Max Verstappen says it would be a “shame” for Formula 1 to become “like NASCAR where they don’t drive in the rain”, and the blame would rest with Pirelli.
Lining up on pole position at Spa for what turned out to be an 11-lap Sprint event with the drivers initially doing five formation laps behind the Safety Car, such was the downpour that arrived as the Sprint was scheduled to begin, Verstappen had the better of the conditions.
But even he, he admits, was struggling to see the Safety Car through the spray.
Max Verstappen: F1 can’t really drive in the rain anymore
As such when the standing water was somewhat cleared, he said it would be okay to begin with a rolling start while those behind him, Pierre Gasly in eighth place, were voicing their concerns.
The race did begin with a rolling start but the conditions had improved to the point that half the field immediately peeled into the pits for intermediate tyres, and the other half – including Verstappen – came in on the very next lap.
P2 starter Oscar Piastri’s early pit stop allowed him to get the jump on Verstappen but it wasn’t long before the Red Bull driver was back in his traditional P1 slot and racing to the victory.
Gasly, who went on to finish P3, said he didn’t feel “safe” driving in the spray with Verstappen saying if Formula 1 wants to play it entirely safe, then “you can’t really drive in the rain” anymore.
“Just ask the old drivers,” he told Motorsport.com, “they saw nothing, of course, there are certain accidents with a bad outcome and then people start talking about it again, but if you look at it that way, you can’t really drive in the rain anymore, because there are always problems with visibility.
“That,” he continued, “would of course be a shame. Then it’s just like NASCAR, they don’t drive in the rain either.”
Adding with a laugh that the only solution is to “qualify first, then you have a view”, he revealed that even while running P1 behind the Safety Car on the formation laps, he struggled to see the Safety Car.
“I couldn’t even see the Safety Car sometimes, and I’m the first guy,” he said in the post-Sprint press conference to media, including PlanetF1.com. “So that’s not even an F1 car, so if we really want to get rid of it, we can’t do a race at the moment in the wet if we want good visibility and this is also something we have to look at.
“But then also another thing is we really quickly, at the moment, want to go from an extreme to an Inter, even when there is a bit of standing water around so I think also the shift between the tyres, the extreme needs to work at a better window as well so we don’t need to always go straight to an Inter, but that’s again a different problem because of course visibility is probably the most important because if you don’t see where you’re going that’s not what you want.”
Continuing with his criticism of Pirelli’s wet weather tyres, he told the Dutch media: “The problem is simply that those rain tyres are not good. Behind the Safety Car they already got too hot and the difference between the rain tyres and the intermediates is now much too big.
“You actually want to grab the intermediate right away because it’s just much faster, but sometimes you can’t take it because there is still too much water on the track.
“Anyway, you really need that rain tyre when you go around the track like a boat, but then it’s actually another red flag.”