The expectations for the drivers to use full wet tyres when the formation lap begins behind the safety car, an established standard in the sport, sits in contrast with the often rapidly changing weather and track conditions that can make this directive sometimes inappropriate. This is pointedly the case when the track dries up faster than anticipated after the safety car is withdrawn.
The recent sprint race at Spa illustrates this paradox. Here, the moment the safety car left the track, drivers hustled into the pit to switch to intermediate tyres, dividing their times evenly across the two cars in their teams. All of this rush and pandemonium could potentially be avoided by a simple tweak in rules.
The Hungarian GP’s restart in 2021 was another instance that showcased the flaws in the regulation when all but Lewis Hamilton swapped their intermediates for slicks right at the closure of the formation lap. This confusion resulted in a chaotic bustle in pitlane that could have easily been sidestepped.
Zandvoort, possessing the most confined pitlane of the jogging season, magnifies the pit-stop tumult. This scenario pre-empts the race director, Niels Wittich, to permit drivers to begin the formation lap behind the safety car with intermediate tyres. This decision aims to bolster the smooth and safe operation of the race and accommodate Zandvoort’s unique pitlane structure.
Niels Wittich elaborated on what conditions could prompt this choice in notes he issued to the teams – the primary trigger would be if the track surface changed to make the full wet tyres unsuitable. This shift could occur due to quick-drying track conditions or the absence of standing water. Upon such a change, the director might ask drivers to employ intermediate wet tyres as opposed to full wet ones, notifying them via the official messaging system and giving them ample time to make the adjustment.
This innovative procedure also bears relevance for a restart following a safety car beneath a red flag. Charles Leclerc reportedly approves of the change, saying that the inters are substantially faster than the full wet tyres, negating the necessity for a pit-stop in the first lap, and ensuing a controlled and secure start to the race.
Valtteri Bottas asserts that the full wet tyre doesn’t last as long as the intermediate one. He concurs with Leclerc, deeming the change to rule as beneficial. Fernando Alonso echoes the sentiment, lauding the modification as wise and a maneuver he entirely supports.