Ayrton Senna’s 1985 Portugal performance, Michael Schumacher’s 1996 Spain performance and Damon Hill’s 1994 Japan performance, one of the most famous rain drives in F1 history, would not be possible in today’s conditions as those races would not be allowed to start.
The experience of racing in the rain has inevitably led to criticism that F1 is too risk-averse these days.
Because the safety standards are so high, it is not possible to race in those conditions, but most people think that the names considered the best pilots in the world should be on the track.
While the threshold for an acceptable level of risk has changed over time, rain has other important factors that make life more difficult for F1’s 2022 cars.
Motorsport.com spoke to Grand Prix Drivers Association President Alex Warz to find out what’s going on.
Wurz says some things that cause these problems can be fixed, but some are permanent.
The Safety Car Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, rest for restart
Photo: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Health and safety
While there are physical factors that play a role in determining wet weather competition, such as car and tire design, an important factor is the level at which the FIA deems racing to be safe.
Safety improvements are very welcome in F1. From this point of view, it makes no sense to be completely oblivious to the effort that went into making F1 cars safer, and then later allowing drivers to take to the track in the worst possible rain conditions.
Wurz, who was involved in the first lap crash at the 1998 Belgian GP, one of the most famous crashes in Formula 1 history, said: “The whole world is going in a safer direction. In a way, you can say it’s bad and the sport shouldn’t be like that. But I think “Sports in general are about safety without compromising performance. He has done an absolutely sensational job of enhancing that.”
“But we cannot avoid laws, obligations, difficult judicial decisions and difficult cases that constantly affect sport and society. So these are also a contributing factor.” said
Changes in society also affect the decision to postpone the rain. Ten years ago, fans wouldn’t have bothered with such delays, Urge said. Today, people have a different perspective.
“We were all a little more patient then,” Urge said. “Our lives are moving to a very short attention span, and now we want everything in our comfort zone, so we can’t be patient.”
“We probably all remember that in the past 30-minute delays weren’t as inconvenient for some fans as they are today. That’s a fact.” said
Pirelli wet weather tires
Photo: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images
Chemicals and grooves in tires
Tires are one of the most important factors that decide whether a vehicle will run in the rain.
If the existing rubber can provide good grip without the risk of aquaplaning, the door is open to continue racing.
However, a combination of several factors has made things more acute at the moment.
“Tire manufacturers are no longer allowed to use the chemicals, softeners and very special oils that made tires so unique during the tire development wars of the 1990s and 2000s,” Wurz said.
“There are also single brand tires. So if you want to increase grip, which I’m sure Pirelli can do, there’s also the cost aspect.”
“Tires are also wider. These may be more important than the previous factors. This can cause the tires to aquaplaning or reduce contact with the track. Additionally, if there are wider grooves, the tread will separate.” said
Pirelli proudly declares that its current rain tires emit 85 liters of water at 300km/h.
Pirelli’s F1 and motorsports boss Mario Isola said in Japan: “The spray rate on a full rain tire is 3 times higher than on a transition tyre.” she said.
But what makes rain tires better at removing water is that they spray more into the air and therefore have poorer visibility.
In this case, the tires simply don’t seem to be the most efficient solution for racing in this type of weather as they release more water.
Furthermore, it must be taken into account that the Pirelli must have a transition period between extreme wet and moderate racing. So the two types of tires cannot be too far apart from each other.
If the track conditions are too dry for the rain tires to work or too wet for the transition tires, a disaster situation occurs.
“We have cars where we can change tires. The main issue is visibility,” Isola said.
“Previously we had monsoon tires but it was a simple decision to have such a product with a wide transition range between wet, medium and slippery conditions.”
“We can also change the tread pattern of the tires, but I’m not sure that’s the right direction because the drivers are not taking to the track due to the loss of vision. The main risk is that there is no product in the change of tires and bad conditions, which makes it worse.” said
Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03
Image: Red Bull Content Pool
Looking at the races of 10 years or so ago, they may have raced in very poor conditions, but it should not be forgotten that the level of downforce has changed greatly since then.
We must say that the transition to ground-effect vehicles in 2022 plays an important role in this.
By using venturi ducts under the sole and designing F1 cars so that they are only slightly affected by the airflow of the cars in front, the spray created by the tires is directed into the air, not the rear. This makes the scene worse.
“The level of downforce goes up. The vehicle is also now wider, so more surface and more water goes into the air. A little over 10%,” Wurz said. said
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, battles Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, for the lead at the start.
Photo: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Procedures of pilots
While some fans like to criticize drivers for not racing in bad conditions, Urge is clear that the attitude of those in the cockpit hasn’t changed much over the years.
Wurz thinks that if track conditions are safe enough, drivers will be happiest racing in those conditions.
“Pilots say it’s fun to drive on wet roads, even if it’s aquaplaning. Driving alone is very challenging and wonderful,” Wurz said.
“But the moment you can’t see anything, you’re at such extreme risk that even the slightest problem can lead to death.”
“And that’s when you should applaud the race director who puts safety above all else, ignoring community, commercial and risk pressures. Can we do better? Yes.”
“Maybe we want to support the sport as much as we can to find ways to improve the situation. But we also need to help educate fans and stakeholders about the tremendous challenge and courage you need to go out on the track in the wet. Can’t see anything.” said
Because of this, it’s impossible to find a solution to racing in the rain by changing the tire and car design, but ideas like taking an “information tour,” as the GPDA calls it, can be a small step toward quickly solving some problems. By F1 if it rains.
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