McLaren’s Lando Norris has told armchair critics that they should keep quiet, given that they have no experience of driving a Formula 1 car in the wet.
Sir Lewis Hamilton has noted since the rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix that the rooster tails coming off the back of the new cars I wet conditions are worse than they have been in previous season.
The race in Singapore was delayed by over an hour due to concerns about safety in the wet, and even more treacherous conditions awaited the drivers in Suzuka on Sunday.
Unaware of how wet it was going to be at the start compared to the reconnaissance laps, everyone started on the Intermediates, and Carlos Sainz was quickly caught out.
The Spaniard aquaplaned at Turn 11, and span off into the barrier, causing a red flag and a subsequent race suspension.
Such was the visibility that the drivers were struggling to see more than a few metres in front of them, which is why there was so much backlash when the FIA decided to send a recovery vehicle out onto the racetrack while there were still cars on it.
Pierre Gasly was almost hit by it, but unlike Jules Bianchi’s tragic crash in 2014, race control’s recklessness did not lead to any loss of life this time.
Alex Albon retired from the race on the opening lap due to an engine failure, and he noted that the “visibility was non-existent – we couldn’t see further than five metres in front of us”.
“Whatever everyone sees from onboards, it’s 100 times worse out there on track – it’s really bad.”
Norris’ issue was not the lack of grip, but more the fact that the sheer amount of spray coming off the car in front impedes the drivers’ vision.
“The difficult thing is not that it’s too wet but that it’s difficult to see anything at all, those are two different things,” he explained.
“In qualifying, those conditions would be perfectly fine and I would love to race, but when you start 10th on the grid and you can’t see anything.
“And you can say ‘it didn’t look that bad on TV’, but if you say something like that, you have to keep your mouth shut because the risk we take to race in those conditions, it’s crazy.”
The Briton divulged that, in the wet, he can see “five, ten metres even if there’s a big taillight on.”
Norris added that avoiding a stricken car on the racetrack is potluck, as he could not see Sainz’s accident on lap one.
“You also don’t see when someone stops in front of you,” he said.
“I didn’t see Carlos’ crash. If I’d been a metre to the left, I’d have crashed right into him because you just can’t see anything.”
If the powers that be could find a way to reduce the level of spray emanating from the cars, then a wet circuit would be a lot more raceable.
“Then we could race even in worse conditions, I’d love to do that – I love weather like that,” explained Norris.
“In F2, F3 and F4 we raced in worse conditions, but the spray coming off the tyres [in F1] is just too intense.”
Norris came home 10th for the final point on Sunday, while Max Verstappen won the race to seal his second consecutive championship.