Drivers move to quell wet weather fears

Leading Formula One drivers have opened talks with the FIA to discuss wet weather safety in 2008, Autosport has learned, amid renewed concerns about racing in the rain without the help of traction control

Ahead of the launch of the new 2008 cars that have been designed to work without the help of electronic driver aids, a number of Grand Prix drivers have said they are worried about the safety issues of racing them in the rain.

The fears have led to the drivers opening dialogue with F1 race director Charlie Whiting about agreeing on a plan of action in the event of a wet race, so they are in agreement about when it is too dangerous for the event to proceed.

David Coulthard, a leading campaigner for improved safety in F1, told Autosport: "Fernando Alonso aquaplaned off the road in Fuji (last year) - even with TC. The electronics still couldn't support him - and that will happen a lot more without traction control because Formula One engines are very peaky.

"We don't want to see a monstrous shunt where somebody rides over another car, goes into the crowd or has an accident like (Alex) Zanardi [at the Lausitzring in 2001].

"I'm very relaxed about how Charlie operates. He may have made some difficult decisions - but he's only reacting on the information he's had. He doesn't have the spray we have - when you're flat out at 180mph you see simply nothing.

"But I'm confident Charlie will do the right thing based on us helping and advising him - and that's why we've started a dialogue now rather than trying to react afterwards."

Coulthard has found plenty of support for his worries about the wet weather situation.

Honda Racing's Jenson Button told Autosport: "The only worry I have about driving without traction control is racing in wet conditions. It's going to be very dangerous. We couldn't have raced in Fuji (last year) without traction control - there would have been people spinning on the straight."

Ferrari's Felipe Massa added: "In terms of safety, this is a big step backwards. For sure, we will have more accidents and racing in wet conditions will be very dangerous.

"I've spoken with Michael Schumacher and several other drivers and they've told me it will be more dangerous driving a car without TC now than it was in the past. Another race like Fuji would be very dangerous."

But FIA president Max Mosley has played down the drivers' concerns - claiming that the safety of wet weather races will not be any less because of the absence of traction control.

"Driving in the wet is quite dangerous - with or without traction control," he told Autosport. "It's dangerous in the sense that you're likely to go off but you're less likely to hurt yourself because the speeds will be lower. That was always the theory of the grooved tyre because you reduced the grip and the severity of the accident.

"Imagine, in the most extreme circumstances, holding the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on packed snow - nobody would get hurt because nobody would ever get up to enough speed to do any damage!

"It will make it more difficult in the wet - but it's difficult in the wet anyway. And people forget, even the least competent F1 driver is still amazingly good at what he does. And it won't cause any of them much trouble."

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