Why the FIA is concerned about severe weather at 2023 Belgian GP

The FIA is readying itself for a challenge, as the fast-paced Spa-Francorchamps circuit is set for three days of rain across the F1 weekend.

As Belgium prepares to, once again, welcome Formula 1 to one of the most exciting circuits on the calendar, the FIA is facing another challenge: Three days of rain.

While wet tracks pose enjoyable challenges, the issue of visibility in heavy rain remains a significant concern, akin to a daunting experience for drivers. 

As the racing world prepares for the event, the FIA acknowledges the elephant in the room and seeks ways to enhance visibility for drivers in such adverse conditions.

Driving on a wet track requires immense skill and concentration, but racing in near-zero visibility conditions can be described as nothing short of terrifying. 

Want to work in Formula 1? Browse the latest F1 job vacancies

Imagine racing at unbelievable speeds despite being unable to see anything.

The consequences of any misjudgment could lead to catastrophic collisions. 

Yet, the drivers have no choice but to bravely face the challenge, hoping to maintain their positions while struggling to maintain control amidst the spray and limited visibility.

While most spectators have little understanding of the challenges F1 drivers encounter in the rain, the situation demands serious attention. 

Article continues below

Passing an articulated lorry on a motorway in heavy rain might cause some unease, and karting in wet conditions can result in reduced visibility due to water on the visor. 

However, the stakes are much higher in Formula 1, where drivers hurtle down the track at tremendous speeds, relying on split-second decisions to navigate through the challenging conditions.

The issue of visibility in the rain gained significant attention after tragic incidents at Spa-Francorchamps, including the accidents involving Anthoine Hubert and 18-year-old Dilano van ‘t Hoff. 

In response, the FIA took steps to address the problem. 

Collaborating with Mercedes and Mick Schumacher, the FIA tested small spray guards fitted to the wheels, aiming to reduce spray by 50%. 

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri drove behind Schumacher during the tests to assess the guards’ effectiveness.

However, the initial trials yielded limited results, with the FIA admitting that the guards did not make a substantial difference. 

The challenge lies in designing guards that can be quickly attached to the cars during a race, particularly when a race has been red-flagged due to rain. 

The guards tested were in two parts, affixed to the suspension uprights behind the front and rear wheels. 

READ: Ferrari boss breaks silence on Charles Leclerc tensions after public outburst

While the initial guards were small, larger ones could lead to additional forces that might impact the car’s performance and stability.

Addressing the issue is complex, as any changes must be carefully considered to avoid disrupting the cars’ aerodynamics, which play a crucial role in F1 performance. 

It becomes evident that merely focusing on the wheels may not be enough to meaningfully improve visibility; attention to ground effect diffusers, which contribute significantly to the spray, is equally vital.