Why are the WET tyres in F1 NEVER used?

Imagine being a Formula One wet weather tire. You’re meticulously designed, tested, and manufactured, living in perpetual hope that one day you might get your moment to shine on the track. Yet, more often than not, you’re left unused, collecting dust in the pits. This was the case during the Singapore Grand Prix, where despite the rain, the race was delayed long enough for conditions to move from wet to intermediate, leaving those blue-striped tires untouched once again.

The preference for intermediate tires over wet tires is based on several factors. Intermediates are less aggressively grooved, making them suitable for a wider range of conditions, from drenched to drying tracks. They can clear up to 30 liters of water per second at top speed and wear down to adapt to changing track conditions, becoming a hybrid between slicks and intermediates. In contrast, wet tires are often criticized for being too hard and ineffective, as seen during the Monaco Grand Prix where Sebastian Vettel lamented their poor performance. The FIA’s cautious approach to starting races in wet conditions further reduces the chances of seeing wet tires in action.

Preference for Intermediate Tires over Wet Tires

In Formula One, the intermediate tires are overwhelmingly preferred over the wet tires. These intermediates, marked with green stripes, are versatile, making them the go-to choice for a wide range of wet conditions. They are less aggressively grooved compared to wet tires, allowing them to perform well on both drenched and drying tracks. Intermediates can clear up to 30 liters of water per second at top speed and adapt to changing track conditions by wearing down, effectively becoming a hybrid between slicks and intermediates.

In stark contrast, the blue-striped wet tires often remain unused in the pits. The wet tires are criticized for being too hard and ineffective. The last notable instance of their usage was during the Monaco Grand Prix, where driver Sebastian Vettel openly criticized their performance. He emphasized that the tires were too hard and simply couldn’t cope with the demands of the track. As a result, drivers and teams are quick to switch to intermediate tires as soon as conditions permit.

FIA’s Approach to Wet Weather Conditions

The FIA’s cautious approach to starting races in wet weather conditions further limits the use of wet tires. Safety in Formula One is of paramount importance, and the FIA often delays race starts in wet conditions to ensure driver safety. However, this conservative approach often results in conditions improving to the point where intermediate tires become viable, leaving wet tires unused.

This cautiousness was evident during the first half of the Singapore Grand Prix, which many fans and commentators described as one of the most boring races. The race was delayed long enough for conditions to improve to intermediate tire suitability, eliminating any strategic depth that a wet start might have introduced. Fans miss the excitement and unpredictability that wet races used to offer, with varying strategies and daring overtakes.

Challenges and Criticisms of Wet Tires

The current design and performance of wet tires have been met with significant criticism from drivers and teams. The primary issue is their hardness, which makes them less effective in providing the necessary grip and performance on wet tracks. Sebastian Vettel’s comments after the Monaco Grand Prix highlighted these shortcomings, calling the tires ‘way too hard’ and ‘basically useless.’

Due to these performance issues, teams are reluctant to use wet tires unless absolutely necessary. The FIA and tire manufacturers need to address these concerns to make wet tires a viable option again. Improvements in the design and composition of wet tires could reintroduce the element of strategic variability and enhance race dynamics, making wet races thrilling and unpredictable once more.

The Impact on Race Dynamics

When races start in wet conditions, the use of wet tires can drastically alter race dynamics and strategies. Wet tires create opportunities for different racing lines, unexpected overtakes, and varied strategies for switching between wet, intermediate, and dry tires. These factors converge to create unpredictable and exciting races.

However, the current preference for intermediate tires and the FIA’s cautious approach mean that these dynamic elements are often missing. The 2021 Spa Grand Prix and the recent Singapore Grand Prix are examples of races where the potential excitement of wet weather conditions was mitigated by the use of intermediates. Fans and drivers alike long for the days when wet races brought unparalleled excitement and strategic complexity to Formula One.

In summary, the current state of Formula One wet weather tires highlights several critical issues. The preference for intermediate tires over wet tires, due to their versatility and adaptability to varying track conditions, underscores a significant performance disparity. Intermediates clear water efficiently and adapt as conditions change, whereas wet tires are often ineffective and overly hard, leading to their minimal use.

The conservative approach of the FIA in starting races during wet conditions further limits the deployment of wet tires. Safety concerns are paramount, but this cautiousness often results in conditions improving to the point where intermediate tires become viable, thereby eliminating the need for wet tires. This approach has rendered some races less thrilling, as seen in recent Grand Prix events.

Moreover, the criticisms from drivers, like Sebastian Vettel, who point out the inadequacies of the wet tires, reflect broader issues that need addressing. Until these tires are improved, fans and teams will continue to favor intermediates, missing out on the strategic complexity and excitement that wet races can bring.

Ultimately, for wet tires to become a viable option again, significant improvements in their design and performance are necessary. This change could reintroduce an element of unpredictability and excitement to wet races, making them as thrilling as they once were.

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