Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

F1’s move to wider tyres worsened wet weather visibility – Pirelli

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In the round-up: Formula 1’s decision to introduce wider tyres four years ago has made its wet weather visibility problem worse, according to Pirelli.

In brief

Wider tyres worse for visibility

F1 raced at wet Interlagos on narrower tyres in 2016
F1 introduced a wider specification of front and rear tyres in 2017. Front wheels grew from 245mm wide to 305mm, while rears went from 325mm to 405mm.

Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola says this has increased the volume of water the tyres can lift by over 40%. This has made visibility during wet races worse. Earlier this year the Belgian Grand Prix was abandoned and the result declared based on a single lap of running behind the Safety Car due to poor visibility in persistent rain.

Isola said Pirelli is in discussions over what it might do to improve the situation, but admitted the wider tyres have added to the problem. “Nobody wants to see another Spa,” Isola acknolwedged. “[But] on the tyre side, there is very little we can do because tyres are designed to guarantee the crossover between the wet and intermediate. Moving this design target is is not ideal because then you can create a gap and, in any case, also making a tyre that is more able to disperse water.

“But if you disperse all that, the water is flying and the visibility become worse and worse. So we are not fixing the issue, we are probably making the issue worse.

“I don’t know what we can do in terms of tyres. The fact that in 2017 we’ve introduced a wider tires are also increasing this water that is flying. The old tyre, the old wet was able to disperse 60 litres per second at 300kph, now we are going up to 85 and obviously it’s more water that is flying. Unless we don’t find a way to block the water and avoid this spray and limiting visibility, I really don’t know what we can do, I don’t have a solution for that.”

Szafnauer’s Aston Martin role “won’t change” when Whitmarsh joins

Aston Martin CEO Otmar Szafnauer says his role in charge of the Formula 1 team will be unaffected by the arrival of Martin Whitmarsh this month. However he admitted some details are yet to be worked out around the arrival of the former McLaren team principal.

“My role won’t change,” Szafnauer explained. “Martin will be Group CEO, ‘group’ means that we’re going to start some applied technologies-type businesses called Aston Martin Performance Technologies, utilising the [intellectual property] and the developments of Formula 1 and applying them to other industries.

“He was there at McLaren when they started doing that. So he’s got that experience and he can lead us to shortcuts in doing that. He’s also had seven years now of boat racing experience, including starting a new company that is taking technologies from boat racing and moving that technology into cargo ships.”

Whitmarsh’s role “will also include the F1 team”, said Szafnauer, “so the F1 team will report through Martin.” Asked whether Whitmarsh will leave him in entirely charge of the F1 operation Szafnauer said “that stuff hasn’t been planned yet, so we’ll see how it goes.”

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Comment of the day

Should Formula 1 have stiffer deterrents to prevent interference in the championship?

This is all assuming that these races will be without incidents, yet I’m rather doubtful about exactly that.

Could be Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas (again), Perez or even a satellite driver making a wrong decision at the wrong moment, or having a ‘tactical’ go at the opponents car(s).

I would like to see the FIA introduce progressive penalties. Punting a car of in the first race of the season unless blatantly on purpose, should possibly not be penalised as heavily as when done in the last race of the season, and also with the amount of influence on the championship standings in mind, causing a collision with a backmarker might be punished less heavily than with the championship leader.

Oh, FIA, before you think it’s an idea, introduce it at the beginning of a season please, and not halfway through.
Coventry Climax

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  • 63 comments on “F1’s move to wider tyres worsened wet weather visibility – Pirelli”

    1. *I vote that they make F1 tires narrower :) that would kill several racing problems with only one rule.

      *It looks like Juan Manuel Correa could re-use that titanium intramedular nail as a front suspension push rod. Glad to hear things are going well for him.

      *Bummer to hear about SuperKart Euro Champ is canceled. I was very much looking forward to watching it.

      1. So you’d like more dependence on downforce and less on mechanical grip in effect making following another car even more difficult?

