Wet tyres billed ‘complete waste of time’ after Zandvoort exposes weakness

Oliver Harden
Mercedes driver George Russell tackles a wet track in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Mercedes driver George Russell tackles a wet track in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Mercedes driver George Russell has called for F1’s wet tyres to be shelved after Pirelli’s blue-striped compound proved “a complete waste of time” at the Dutch Grand Prix.

With strict limits on testing in the modern era, it has been a common complaint for some years that F1’s sole tyre supplier has struggled to produce a full-wet tyre of a satisfactory standard to teams and drivers.

That was brought into focus as a downpour hit late in the race on Sunday, with Esteban Ocon fuming at his Alpine team for switching him to extreme-wet tyres as the rain arrived on Lap 61.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

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After the race was suspended following Zhou Guanyu’s crash at Turn 1, some expressed surprise that governing body the FIA forced all cars to restart the race on intermediate rubber, limiting the strategic freedom of the 10 teams.

However, Russell, who failed to finish the race after picking up a puncture while battling Lando Norris in the closing laps, felt the organisers made the right decision.

And the Mercedes star, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, believes the extreme wets should be ruled off limits – even if that leads to extended delays in torrential conditions.

He told media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper at Zandvoort: “I think they did a good job.

“The intermediate choice was the right one. That was purely done because the pit lane’s too narrow and they knew that everybody would be peeling in from extreme to the inters.

“That extreme tyre is a complete waste of time at the moment and I think it should just be parked. If the conditions are too wet for intermediates, they [should] enforce that we just have to wait until the conditions get better.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who claimed a record-equalling ninth successive victory at his home race, initially switched to intermediates on Lap 61 before returning to the pits two laps later to take extreme wets as conditions worsened.

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Verstappen echoed Russell’s argument that the wet tyre is currently not fit for purpose, with drivers preferring intermediates even in heavy rain.

“We pit for inters and within a lap it almost becomes undriveable on an inter and we opted to go to an extreme,” he explained.

“But the problem we have at the moment is that the intermediate is basically too good compared to the extreme, so even when there’s a downpour like that you still actually want to be on an inter because it’s faster, but at one point there were so many rivers on the track it just becomes incredibly dangerous.

“So at the time, I was a bit, well, not upset, but disappointed with the red flag. But I guess in hindsight, with so many people on intermediates it was probably the right thing to do.”

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