Racing at speed in wet conditions and limited visibility is a major current safety concern in F1 and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, after the deaths of two junior drivers in the space of four years at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I could not see a thing,” Gasly told reporters after finishing behind Red Bull’s championship-leading Sprint race winner Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
“If Oscar or Max was in the middle of the straight, I would have been straight inside him. I just couldn’t even see 10, 20 metres ahead of me. You’re just hoping for the best, but I didn’t feel safe,” admitted Gasly.
The field did five laps behind the safety car to displace standing water before a rolling start. The safety car was deployed again on lap three when Aston Martin’s veteran Fernando Alonso crashed.
Gasly: All you need is just one guy to be stopped at the wrong place
The plumes of spray remained a problem insisted Gasly: “At the moment it’s so huge out of these cars, the water just stays in the air. You want to race but at the same time, I’m glad everything went safely today.
“But all you need is just one guy to be stopped at the wrong place in the straight and it can go wrong very quickly. So it’s a tricky call,” ventured the 27-year-old Frenchman.
Verstappen recognised Gasly’s concerns and recalled races in his own junior career where he could see nothing ahead: “Also today, for example, I couldn’t even see the Safety Car sometimes and I’m the first guy.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said the race direction had got it right: “You can absolutely understand that everyone needs to play it safe here in Spa, we had two terrible accidents.
“The last one under similar conditions in the rain where drivers couldn’t see because of the spray. So it was clear that the approach here needed to be on the super-safe side, and I think that was right. The spray on the new Tarmac is pretty bad,” explained Wolff.
Wolff said Spa, a landmark in the sport with the daunting and fabled Eau Rouge, had a place on the calendar but with improved safety: “Some of these corners are what makes Formula 1, but the cars are very quick and the spray is very bad.
“What is it we can all do jointly to keep the absolutely brilliant racetrack here on the calendar whilst making sure there is more visibility in the rain?” questioned Wolff. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)