        1. Same profile picture, different names eh?

      2. They could also decrease the amount of water dispersed by wet (and intermediate) tyres, they keep the crossover and they won’t race in conditions where 85L dispersion is necessary (in which they don’t race now anyway for visibility reason). Then tyres fit racing conditions. Then drivers have to cope with whatever grip they get but I don’t mind them sliding around a bit…

      3. Why not just use the extreme water lifting capabilities of the wider tyre to dry the track by spreading the cars out in a VSC situation but at higher speed. After 4 or 5 laps of that, the spray should be manageable and it’s just a matter of putting the green light on.

        1. 2 problems with that, though…
          First, it needs to stop (or drastically reduce) raining.
          Second, there needs to be wind to carry the spray away from the track – or else it just falls straight back down again.

          Then there’s the issue with non-racing-surface standing water. Puddles around kerbs and in runoff areas….

          Narrower tyres can at least cut through this standing water better (reducing aquaplaning) and lift less of it off the ground and into the air (reducing spray). Combine that with a massive reduction in (particularly underfloor) aero, and F1 could race in almost any conditions again.
          Sadly, they are doing in the opposite…

          1. Obviously won’t work with heavy rain, but don’t the cars generate enough wind to prevent the water from falling in the same spot it was lifted from? One would think so.

            1. They move a lot of air at high speed, for sure…
              They can push spray along the track quite efficiently, but aren’t very good at pushing that spray away from the track, unless there is wind to move it after it has been lifted.

          2. AFAIK, underfloor aero is the part which both causes the least dirty air and is affected the least by dirty air (relative to the amount of downforce produced). By massively reducing underfloor aero in particular, along with a massive reduction in mechanical grip by using significantly narrower tyres, you end up with a much greater reliance on overbody downforce, relatively speaking. This would lead to even more difficulty following than we have now.

        2. @balue and getting rid of the redundant sc.
          Sounds a lot better than having the sc out but for some reason (definitely not marketing) sc is still out even though it serves no purpose.

          1. @peartree SC makes it worse by cooling the tyres going too slowly. It should only be used to bunch up the field for marshals on track, but VSC would do fine even then.

          2. @peartree

            I am also in support of getting rid of the SC. Having cars circulating under the SC robs us of racing laps. The vast majority of the time, incidents could be handled well enough under the VSC. Where that isn’t possible, it would normally be quicker and safer to red flag and then restart the race, especially if the brought in an accelerated restart procedure.

            I doubt it will go away any time soon, though.

      4. They could even just make everything smaller. Smaller tires on thinner, shorter cars would fix everything.

        Hypothetically (I’m no aerodynamicist) if the FIA made it so that the diffuser pointed outwards a bit, would this not (at least to an extent) push all the water sideways enough at least so that if you’re behind another car and not to the side, you could still see them? And, could this potentially have the side effect of pushing the dirty air sideways and thus allow cars to better follow each other?

        If that’s the case, it’d be interesting to see drivers trying to find and get the draft by driving off to the side a bit, then slowly moving in closer towards the back and then peeling back out again to overtake.

        1. “They could even just make everything smaller. Smaller tires on thinner, shorter cars would fix everything.”

          ^ This. +1

          Plus it will improve overtaking in the dry.

      5. *vote for a carbon mesh mud flap kit for wet races to be developed. :)

    2. Re COTD “…also with the amount of influence on the championship standings in mind, causing a collision with a backmarker might be punished less heavily than with the championship leader.”
      I see your thinking but I have a real big issue with this line right here. Mainly, all cars on the grid are in the same race so they should all be treated equally under the rules. F1 is not a multiclass race series. Starting to introduce differences like that would be really dangerous, both figuratively and also literary in terms of safety. What you are suggesting is basically making the guys racing for the lower positions free targets. The top teams probably wouldn’t care, but backmarker teams would essentially be cheered on to purposely crashing into each other to gain the millions of prize monies that each position in the constructors championship is worth.

      1. Coventry Climax
        2nd October 2021, 1:48

        Making the lower position cars free targets is nonsense of course, and you know it. It’s not like there’s no penalty at all -or worse, a bonus- if you’ld introduce that.
        Secondly, I don’t see the inequality or multiclass issue you mention. If you punt out car x at race one, the penalty is the same for all 19 other cars/drivers, and the same holds good for race 16, 20 or whatever.
        I’m not saying the idea is great or a ‘finished pearl’ or something. I’m not even suggesting as to what exactly the penalties should be or look like. It’s just an idea, to an issue that was raised a while back – and still is a concern to some of us.

