During the Japanese Grand Prix last year, Pierre Gasly, who was driving for Alpha Tauri, narrowly avoided a collision with a recovery vehicle in wet conditions. In light of this incident, Formula 1 drivers are now endorsing a trial of a device designed to minimize spray in rainy weather. They have also emphasized that races should not commence if visibility is poor.
On 13 July, McLaren and Mercedes will be conducting tests of a mudguard-style device at Silverstone. Lando Norris of McLaren expressed his approval, stating that action was long overdue. He remarked, “As drivers, we have been advocating for years that something needs to be done.”
The British Grand Prix is expected to encounter rain on both Saturday and Sunday, underscoring the urgency of the issue. Norris emphasized that inadequate visibility in wet conditions is currently the primary safety concern in Formula 1.
Sadly, a recent tragedy in a junior category race at Spa-Francorchamps claimed the life of Dutch driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff. This incident reflected the exact type of accident that F1 drivers have been warning about. Van ‘t Hoff collided with a crashed car on the straight, which went unnoticed due to spray from other cars in the wet race.
Norris expressed his thoughts, stating, “Fortunately, we have been fortunate enough not to experience such incidents in F1 or many other categories. Unfortunately, it took a life for people to realize that these things can happen.” He further added, “This is not an isolated incident; it could have occurred last weekend in Austria. It is regrettable that such a consequence had to be witnessed for people to understand the potential dangers. It is imperative that action is taken. The next significant safety improvement should focus on enhancing visibility. This will undoubtedly be beneficial, and I am eager to see its effectiveness during testing. If it fails to deliver, we must explore alternative solutions.”
During media day at the British Grand Prix, other drivers shared their views. They suggested that regardless of the success of the mudguard device, race officials should revise the standards for acceptable racing conditions in the rain.
With modern F1 cars generating more downforce than ever, their aerodynamics exacerbate the spray produced in wet conditions. Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo stated, “We should not be commencing races in any category when visibility is severely compromised.”
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin driver, echoed this sentiment, saying, “If the device proves effective, it should be implemented as soon as possible. If it fails, we should not place ourselves in situations where racing becomes perilous due to poor visibility.”
The incident involving van ‘t Hoff occurred on the Kemmel straight, a few hundred meters past the notorious Eau Rouge swerves. These turns are navigated at speeds close to 200mph and conclude with a blind left-hander over a crest known as Raidillon.
Stroll commented, “In heavy wet weather, visibility is practically nonexistent. I can recall numerous races in F1 where you cannot see anything when following another car, posing extreme danger.” He added, “If a car in front of you spins sideways on the track, and you are unable to perceive your surroundings, racing under such conditions should not be permitted.”
Kevin Magnussen from Haas expressed, “When visibility is absent, it feels absurd to be traveling at high speeds; it is as if one may as well close their eyes. There is zero visibility, and substantial improvements in this aspect would be greatly appreciated.”
Sergio Perez of Red Bull acknowledged that the new anti-spray device might affect each team differently due to changes in downforce levels. Nevertheless, he emphasized that safety should be the top priority and suggested that the device could enable racing under more challenging weather conditions.
Overall, Formula 1 drivers are united in their support for measures that mitigate spray and improve visibility during wet races, ensuring the safety of all participants.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Formula 1 safety
What is the trial device that Formula 1 drivers are endorsing?
The trial device is a mudguard-style device aimed at reducing spray in rainy conditions during Formula 1 races. It is being tested by McLaren and Mercedes at the Silverstone circuit.
Why are Formula 1 drivers emphasizing the importance of visibility in wet conditions?
Formula 1 drivers are highlighting the significance of visibility in wet conditions due to safety concerns. Poor visibility caused by spray from other cars poses a significant risk of accidents and collisions.
What incident prompted the call for improved safety measures?
The tragic accident involving Dutch driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff in a junior category race at Spa-Francorchamps served as a catalyst for raising safety concerns. Van ‘t Hoff’s collision with a crashed car, unseen due to spray, demonstrated the potential dangers of limited visibility.
Will the trial device solve the visibility problem entirely?
While the trial device is expected to reduce spray and improve visibility, its effectiveness remains to be seen. Formula 1 drivers are hopeful that it will enhance safety, but if it proves ineffective, they believe alternative solutions should be explored.
What changes should be made regarding race conditions in the rain?
Drivers suggest that race officials should reconsider the standards for acceptable racing conditions in wet weather. They believe that races should not start if visibility is severely compromised, even if the trial device or other measures are in place. Safety should always come first.