‘Boring’ Belgian Grand Prix prompts calls for change
Most of the field made one pit stop during the race and then had to nurse their tyres to the finish
Formula One world championship leader Lewis Hamilton led calls for races with more pit stops and an end to “tyre management”, after a Belgian Grand Prix described by his Red Bull rival Max Verstappen as boring.
The Briton led each of the 44 laps on his way to a pole-to-flag victory in Sunday’s race in which the top four finished in the order they started. Most of the field made one pit stop during the race, earlier than planned due to a safety car, and had to nurse their tyres to the finish, effectively neutralising the battle at the front.
“It’s not particularly exciting, as Max said, but it’s a medium-high speed circuit so there’s a lot of force that goes through these tyres,” said Hamilton, who has won five of this season’s seven races. “It’s not something I particularly enjoy,” he added. “You want to be able to attack, and push-push-push-push-push, do a stop, push-push-push.”
The Belgian race followed a similarly uneventful procession with an emphasis on tyre management like the previous race in Spain, also won by Hamilton in dominant style.
“It was pretty boring to be honest,” said Verstappen, who at one point quipped that the music playing in the background of the news conference was more exciting than his lonely drive to third.
“I really enjoy driving here and honestly, we did 44 laps right? So, I probably did 38 of them managing a lot.”
Teams normally opt to limit pit stops because running slower on track to manage their tyres costs them less time. There is also the risk that drivers come out behind slower runners, which can be difficult to pass due to the aerodynamic characteristics of modern Formula One cars.
“You need to have two- to three-stop races, I think that mixes the order up, it mixes the strategy up,” said Verstappen’s Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “Pretty much everyone elected to take a one-stop strategy [at Spa]. That’s never going to produce an exciting Grand Prix.”
Formula One tyre supplier Pirelli said driver feedback is taken into account when developing tyres, though balancing often competing and contradictory demands can be difficult. This year’s specification for tyres, first introduced in 2019, is set to be carried over into next season. Pirelli’s first chance to make changes will come in 2022 with the introduction of 18-inch wheels.
“We cannot have 100% grip and 100% consistency and no degradation and all of that,” said Pirelli’s racing head Mario Isola, responding to Hamilton’s calls for tyres that are grippy and durable.
“I know drivers like the grip, I know drivers are asking for an ideal tyre. So we will focus on that for 2022,” Isola added.
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