        Sorry to say, but I think the big issue you have is not with that specific line, but it is with shutting out ideas at first sight.

        1. So “accidentally” punting a Hass off the Road is less bad than doing it to a Mercedes? I can’t see how this would work, the stewarding in F1 is mediocre at best, if you make the consider the longer term effects of a collision or just bad driving, we will be getting results changed weeks after the chequered 🏁 flag has been shown, as they would definitely need to hear from the drivers involved. Also imagine the politicking that would go on better the teams and race control. We have heard a few ties this year when senior team members get on the intercom to the race director trying to get things to go their way. It would become a big old mess.
          So its a NO from me

          1. Coventry Climax
            2nd October 2021, 17:23

            Actually yes, punting off a Mercedes or a Redbull in the last race of the season, when that decides the championship, that is a lot worse than punting off a backmarker, a Haas e.g., with no chances of points or the championship. But we can differentiate about that too, if you like: If the Haas that was thrown off, now remains points-less where it otherwise would not, then make the penalty more severe. And it’s not that I suggest the old penalties are done away with, I suggest the penalties get more severe with every consecutive round, because there’s more at stake with every next round.
            I fully agree that the stewarding is a mess already, I complain quite a lot about that in my comments actually.
            But when a rule is badly enforced, that does not (necessarily) make the rule itself bad, it’s still the enforcing itself that is at fault. An american example would be that that’s like blaming the constitution for racist police.

      2. COTD is a terrible idea and would set an absurd precedent about the safety of the field as a whole. There are very good reasons to treat all of the cars equally, not least fairness. For example, Perez taking out Hamilton should be punished just as severely as latifi taking out tsunoda. If it’s a serious crash then you’d be expecting a race ban or more in both cases.

        I was incredibly disappointed when grosjean received a harsher penalty after Spa in 2012, simply because he took out one of the title contenders. What message did that send about the regard the non-title contenders were held in? Glad they reversed that policy and long may it stay the same.

        1. @frood19

          Precisely this. We should not be penalising the same incident differently depending on which drivers were involved, except in the case where there is a pattern of incidents (e.g. if a driver is regularly causing incidents they should be punished more severely – the Maldonado situation).

        2. @frood19 Grosjean got a stiff penalty (race ban) for that incident based upon the frequency of him having accidents that season and the severity of the Spa crash.

          1. someone or something
            2nd October 2021, 16:02

            Nah. That’s how they tried to sell it later, but seeing how Grosjean had never been penalised before (and rightly so, as he had either been the victim of other drivers’ mistakes, or the collisions were deemed to be racing incidents), the real reason for the ban was an emotional reaction by the Stewards to an accident that looked bad and affected big names.

          2. @maddme as someone or something says, this is actually a fallacy. Arguably he did develop a bit of a habit of tangling with others at the start of races but Spa was one of if not the first of such incidents.

    3. I understand that wider tires increase spray, however it does not look significantly worse from a TV viewer point of view; it might be more noticeable to the drivers. I wonder if the later GP start times are factored in the visibility? Surely a mid-day rainfall with wide tires would have equivalent or better visibility than an afternoon rainfall with narrow tires.

      1. You could see the spray (rather than the cars) from the onboards. Most track side cameras are a bit higher and views not as much impacted by the spray.

        PS natural mid-day in Western Europe is more like 13:30 than noon due to DST, thus not a lot of light to be won by starting earlier.

    4. Coventry Climax
      2nd October 2021, 1:37

      “Unless we don’t find a way to block the water and avoid this spray and limiting visibility, I really don’t know what we can do, I don’t have a solution for that.”
      What kind of English is that? It’s obvious already they don’t have an answer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an immediate one either, but I’m convinced that by bringing in more tyre manufacturers, the problem will get tackled sooner or later. Please bring in manufacturers that say ‘we have no answer right now, but we’re sure as hell are going to try and solve it’, instead of allowing Pirelli to throw the towel.
      In the meantime, it sounds like Pirelli suggests we go back to narrower tyres. There were times when the tyres were (seemed?) wider than they are now, ’70’s I believe. But maybe Pirelli’s idea of progress is going back to the 50’s?

