Gasly “didn’t feel safe” at start of Belgian Grand Prix sprint race

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Pierre Gasly admitted he feared for his safety during the opening laps of the Belgian Grand Prix sprint race due to the poor visibility conditions at the track.

Several drivers raised concerns over racing in the rain at Spa following the death of junior driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff in a Formula Regional European Championship race at the circuit four weeks ago. Van ‘t Hoff spun in wet conditions on the Kemmel straight and was struck by the car of an unsighted rival.

Gasly qualified sixth for the sprint race and finished third behind Max Verstappen and Oscar Piastri. The Alpine driver described how little he could see as cars ahead of him threw plumes of spray into the air.

“When you’re first or second it’s slightly different and when you are at the back it’s probably worse,” Gasly explained. “You’ve got to ask all 20 drivers based on what they felt, but I couldn’t see a thing.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race in pictures
“If Oscar or Max was [stopped] in the middle of the straights, I would have been straight [into] him. I just could not even see 10, 20 metres ahead of me, even when we were all warming up the tyres and stuff, it was just you’re hoping for the best.”

Gasly was shocked to encounter a recovery vehicle by the side of the track during last year’s wet race at Suzuka. Although race control kept the field running behind the Safety Car for five laps today in an effort to improve the visibility conditions, Gasly said he still “didn’t feel safe when they started” the race.

“I was really hoping no guy gets off the track or collide and get stopped in the middle of the straight because we know obviously what’s happened,” he said.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“It’s not really a question of conditions, because the conditions were race-able since the first lap. But the problem is the visibility and the spray at the moment is so huge out of this car and the water just stays in the air. I was in P6 and I couldn’t see anything so I can only imagine how bad it was at the back of the pack.”

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Poll: Rate the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix sprint race
Gasly was one of 10 drivers who pitted at the first opportunity to switch to intermediate tyres, which also put him at a point on the track where the spray was less intense.

“I wanted to box already straight away for inters, but this just added another sort of incentive to box and just have visibility because down the straight you just don’t know what could happen. So 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 stop at the wrong place in the straight and it can go wrong very quickly, so it’s a tricky call.”

Gasly’s friend Anthoine Hubert was killed in a crash at Spa four years ago. After finishing third in the race Gasly said it “does feel very special to do it here in Spa” and “obviously I have a thought for Anthoine.”

Max Verstappen said the conditions were much better for him, as he started from first place and ran no lower than second. However he believes visibility in wet races has become a bigger problem for F1 in recent years.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“I fully get Pierre’s comments because I think it has become worse from when I started in F1,” he said. “I think it’s just the wider tyres we have and the ground effect cars.

“But I remember in the junior categories it was also quite tough. The visibility was very bad so unfortunately, of course, we had these accidents happen over the years. That’s always the unfortunate thing, I guess, with some things where we tried to improve stuff, something bad needs to happen before then it really gets changed or gets looked at.

“I remember races in F3 where also I couldn’t see a thing when you’re in the pack or whatever. Also today, for example, I couldn’t even see sometimes the Safety Car and I’m the first guy, so that’s not even an F1 car.”

He believes the only alternative to the problem at the moment is to not race in the wet. “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. This is also something we have to look at.”

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Belgian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

7 comments on “Gasly “didn’t feel safe” at start of Belgian Grand Prix sprint race”

  1. Once a driver starts letting fear in that’s when they start losing the speed, generally. Given he managed a podium on the drying track, I’ll assume Gasly isn’t there yet, but he’s definitely making it sound like he’s in his head whenever it rains now.

  2. I was able to see a bit what they’re talking about visibility wise: in an onboard camera with hamilton, who was trying to catch gasly, during the kemmel and raidillon straight, the second before I could ONLY see spray, second after I could only see 2 red lights indicating the position of gasly’s car, and then 3 sec after, when they were getting ready to brake, I could see gasly’s car on the left side of the track.

    Obviously not seeing anything at 300 kmh is very risky, hopefully they can get the visibility problem fixed somehow, so that we can get more races while it’s raining; basically atm they just delay the session till it stops raining, so the right tyre will always be the inter.

    I’m also watching spa 1989 nowadays, since 1998 is very famous, it looks like it’s only the 2nd last full wet spa race in the last 34 years, and obviously it’d have been the 3rd last had they been able to race in 2021, so it’s very rare to get those heavy rain conditions, it’s not just a matter of fia not wanting to race in those.

    Oh, and they were lapping in 2.27 in the first laps, 2.19 after a few laps and I think the eventual fastest lap was 2.12, that’s comparable to spa 1998 and around 12 seconds slower than we do nowadays, a bit is the difference in conditions and ofc the cars also got way faster.

    1. than they do nowadays*

  3. Yeah well that’s racing Pierre. There’s always an office job you could go to if you want to feel safer

  4. Motorsport is dangerous. You either accept that and participate, or you don’t and retire.

    But the way Gasly went full speed under a red flag in Japan last year on his way to the pit, makes it all sound a bit hypocritical.

    1. My thoughts exactly and then HE had the nerve to complain that he was scared when he came within 20 feet of a recovery vehicle. 🤦‍♂️

  5. Gasly has always been one of the biggest whiners about racing in the wet. Maybe he shouldn’t be racing. He’s already enough of a menace in the dry.

Comments are closed.