensuring that the tires can handle excess water on the track, and that there is no risk of aquaplaning .
But it is also necessary to ensure that wet compounds work, as F1 drivers know very well that Pirelli’s current intermediate tire performs much better on a wider range of different track conditions than extreme wet tyres .
Speaking after the rain-affected Suzuka race, Verstappen said he would be more than happy to work with Pirelli to test some new ideas and help improve things.
“I didn’t want to get everyone to complain, but I think we need better wet tyres,” said the Dutchman. “If you remember what you could do in the ’90s or early 2000s, with the amount of water that was on the track…”
“I’m very happy to have test days and test all types of tyres. But we need better wet tires because I think extreme wet tires are slow and can’t evacuate much water. That’s why everyone tries to quickly switch to intermediates, because it’s much faster per lap.
“You could see from lap to lap we went from extreme to intermediate and immediately we were at least five seconds quicker, and that’s too much of a difference. And that’s why nobody wants to race with extremes.”
The contrast in performance between the intermediate and the extreme rain caused all the drivers to start the Japanese GP with intermediates before there was a red flag after Carlos Sainz’s accident.
And although Max Verstappen believes that today’s extreme wet tires might not be able to handle the conditions, those of the past were better.
“When it was raining like when the red flag came out, if you had put on extreme wet tyres, I think it would still be very difficult to drive,” admitted the Red Bull Dutchman.
“But if you compare it to what was going on 20 years ago, it would have been perfectly fine. So there must be a solution.”
“But this is not a criticism, because I am very happy to help. We should look into it. Maybe we can organize more days of testing in the wet and work together, to try to find better tires to at least have a chance to really drive in the wet and not always do just two laps with extremes, switch to intermediates and call it a wet race. Because a wet race is also usually done in heavy rain.”
Charles Leclerc believes that an important aspect that must be analyzed is the amount of water that the current tires throw off, since this makes it difficult for the drivers to see through the spray that is generated behind.
“I think a big problem with these cars is visibility,” he analyzed. “So anything we can do to try to improve visibility and minimize spray, especially behind cars, will be hugely beneficial.”
“I think sometimes we can race depending on the track conditions, but visibility-wise it becomes dangerous to ride behind another car, because you don’t see anything.
“We should try to find a solution to try to minimize the spray,” concluded the Ferrari man.