      1. I think he means blocking the spray by encasing the tyre in bodywork (never gonna happen in an open-wheel series of course). This isn’t really Pirelli’s fault though. Large tyres equal big water dispersion. There’s nothing a tyre war would change about that. Also, Pirelli is just talking about it from Pirelli’s perspective, which is tyres. The diffusers and rear wings are also responsible for a lot of the spray. Might get even worse next year with ground effect.

      2. Indeed. Tyres in the 70’s were just as wide, if not wider. Visibility has always been a problem. This hasn’t changed. What has changed is the mentality of the drivers who are driving the safest F1 cars ever, but are scared to death anyway.

        1. I don’t think that’s even close to fair.

          Firstly, I think any of them would have gone out and raced had the stewards called for it. They wouldn’t have been happy about it, but they’d have done it. I doubt the situation was any different “back in the good old days”, except for the fact that we didn’t hear what was being discussed between drivers, teams and race control/stewards.

          On top of that, I don’t remember seeing an F1 race where the visibility was as bad at safety car speeds as at Spa this year. On the straights, you couldn’t even see the rain light on a car 100m ahead of you at safety car speeds from the camera position on top of the car. It was worse from the cockpit, and would have been much worse at racing speeds.

          Personally, I think this was just a freak occurrence involving unusually bad conditions. I doubt we will see anything like this happen again for several years at the earliest. That said, there are things we could do to reduce the spray and make the cars perform better in the rain. I’d be in favour of looking at cowls over the wheels, even if only for wet tyres. They could also look at bolt-on wet weather wings/bodywork to change the aerodynamics and disperse the water differently, made mandatory as soon as inters or wets are fitted. I’m sure there are improvements to be found, but only with concerted effort and a good amount of testing.

      3. That is a bit unfair to Pirelli as the teams and the F1 wanted the move to wider tyres. Put simply they are stating the obvious as I find it hard to believe with the resources the teams and the FIA have at their disposal they did not forsee the possibility of more water been displaced and some of that remaining airborne affecting visibility during wet races. As for introducing more tyre manufacturers to the grid, the FIA moved to a single supplier contract for a reason, money 💰 no doubt, and cost control. I see no justification for reopening that debate when the benefits if any are likely to be minimal.

    5. Coventry Climax
      2nd October 2021, 1:57

      I’m not sure what to think of the intended bold pink statements that the W-Series will carry. I mean, if we race as one, why don’t we have these statements in any of the male series? They are serious enough, aren’t they? So what’s next, tampon commercials, but only in the W-Series? And why not statements in bright, ‘male’ blue, about prostate cancer, in F1?
      Maybe it’s just me, but to me, that’s is not equality, it’s putting women in a box and it’s degrading.

      1. They actually don’t race as one: W series is for females only…

      2. Will be tough to ask the W series to grow a tash in Movember.

      3. Because no one cares about men’s issues

    6. Mazepin may be an F1 driver, but he is not an F1 star.

    7. M Schumacher figured out (pretty quickly) that if the track was wet enough for full wets, they wouldn’t likely start the race. So he showed up on Inters. Hence the current rule that “Everyone Must” start on wets. Sound like Spa?
      There are pics of Porsche rally cars in winter, snow trim with enormous fender flares and skinny snow tyres. Why do the current Wet tyres have to be full width.?
      F1 needs to have a solution as another Spa situation is just a matter of time.

      1. Tyres with different width wouldn’t work without different suspension & brake systems. And then you wouldn’t be able to swap from wet/inters to dry tyres in changing conditions.

        Also, even if that were solvable somehow, the size of the tyres has a huge influence on the cars’ aerodynamics. Everything is designed to minimize the way the tyres disturb the airflow. So swapping to more narrow tyres would have unpredictable effects on the pecking order, and the front-running teams would never allow that to happen.

        1. Good point

    8. Keep the budget cap & bring back narrower tyres & let the designers have free reign with the cars design.
      Let the engines be no larger 1.5ltrs but let the manufactures decide how many cylinders they are, & whether they are turbo, supercharged or NA & get rid of DRS. Lastly let the drivers, drive not the engineers on the pit-wall instructing them. Give the driver a button on his wheel to indicate he is coming in for tyres as it should be the drivers decision when it happens. Then we might actually get to see who really is BEST.

