Cinturato wet tyres take centre stage at rainy Spa-Francorchamps
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit, in the heart of Belgium’s Ardennes region, is well-known for its variable weather but conditions for the two free practice sessions today were at least consistent: cool temperatures and heavy rain in both sessions.
As a result, due to the treacherous conditions, teams chose to drastically limit their running during the sessions, with only a few drivers venturing out on Pirelli’s Cinturato Blue full wet tyres. The P Zero Silver hard tyres and P Zero White medium tyres that have been nominated for the race weekend remained unused but under the latest regulations the teams also had access to an extra set of intermediate tyres today if required, which also remained unused as conditions were too wet.
The fastest time of the day was set by Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi during the morning session, who established a benchmark of 2m11.309s towards the end of the session on the full wet tyres – half a second faster than Williams driver Pastor Maldonado. Kobayashi was also the first driver to set a flying lap earlier in the session, before beating his previous time with 20 minutes to go.
The rain was even heavier during the afternoon, meaning that no drivers set a proper lap time within the allocated hour and a half session. The Mercedes drivers were first to take to the circuit with just over half an hour left to go, followed by a handful of other competitors including former world champion Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).
In the final 20 minutes more drivers ventured out, but only 10 drivers set a definitive time in free practice two after the checkered flag had fallen, with Marussia’s Charles Pic setting his team’s first fastest time of 2m49.354s on the occasion of their 50th grand prix. However, the teams also used the time to carry out some straight-line aerodynamic testing as well as practice starts and pit stops, which will be crucial on race day.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “We’ve had a lot of rain so far this season – particularly in Britain and Germany – but in Spa today the rain was consistently some of the heaviest that we have seen over the course of one day. Under those circumstances it was very hard for us and the teams to learn anything much, and with many teams having brought important upgrades to the track, it was understandable that they did not want to risk them by going off, particularly as drier conditions are predicted for later in the weekend. But with weather conditions in Spa always being notoriously unpredictable, experience of running in the wet will always be useful, especially as the drivers have all been stationary for five weeks over the summer break. It says a lot about the skills of the drivers as well as about the efficiency of our tyres that despite the monsoon-like conditions, none of the drivers hit anything or had any big problems. We’ve evolved the wet tyres from last year in order to improve resistance to aquaplaning and there’s been a step forward, but some conditions are always going to be undriveable. It’s just frustrating as everyone obviously wants to be out there and collecting information, but realistically nobody has learned much today. This clearly increases the workload for all the teams tomorrow during the hour-long free practice session before they head into qualifying, which is expected to be dry.”
Pirelli facts of the day:
Pirelli’s Cinturato Blue full wet tyres are about six times more efficient at dispersing water than a normal road car tyre. The full wets disperse around 60 litres of water per second at full speed, whereas an average road car tyre can only disperse around 10 litres of water per second, at much lower speeds.
The last time that no lap times were set during a free practice session was again in Belgium, back in 2005.