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To Race or Not to Race? Our writers on F1's Wet-Weather Saga

Written by the Divebomb Team

Racing in the rain; a skill, but a controversy today. Image credit - Scuderia Ferrari

Dan Jones

F1 isn’t pushing drivers to their limits Wet-weather racing is what sets the Great Drivers apart from the Good Drivers. So many of the ‘greatest’ have been renowned for their abilities in extreme conditions: Senna, Hamilton, Schumacher - you could even put Verstappen in that club. However, events of recent years have implemented a sense of extreme caution in the FIA - particularly at Spa, when the tragic deaths of Anthoine Hubert and Dilano Van ‘t Hoff have been a particular scar on Spa’s otherwise rich history.

But it’s a huge shame that we aren’t testing the best drivers in the world in the most challenging conditions in the world - as I mentioned, it sets apart the great and the good, and will bring out the best racing - particularly in a season plagued by predictability. But, it has become far too common for these situations to happen in recent years: Belgium 2021, Monaco 2022, Singapore 2022, Japan 2022 and Belgium 2023 as examples and it’s a huge shame. But, the FIA have tried on occasions - Masi approved the green flag in qualifying of the fated 2021 Belgian Grand Prix - but Lando Norris’ accident drew criticism from drivers and fans, but at the end of the day, hindsight is a virtue.

Japan 2022 too, the last time to remember that the extreme wet tyres have been necessary in an event, where it was the most challenging of conditions on the most challenging of circuits - until Carlos Sainz lost it out of the hairpin and we had to endure yet another lengthy and frustrating delay. Once we did get going - after drivers were practically begging the race directors to get going on social media - the racing was excellent - and a great example of how capable the 20 best drivers in the world are.

But there's bigger fundamental issues. Pirelli have still failed to create a wet tyre suitable enough for the extreme demands of a modern Formula One car, with the intermediates the only operational tyre in wet conditions - not helped any further by the FIA's approach of restarting races so late that conditions are already drying.

But this FIA trepidation needs to stop - drivers have proved again and again how capable they are in extreme conditions, Suzuka being the prime example. The frustration is being reflected in the drivers, most notably, Max Verstappen. And I understand why the cautious approach is taken at Spa - but when it's such a regularity as it has been, you start to wonder what is the approach being taken?

But if the FIA are going to continually hold fire on wet-weather racing, they need to start finding solutions which are long overdue. Whether that's better wet tyres, better drainage system, changes to the aero package to minimise spray - these must be done, because the sight of rain in Formula One is yielding a predictable outcome which neither driver or fan alike want to see.

Our writers believe F1 should race in the rain; Credit - Scuderia Ferrari

Vyas Ponnuri

Wet Weather Racing is Essential to F1 - How can we not race in the rain?

About a year ago, you’ll have noticed my article on the topic, “Wet weather racing is the essence of Formula One”. I speak for many when I say it - F1 SHOULD race in the rain.

When certain sports halt play due to rain, motorsport is known to carry on, despite the changing conditions. The weather always adds an element of unpredictability to proceedings, and is a true test of drivers skill and reflexes - To keep the car pointing in a straight line in inclement weather is a skill to master.

Any advantages between teams and drivers are neutralised in these conditions, and it is all down to the driver’s skill and judgement in this weather. It is the wet weather racing that separates the best from the rest, and some big names have etched their place in history as wet weather masters. The likes of Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, the regenmeister Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and today, Max Verstappen, have all found a space in the annals of Formula One’s wet weather racing history. When the heavens opened up, their racecraft reigned supreme, their superiority in judging the conditions, be it braking, putting down the power, the proximities of the circuit, all class-leading.

However, while wet weather races have seen some drivers make their mark, they have also seen tragic moments. You don’t need to look too far into the past to pick such days. On a sodden day in Japan in 2014, Jules Bianchi lost control of his car and crashed into a stationary crane at high speed. More recently, MP Motorsport driver Dilano Van ‘t Hoff fell victim to the uncertainties of the wet weather at Spa.

And Spa-Francorchamps has been even more in the news when it comes to wet races. A mesmerising venue to race around, don’t get me wrong, but when the heavens open up, it can make for a tricky race, thanks to the wide expanses of the Ardennes forest. Just look back to 2010 when Spa served up a thriller of a race, and you’ll agree.

