Jacques Villeneuve calls for ‘new rule’ triggered by Japanese GP restart

Jon Wilde
The FIA Mercedes Safety Car leads Max Verstappen, a lot of spray. Japan October 2022

The FIA Mercedes Safety Car leads Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, a lot of spray. Japan October 2022

Jacques Villeneuve thinks the Japanese Grand Prix restart on full wet tyres ought to have prompted a Formula 1 rule change.

After two hours of inactivity as rain fell at Suzuka, with the race having been red-flagged when Carlos Sainz crashed out from fourth place on the opening lap, the action resumed with a rolling start behind the Safety Car.

The extreme wet tyres were mandated, which had not been the case at the original lights-out when every driver started on intermediates – and besides Sainz’s incident there were also collisions further down the field, one of which led to Alex Albon’s retirement.

In contrast, the restart on the full wets was far less helter skelter and all of the remaining 18 drivers made it to the chequered flag around 40 minutes later when the time limit was reached, with the field gradually switching to intermediates as the rain eased off.

Villeneuve, the 1997 World Champion, thinks the race should have taught everyone involved that in future similar circumstances, the decision over tyres at the start of a wet race should be removed from the competitors – favouring full wets all round, for the sake of safety and also the spectacle.

“I think there is a lesson to be learned from the restart, when the drivers were forced to start on the full wets instead of having a free choice. That could be a new rule,” said the Canadian during his post-race column for formule1.nl.

“Of course, everyone now opts for the intermediates at the first start. They are harder to get up to temperature, involve greater risk, but are much faster.

“The full wets have deeper grooves, there is less rubber and therefore they overheat much faster. If everyone had started on full wets, they would not have had the grip problems they did.”

Jacques Villeneuve enters the Formula 1 paddock. Le Castellet July 2022.
Jacques Villeneuve enters the Formula 1 paddock at the French Grand Prix. Le Castellet July 2022.

Has the time come to simplify tyre choices in wet weather?

In other words, should there be only slick tyres and wets? Do away with the green and blue markings and create one hybrid wet tyre?

As long as it was sufficiently effective in the full range of conditions when slicks are unsuitable that would make a lot of sense, but you sense that would be easier said than done as far as Pirelli are concerned.

However, there is also an apparent reluctance on the part of the FIA and teams to use the full wet tyres except when absolutely necessary – on the governing body’s part because they tend to err on the side of caution and decide conditions are too wet to race at all, while the competitors will eschew them for intermediates on performance grounds if at all feasible.

But as Martin Brundle has said, why ferry a truckload of wet-weather tyres around the world if they are only rarely utilised?

It would require a lot of research, development and testing, but perhaps one all-purpose wet-weather tyre could be a workable option in the future.

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