Pierre Gasly didn't feel safe at start of wet sprint race

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Pierre Gasly said visibility was so bad at the start of Saturday's Belgian Grand Prix sprint race that he no longer felt safe.

After a delay of 30 minutes, Saturday's sprint race, which was scheduled for 14 laps, got underway behind the safety car before being green lit for racing at the end of lap five.

The idea behind delaying the start was to allow the 20 cars to clear water from the circuit as they circulated behind the safety car, but when racing got underway Gasly, who started sixth for Alpine, said he still felt as though the conditions were not safe.

"I could not see a thing," he said. "If Oscar [Piastri] or Max [Verstappen] was in the middle of the straight, I would've been straight inside him.

"I just couldn't even see 10, 20 metres ahead of me. Even when we were all warming up the tyres and stuff, you are just hoping for the best. I didn't feel safe."

At the start of July, Dutch teenager Dilano van 't Hoff died in a multi-car collision in wet conditions during a Formula Regional European Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps.

The accident shone a spotlight on safety at the circuit, with Grand Prix Drivers' Association director George Russell calling on the FIA on Thursday to err on the side of caution if conditions are wet this weekend.

Gasly said a single mistake by a driver ahead of him on track could have resulted in a devastating incident at the start of the sprint.

"When they restarted, I was really hoping that no guy gets off the track or collides and stops in the middle of the straight because we know obviously what has happened," Gasly said. "It's not really a question of conditions, the conditions were probably practical or raceable since the first lap.

"The problem is the visibility and the spray at the moment is so huge out of these cars, the water just stays in the air. I was in P6 and I couldn't see anything, I can only imagine how bad it was at the back of the pack."

Daniel Ricciardo, who started the race 11th in the middle of the pack, said he was unable to see the cars in front of him at times while circulating behind the safety car.

"I was fourth gear down the straight before Turn 5 and even full throttle in fourth I couldn't even see George's light in front of me," Ricciardo said. "So I was 'let's do a few more laps'. Then it got to four laps and I thought alright, if no rain expected, let's red flag it, wait, whatever, 30 minutes, 45, and we can have a proper race instead of losing time behind safety car.

"In the end I'm glad we got the race done and everyone is safe. Visibility... it's a shame, because I've been doing the sport a while now and I don't remember it like this. Honestly, the last few years has been bad, but five, ten years ago we raced in these conditions.

"I know the cars are bigger and the tyres and all that. We want to race because the weather's also fun. The onboard captures it well, we really don't see. Anything above fourth gear you're just, like this... [can't see anything]."

Max Verstappen, who started the race in first position and won ahead of Oscar Piastri, doubts there is an easy solution to the spray problem and believes it has got worse since F1's last regulation change in 2022.

"I fully get Piere's comments because I think it has become worse from when I started in F1," he said. "I think it's just the wider tyres we have and the ground effect cars, but I remember in the junior categories it was also quite tough.

"The visibility was very bad so unfortunately, of course, we had these accidents happen over the years. That's always the unfortunate thing, I guess, with some things where we then tried to improve stuff on it, something bad needs to happen before then really gets changed or get looked at.

"But, I remember races in F3 where also I couldn't see a thing when you're on the pack or whatever. Also today, for example, I couldn't even see sometimes the safety car and I'm the first guy, so that's not even an F1 car.

"So if we really want to get rid of it, we can't do a race at the moment in the wet if we want good visibility, and this is also something we have to look at."