Concerns raised as Pierre Gasly didn’t ‘feel safe’ in Spa sprint start

Thomas Maher
Alpine's Pierre Gasly at the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps, July 2023.

Alpine's Pierre Gasly at the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps, July 2023.

Pierre Gasly had no issues with the extended formation lap period in the Belgian GP Sprint, saying he felt “unsafe” as the race began.

With heavy rain hitting the Spa-Francorchamps circuit minutes before the scheduled start to the Sprint race ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, the race was delayed before the cars were led off for five formation laps behind the Safety Car.

With the formation laps coming out of the Sprint lap count, the race itself ended up being just 11 laps in length at the chequered flag – but Pierre Gasly had no issues with the race taking a while to get going.

Pierre Gasly: I couldn’t see a thing

While the driveability of the circuit wasn’t a big concern for the drivers, with no particular fears of aquaplaning or standing water, Gasly said the lack of visibility was a big problem – even with him running close to the head of the field.

“You can only compare to your position at the time,” he said to media including PlanetF1.com afterwards.

“I was in sixth position and I’m pretty sure that when you’re first or second, it’s slightly different and, when you’re at the back, it’s probably worse.

“I don’t think my opinion is really… you’ve got to ask all 20 drivers based on what they felt. But I could not see a thing.

“If Oscar [Piastri] or Max [Verstappen] was in the middle of the straight, I would’ve been straight into him. I just couldn’t even see 10, 20 metres ahead of me.

“Even when we were all warming up the tyres and stuff, you are just hoping for the best. I didn’t feel safe.”

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Recent tragedy on Pierre Gasly’s mind at race start

Having lost his close friend Anthoine Hubert in a T-bone crash in 2019, the circuit had recent tragedy when 18-year-old racer Dilano van ‘t Hoff was killed along the Kemmel Straight during a wet FRECA race.

It was on Gasly’s mind, as the race got underway in the spray.

“When they restarted, I was really hoping that no guy gets off the track or collides and stops in the middle of the straight because we know obviously what has happened,” he said.

“It’s not really a question of conditions, the conditions were probably practical or raceable since the first lap.

“But the problem is the visibility and the spray at the moment is so huge out of these cars, the water just stays in the air.

“I was in P6 and I couldn’t see anything, I can only imagine how bad it was at the back of the pack. I wanted to box straight away for inters, but this just added another sort of incentive to box and just have visibility because just down the straight, don’t know what could happen.

“It’s a tricky call – you want to race but at the same time, I’m glad everything went safely today. But all you need is just one guy to be stopped in the straight and it can go wrong very quickly. It’s a tricky call.”

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