However, the circuit has earned more reputation for rain controversy, rather than rain dances. 2021 is the best example, the day wet weather racing prospects took a major blow. And the stewards on the day tended to be cautious, following Lando Norris’ incident in qualifying on the Saturday.

Even this season, despite conditions that may have looked vastly clearer to the naked eye, than in 2021, we were treated to regular delays, once again, and only got going when the track had dried up significantly. And we always wonder: When Formula One has full-fledged wet weather racing tyres, why don’t we race in the rain.

I can understand if the conditions were extreme, and visibility at its lowest, but to wait until it gets near enough to go onto intermediate tyres, it's a touch too cautious from the stewards, despite keeping in mind the recent incidents in the rain. These are the 20 best drivers in single-seater racing, let them display their skills and racecraft to the world, and make their name as a wet weather master.

Archie O’Reilly

You can understand caution, but that is turning into over-cautiousness

Motorsport is dangerous. That is the painful reality. And unfortunately, you can’t have fear as a driver - that’s part of their nature. Once the visor is down, you simply cannot think about the risks that sadly exist in this great sport. However, none of this means drivers should be put in excessively dangerous situations.

There are times where caution is absolutely necessary, such as before the Formula One Sprint Race at the Belgian Grand Prix, when the rain was far too intense to start any race, with lots of standing water and drains overflowing. On this occasion, the delay was understandable as conditions only intensified as the start time was reached. That said, there are occasions when much lighter rain has also resulted in a delay.

Wet weather tyres exist for a reason, allowing for even some degree of standing water to be cleared. But these extreme wet tyres have been allowed to become nigh on redundant. It begs the question: what is the point in them existing if they are only ever used behind the safety car, then conditions have improved to the extent that, after such a long delay, drivers will pit for intermediate tyres anyway?

There is no issue with sweepers being used to clear larger areas of standing water to prevent aquaplaning - something particularly pertinent in wet conditions at Spa-Fracorchamps after the tragic loss of young FRECA driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff only weeks before. The caution can be entirely understood, however there comes a stage where that wariness may be excessive. Even the drivers have been the first to admit that.

In the case of the F1 Sprint at Spa, it had stopped raining so long ago that the track was almost drying by the time the race finally got underway. Wet weather racing is almost becoming a declining phenomenon given the first instinct nowadays is to call a red flag or delay sessions, and while this is sometimes necessary, drivers relish the test of wet conditions.

Solutions are needed to ensure cars can run in the wet, for instance wheel arches to mitigate the spray that makes vision so restricted for drivers. Racing in the wet is an integral part of F1, and it is at risk of being taken away. Caution is completely acceptable, but there’s an issue of over-cautiousness. You can’t help but feel the latter is becoming a problem.

Our writers press for solutions to be found, to host wet weather races without delays. Credit - Mercedes Benz

Sean McKean

‘The Greatest Drivers in the World’

When thinking about the greatest single-driver performances in history, common answers may include: Jenson Button, 2011 Canadian Grand Prix; Ayrton Senna, 1993 European Grand Prix; Michael Schumacher, 1996 Spanish Grand Prix. While all of these performances are once-in-a-lifetime - hence their legendary status in Formula 1 history - there is one thing they have in common: They were all done in the wet-weather conditions.

In Formula 1, there is no bigger of a twist into a Grand Prix weekend than the impending waterfalls from the sky we call rain. Not only does it make the engineers’ jobs much more difficult, with strategising becoming a lofty task under changeable conditions, but it also allows the driver to truly show the talents they possess. In the case of Michael Schumacher in the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, it was that performances that solidified his place in F1 as a great, pulling away from the field in slick tyres in what was a torrential downpour.

Fast-forward to present day, and we never see these performances anymore. It’s not the fault of the drivers, as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are more than capable of producing wet-weather magic, but it is rather down to shabby race control. Last race weekend at Spa Francorchamps, we saw any chance of wet running curtailed by virtue of the directors waiting out the rain for it to dry up. Whether it is down to the track itself or something else does not matter; what does matter is allowing these drivers to showcase what makes them great. By not allowing them to show off their skills in the most tricky of conditions, you are killing the greatest element of unpredictability this sport has to offer.

Wet weather has always thrown up thrilling races, even in the past. Credit - Rex Features


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