    9. As I’ve previously said, they need to reduce the width of the wet tyres significantly. Not only will it reduce spray, and improve water displacement per inch, but it will also mean less risk of aquaplaning.

      IT IS THE ONLY OPTION, SO IMPLEMENT THE CHANGES ALREADY.

      1. But wide tyres look cool, apparently…. And they make F1 cars go faster.
        That’s more important to many people, it seems.

      2. Some valid objections to that suggestion are in the post before yours.

        PS it seems your keyboard is stuck in Caps Lock.

      3. As has been pointed out above, having different widths between wet and dry tyres by any significant amount would be incredibly challenging at best. Around a 5 percent reduction may be just about within the realms of practicality, using the same rims, and it may be possible to go a small amount further with some clever rim and/or tyre design, but beyond that would be a massive undertaking.

        1. Fundamentally they need to be narrower there’s no avoiding it.

          You absolutely could even retrofit narrower tyres with modified rims with the same break and suspension setup.

          Aerodynamically they would impact each car to a varying degree, but this is also the case with the current construction. Even tread patterns have an impact on the aero which will perform differently car to car.

      4. Coventry Climax
        2nd October 2021, 17:53

        It’s not the only option. The available options are in managing the contact area between road and tyre, with the size of that being one of the factors, albeit an important one. Rotation speed, tyre diameter, thread pattern, pressure, they are all part of the game, and changing each will generate a different amount -and shape!- of spray as to what we have now. There is a lot of room for optimization there, but Pirelli is unwilling to pick up the towel, and/or the FIA unwilling to pay for it.
        There’s a reason why some road tyres are tested to perform better in the rain than others, and tyre-width is only part of it.

    10. It’s not practical to have narrower tyres only for the wet, as the aero will be heavily and randomly compromised. And narrower tyres in all weather conditions reduces mechanical grip, increasing sensitivity to aero loss when following other cars.

      F1 really must consider enforcing the fitment of aero pods behind the rear tyres, like Indycar and Formula E used to run about 5 years ago. I think they got rid of them because they kept being knocked off. What they should have done was simply make them stronger! I think in both series, overtaking became more difficult after the pods were outlawed.
      Rear pods have many advantages:
      1. Particularly when combined with flick ups in front of the rear tyres, they can massively reduce turbulence, allowing cars to follow much closer without losing downforce.
      2. In the event of another car running into the back of another, sufficiently strong rear pods can help prevent the impacting car from flying into the air, as it will contact stationary carbon fibre instead of sticky rubber travelling upwards at 200mph. Monza showed how dangerous this can be at only 30mph. At 200mph, spectators are at significant risk, as fencing is not that high in F1.
      3. They will reduce spray kicked up when it’s raining. This enables safer racing in more extreme conditions, which is entertaining, challenging for the drivers, and keeps TV schedulers & race promoters happy.
      4. They will reduce the amount of debris flicked up by the rear tyres. We nearly lost Senna in 1987 Silverstone practice when this happened, and drivers sometimes complain of stones hitting their knuckles.
      Obviously these have always been outweighed by the disadvantages:
      1. They go against the DNA of F1, which has remained completely unchanged for over a century.
      2. The cars will no longer be open wheel single seaters, just like Indycar and Formula E stopped being them 5 years ago.
      3. It’ll be slightly harder to see the wheels go round and round.

      The 4 advantages help address the sport’s most significant remaining safety risks, and make it a much more entertaining sport. This is the answer to Pirelli’s problem and several others.

    11. Comment of the day makes no sense at all. Punishing people more because they affect the race of those higher in the championship? Ridiculous. Those down the order are also fighting for a standing in the constructors, it’s just as important to them not to get taken out. Also it opens up all kinds of shenanigans at the start of the season and grey areas. Absolutely no!

