Martin Brundle’s stern message to drivers on F1 wet-weather racing concerns

Jamie Woodhouse
F1 cars on damp Spa-Francorchamps track. Belgium, July 2023.

Formula 1 cars negotiating the damp Spa-Francorchamps track. Belgium, July 2023.

Ex-racer turned Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle is not sold on the idea of wet-weather wheel arches in Formula 1, and also told drivers concerned about the safety of racing in the wet that the “throttle works both ways”.

Visibility concerns for the drivers manning modern Formula 1 machinery remains an ongoing issue, one which was under the spotlight at Spa-Francorchamps, particularly considering the tragic accident which claimed the life of Dilano van ‘t Hoff just weeks before Formula 1 visited for the Belgian Grand Prix.

An initiative currently being trialled to address the visibility problem is wet-weather wheel arches, with these current F1 cars, which rely on ground effect aerodynamics, seemingly increasing the amount of spray being kicked up on a wet track.

Martin Brundle tells drivers these conditions part and parcel of F1

Brundle argues that fitting F1 cars with these mudguards on a wet track will push them more towards the sportscars seen at Le Mans, stressing that navigating the challenges of a rain-soaked track has faced drivers throughout the decades since Formula 1 started in 1950.

And it is when competing in such conditions that Brundle says we “especially respect” the drivers.

“I mean, putting mudguards on, you’re heading towards being a Le Mans car,” Brundle told Sky F1. “But you follow another Le Mans car in the pouring rain, you can’t see anything.

“The water, it comes off the tyres, it clears the tyres, they’re very good at that, it’s what they’re designed to do. And it’s got to go somewhere.

“But you know, [Juan Manuel] Fangio had it and [Sir Stirling] Moss had it in the ’50s or ’60s, I know they didn’t have ground effect cars, they didn’t have undertrays that were kicking it up quite so high, but you know, the throttle works both ways.

“They’re gladiators, the drivers, we revere the drivers. They’re brave. They’re fearless. They can handle conditions like this, and it’s those moments where you especially respect them.”

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Martin Brundle tells drivers do not get in car if cannot handle risk

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll called for changes to be made to the Spa track following van ‘t Hoff’s fatal crash, the collision occurring at a similar spot to where former Renault junior Anthoine Hubert had been killed in 2019.

Brundle admits “there is a problem” at the crest of Raidillon before the drivers head onto the Kemmel straight, but stating his reluctance for his idea to solve that problem coming to pass, Brundle says such risk is something that a driver must accept if they are going to climb into a racing car.

“There is a problem at the top of Raidillon, as we know,” said Brundle, “but the only way to sort that out would be to make a 90-degree left-hander at the bottom of the hill. And then do we get rid of all the fast corners in the world?

“But there is a particular problem there, there’s sort of a venturi on the top, it’s unsighted and then it narrows up onto the Kemmel straight.

“But for me, this is a fundamental aspect of motorsport. Danger is intrinsic and ongoing for a racing driver. And frankly, before you step over the side of or into a racing car, you need to mind-manage that and understand that, because it will always happen.

“You go fast enough for people to tune in, then there’s a risk, there’s a danger, and if you’re not prepared to accept that then you shouldn’t be in the car.”

Rain would impact both qualifying and sprint day at the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix, with a brief cloudburst in the race not enough to trigger a move to intermediate tyres, though it did cause a major slide for Verstappen through Raidillion which he rescued on his way to a dominant victory.

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