2023 Belgian Grand Prix: Sprint Race Tyre Analysis – The Sprint Saturday in Spa was yet another Max Verstappen day, first in the Shootout and then in the Race. While the race against the clock was very hard to call, with the top three – Verstappen, Piastri and Sainz – all covered by just 25 thousandths over a seven kilometre track – in the race, the world champion put on a show of force to take the win after a heavy shower just before the start meant the track was wet throughout. The only slight opposition came from McLaren’s Australian driver who led this “short” race for one lap, but after that, he had no answer against the Verstappen-Red Bull package. Gasly finished third for Alpine, giving the team an unexpected podium.
The Day On Track
As was the case yesterday, rain had a major influence on the day, falling intermittently, sometimes very heavily. The Sprint Shootout got underway on a damp track, but the FIA did not declare it a “Wet Session” thus maintaining the need for drivers to use the Medium compound in Q1 and Q2 and the Soft in Q3. However, at first all drivers ran the Intermediates, but in the second part, as the racing line began to dry, a window appeared for slicks to be used: Stroll tried it but ended up in the barriers at Turn 9. In Q3, the track was ready for dry weather tyres and all ten drivers used the Soft compound as required by the regulations.
The start of the race was delayed as the rain came down very heavily and then the Race Director opted for a rolling start after formation laps behind the Safety Car, which by regulation requires all the cars to be on extreme wets. Once the race was really underway, when the conditions were just right for the intermediates, all the teams split the strategy between their drivers, bringing one in immediately and the other on the next lap to fit the green-banded tyres.
At the moment, Meteo France is forecasting a 40% chance of rain tomorrow afternoon between 15 and 17, but it’s well known that it is very difficult to deliver an accurate forecast at Spa, even in the height of summer.
Mario Isola – Pirelli Motorsport Director
“The Saturday of a Sprint weekend is always very exciting, even more so if rain plays a part. We saw three very close Sprint Shootout sessions, both on the intermediates and the Softs, with really close gaps, especially when one considers the length of the track. In the Race, it was practically impossible to evaluate the behaviour of the wet tyres, because once the Safety Car came into the pits, the conditions were clearly ideal for intermediates. They worked in the way we had expected from what we saw yesterday, with a reasonably limited degradation even over longer runs as seen in the race.
Tomorrow, the teams will go into the race with plenty of information about the rain tyres, but they will be pretty much in the dark when it comes to the dry weather ones. In the case of mixed conditions in the race, the crossover time from dry tyres to intermediates is estimated to be between 1.54/1.55.00, while from the intermediates to the extreme wets its between 2.04/2.05.00 (times based on a low fuel load). If it does not rain, then they will all have to base their strategy simulations on data gathered from past races at this track and on how the trio of available compounds have behaved in the first part of this season. We are doing exactly that ourselves and at the moment all we can do is confirm our earlier prediction, which indicated there was not much difference between a one stop or a two stop. And, without much information, this becomes an even finer line, so there is a bigger chance of some surprises tomorrow.”