      1. Coventry Climax
        3rd October 2021, 18:26

        Not quite what I said. The first thing was progressive penalties during the season, so that’s the same for everyone, frontrunner or backmarker, causing it or be the victim of it. Second part was written with ‘might be’, meaning let’s look at options and discuss this, with any outcome being OK with me, as long as the discussion is about arguments and not about gut feeling. Whether there’s grey areas depends on the wording of the rules. Granted, the FIA historically is not very good at this, to say the least.
        Anyway, there’s no selective punishing of those that affect the higher positioned cars only. That’s twisting words.
        And punting out a backmarker on the last race, last chance of improving the points-score -and prize money for next season-, is still penalised, and heavier than at the start of the season.

    12. I don’t necessarily buy that the wider tires are the sole problem in terms of the spray because the tires now are actually narrower than they used to be.

      I’d also go back to what tires were made narrower in 1993, It was purely to slow the cars down & something which most at the time felt was the wrong way of doing that as the reduction in mechanical grip from the tires put a greater emphasis on the aero which even in 1993 drivers said made following/overtaking harder. Several also felt the narrower tires contributed to some of the accidents in 1994 as the narrower tires caused cars to snap far more easily with drivers having far less feel for tires losing grip & many pushed for the return to wider tires after Imola as they felt it was safer.

      Introducing wider tires along with reducing aero was an opinion most who knew about such things pushed for over the years as a way of improving the racing.

    13. well, regarding the Qatar sport-washing… I mean, we already have races in: Turkey, China, Bahrain, Russia, Saudi Arabia… Qatar just adds one at this point. Worringly, F1 is becoming a sport more and more prone to be associated with politically… “interesting” countries, let’s say

      1. Could not agree more. And my guess is that this is only going to continue into the future. Some of the old school tracks Monza & spa are popular but their financial unpinnings barely make any money, and every year the discuussion is can we afford it or not. These new additions to the calender have the benefit of been based in countries that from liberty’s point of view brook no questions about how public money is used. From their point of view this is a win win. Bernie will no doubt have approved.

      2. @alfa145 what country is not politically interesting these days? Where are your basic human rights when you can’t go outside without a holed mask?

        1. What is it with these people that object to a simple mask to prevent the spread of disease, but happily wear a tin foil hat to stop the elite from controlling their “brains” through the chips in a vaccine.

          Was reading an article on a USA website that was discussing the spread of F1 into “politically interesting” countries, and one of their surveys indicated that young people are dismissing F1 entirely. Seeing it as a sport for old, rich, men with no interest in equality, human rights or the environment. Sadly, I can’t say I totally disagree.

    14. Temperatures stay relatively stable in Miami all year round, but realistically, the only real option is before F1 weekend because of the build-up and dismantling process timings.

      I don’t see a need for a narrower tyre return, but if anything, only narrower wet and intermediates, definitely not slicks.

      COTD: Things could become unnecessarily complicated.

      On this day: 2016 Malaysian GP won by Ricciardo, the race which ultimately proved decisive for Hamilton’s WDC hope.

    15. I see that the Mogo GP riders aren’t happy with the track surface at COTA. Apparently its worse than Silverstone 2018, when Hamilton was critical of the resurfacing job.
      Anticipate the same comments when F1 hits town!

      1. Can nobody just slow down and drive/ride to the conditions anymore? They are going over the same few km’s of track every minute or two. Remember it!

        Hamilton is critical of many circuits – and yet the features he complains about are usually the ones which make it challenging and rewarding in the first place.
        If motorsport was meant to be easy, everyone in the fastest car could do it… :0

    16. That nail they took out of Correa is nuts!

      Glad he’s recovering well. Fingers crossed it continues.

    17. Cotd. Generally having that influence on a race or a championship leads to career suicide. However, Ocon crossed that threashold, in trying to keep his job he punted Max off the road. Ocon effectively lost all hope of signing for any other team but mercedes, in the end Toto found him a place at Renault.

      1. @peartree More like he found.

    18. As supplier to the f1 series I would expect Pirelli to be at the forefront of tire engineering. Throwing their hands up in surrender and wringing about the FIA is a startling response to the problem and doesn’t do their reputation any good.

    19. Indy and F1 the same long weekend would be a hell of an event, if they dared try to pull it off…

      1. Will never happen.
        Indycar is too slow for F1 fans, and F1 is too boring and political for Indy fans.

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