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F1 drivers welcome FIA’s wet weather wheel arch test

Formula 1 drivers have welcomed the FIA’s move towards the introduction of wet weather wheel arches via a test at Silverstone next week.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Mercedes and McLaren will take part in a test on the national circuit on 13 July with the Wellington Straight to be artificially soaked to allow the FIA to gather data on the arches or “mudguards”.

The idea emerged after the 2021 Belgian GP at Spa as a way of allowing races or sessions to proceed in conditions that would normally be regarded as too dangerous due to poor visibility.

However, the accident that befell Formula Regional driver Dilano van ’t Hoff at the same venue last weekend has put a further focus on the issue.

If successful in F1 the arches are likely to be introduced into the junior categories. 

"I think visibility in the rain is critical,” said Pierre Gasly when asked about the subject by Autosport.

“Unfortunately what's happened in Spa. I even had a conversation with Esteban [Ocon] on the parade [in Austria], and we had a very similar situation in 2012 Formula Renault two litres, where we both started from the back of the grid in similar conditions.

“And to be fair, you're praying for your life that no one stopped in the middle because you can't even see five metres ahead of you.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, the rest of the field at the start of the Sprint

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, the rest of the field at the start of the Sprint

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“In extreme conditions, I think most of the time the reason why we don't get on the track is not so much for driving-wise purposes, but just the fact that we just can't see where we're going. 

"This I think is definitely one point to address. I really hope it can I can improve that.”

Should the Silverstone test prove to be successful, Lance Stroll has called for the arches to be introduced as soon as possible to address the "huge safety issue".

“We can’t see anything in heavy wet weather," said the Canadian. "I can remember Japan last year, I can recall many races over the past few years in F1 where you just cannot see anything when you're behind a car.

“And it's extremely dangerous if someone has an incident in front of you and is sideways in the middle of the track. You can't see where you're going.

“I don't think we should be racing like that, so it definitely is something that if it works, has to be put on the cars as quickly as possible. And if it doesn't work we shouldn't be putting ourselves in situations where we're racing in conditions where we can’t see.

“Accidents can happen, and they can be really severe accidents. So definitely, if it works, get it on the cars as quickly as possible and hopefully it does work and it's a great solution going forward to wet weather racing.”

Rain caused havoc at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix

Rain caused havoc at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris, who will take part in the Silverstone test, suggested that wet weather visibility is now the biggest safety issue facing the sport.

“I'd say it's about time that we're going to do something,” he said. “I think as drivers we've said it for years that something needs to be done. I think we've been lucky that nothing has happened within I’d say F1, or many other categories.

“And in the worst case, sadly, we've had to lose a life for people to realise that those things can happen, and if it could just happen there it could have happened last weekend for us in Austria.

“It's a shame we had to see such a consequence for people to understand what can happen. I think it's something that needs to be done. I would say it's the biggest safety concern at the minute within F1.

“No matter what way you look at it, what's the next thing that can improve safety the most? It's actually being able to see where we're going. That helps sometimes!

“I look forward to it. I'm doing a test so we'll see soon how good it's going to be, but if it doesn't work, something else needs to be done to find a solution.”

Sergio Perez acknowledged that the arches will have an aerodynamic impact, but stressed that the bigger picture of safety was more important.

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“I think if they work, I will definitely like to see them put in, certainly in F1,” said the Mexican. “Although it's going to be quite penalising, maybe more for some teams than others in terms of downforce, but I think it's something that safety should come first and it might allow us to race in more dangerous conditions.

“Especially with what happened last weekend, I think it's something that we got to improve. But for now, I think it's just important that race directors let us race only when it's safe, and actually, the whole grid is able to see something.”

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