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FIA to trial wet weather F1 wheel arches in Silverstone test

Mercedes and McLaren will take part in the first test of Formula 1’s new wet weather “mudguards” at Silverstone on 13 July on behalf of the FIA.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Red Bull Content Pool

The wheel arch or “mudguard” concept emerged after heavy rain meant that the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix ran without any racing laps being completed.

The idea is that all cars have the facility for the wheel arches to be fitted in cases of extreme wet weather in order to ensure that track action can take place. If the track dries, the devices will stay on the cars.

The FIA outlined its plan for testing after last November’s World Motor Sport Council meeting in Abu Dhabi.

It noted: “Driver feedback has suggested that there has been reduced visibility in extremely wet conditions with this latest generation of cars, which is a key determinant on starting, or needing to suspend sessions.

“Therefore, the FIA commenced a study to define a package of parts aiming to suppress the spray generated when running in wet conditions.”

One of the aims of the testing is to explore the role of the diffuser in creating spray, with the FIA noting that it would study “the contribution of surface water picked up through the underfloor tunnels to understand its significance”.

A key proviso of using the arches is that they will not “unduly hinder pitstop tyre changes.”

The Silverstone test will take place on the national circuit, with only the main straight soaked with water.

It’s understood that the Mercedes will be equipped with the arches and the McLaren won’t, to allow a direct comparison to be made, with the cars running together and independently. Another aim will be to gather aero data related to the impact of the arches.

Nikolas Tombazis, Head of Single Seater Technical Matters, FIA

Nikolas Tombazis, Head of Single Seater Technical Matters, FIA

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The action will be filmed, allowing the FIA to study how the arches behave and more specifically determine how water droplets fall off them, something that is extremely hard to model.

It’s not known which drivers will do the test, although a Mercedes source indicated that Mick Schumacher is likely to handle the W14 on behalf of the Brackley team.

Speaking in December, FIA single-seater director Nikolas Tombazis made it clear that the wheel arches would only rarely be used.

“We only think it's going to be something that gets used on a couple of occasions a year, maybe three, that sort of thing,” he explained.

“We don't want it to be that every time there's a drop of rain, then suddenly you have to fit these things.”

He added: “Spa in 2021 still left scars on the sport because it was very unfortunate circumstance. It would have been 10 times worse I think if we had gone all the way to Japan and had to pack up and come back. We really need to avoid that.

“We have so many people watching, spectators paying tickets, teams travelling all over the world, and then to suddenly say we can't race is not very responsible of us.”

The Silverstone running takes place outside the restrictions of the cost cap as it is being conducted on behalf of the FIA.

It will follow two days of 2024 Pirelli tyre testing on the full circuit involving Red Bull, Haas and Williams, with Daniel Ricciardo making his first track appearance in the RB19.

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