Proposed FIA changes outlined to improve F1 wet weather running

Thomas Maher
Japanese Grand Prix race start. Suzuka, October 2022. budget cap results wet weather

Japanese Grand Prix race start. Suzuka, October 2022.

The FIA are working hard on concepts to help improve the driveability of the current-generation F1 cars in extreme wet weather conditions.

A notable criticism of Formula 1 in recent years is the fact that once rain starts to fall to any great extent, the chances are the race will be red-flagged or delayed indefinitely.

This has happened quite frequently in recent years, but has been exacerbated this season by the introduction of the new-generation ground-effect cars.

An example of this was at the Monaco Grand Prix, where the race was delayed due to rain only for the drivers to almost immediately begin changing to slick tyres.

Following the Japanese Grand Prix, which was red-flagged early on after Carlos Sainz had crashed his Ferrari in heavy rain, attention has turned to how to improve the driveability of the current F1 cars in such conditions.

Pirelli’s extreme wet-weather tyres, according to most of the drivers, are not up to the task of clearing the water while providing sufficient grip – the tyre manufacturer backed into a corner in this regard due to a lack of testing in such conditions, as well as the vicious circle caused by such regular red flags and delays.

The F1 Commission, which met on Friday ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, revealed the topic has been under intense scrutiny.

According to the Commission’s report, the drivers have reported visibility has been greatly reduced in extreme wet conditions following the introduction of the ground-effect cars – a key element in Race Control’s desire for safety first and foremost.

What are the FIA’s proposals to improve wet weather racing?

In order to be able to increase the chances of going racing in such circumstances, the FIA have set out to study a package aimed at such an outcome.

The proposals include the definition of a standard bodywork kit, which could be fitted to cars in the event of an extreme wet race being called. This kit would aim to suppress the tyre spray by reducing the amount of bodywork around the wheels.

Additional lighting on the cars is a further proposal in order to improve visibility, while ‘devices’ could be fitted to the cars before an extreme wet race or in the event of a red flag due to such conditions.

The study is also focusing on understanding how the Venturi tunnels on the ground-effect floors are affecting the amount of spray created, while the design must not ‘unduly hinder’ tyre stops.

Interestingly, an initial concept of such a bodykit and the preliminary findings have already been presented to the F1 Commission.

For now, the proposals will not be added to the Sporting Regulations – the concept will require sign-off by the F1 Commission before going to the World Motor Sport Council for ratification.

Further proposals of the Commission are to explore the effects of allowing DRS activation after one racing lap following a race start or Safety Car restart, the intention being to introduce the rule at all races in 2024.

A final decision on whether tyre blankets will be banned – a rule most of the drivers are against – is also expected to be made in July 2023 in order to allow for further analysis and testing of such a move.

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