After the Singapore and Japanese Grands Prix were delayed by severe storms that hit the respective circuits, the Formula 1 drivers are convinced that a better solution can be found to resume on-track action as soon as possible when it is safe on the road. those kinds of situations.
Apparently, they believe that using the safety car to check the level of humidity on the track is far from ideal, since its performance and the amount of water it evacuates is not comparable to that of a single-seater in the highest category of motorsport .
That can cause unnecessary delays in test resumptions, but also give fans and TV commentators the wrong impression that conditions look better than they really are.
Following discussions among members of the GPDA [Grand Prix Drivers Association] following the events in Singapore and Japan, the idea of introducing a new ‘information lap’ procedure has emerged. That could allow Formula 1 cars to drive alone or behind the Safety Car for set periods of time during rain delays.
Race Direction could receive this information directly from the drivers during and after those laps to better judge whether or not it is safe for the test to continue. GPDA President Alex Wurz believes such “information laps” would be a very valuable tool in giving the FIA a better understanding of tarmac conditions, and clarifying to the public whether it is too dangerous to return to racing or not. .
“The race director should have the option of what I call information laps,” the Austrian told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview. “So I could say, if the teams agreed to that procedure, that within 10 minutes they would send the cars out for a lap, as if it were the grid formation.”
“On that lap, all the drivers would see what the conditions are like. We could have 20 opinions from the 20 drivers who risk their lives, and then it is a much more informed decision for the FIA by the drivers,” Wurz acknowledged.
The GPDA chairman felt that those extra laps would also be hugely beneficial to the stewards as it would help them know if the visibility is good enough to operate safely.
“It’s also better for the stewards, because they’ll know if they can see the next stall,” he said. “If you can’t see it, you shouldn’t be driving, because you wouldn’t see a crash in a fog bank, so with those turns, the stewards can also report the conditions.”
“The race director would have a better picture, and all the spectators will be able to see for themselves how he is doing,” the former Benetton , McLaren and Williams Formula 1 driver continued.
Does the Safety Car give a real image in wet races in F1?
Comparison of the spray generated by an F1 car and the Safety Car
Wurz believes that fans often get the wrong impression of poor conditions from seeing the safety car, which sheds less water compared to single-seaters, lapping only during rain delays.
That was evident at the Japanese GP [image above], when the spray from the Safety Car was very small compared to when the race got under way: “When you see the safety car driving by itself, With little spray, and the driver having fun going over the curbs, it’s very different to when suddenly all 20 cars can come out, so that’s the difference.
The GPDA chairman explained that the idea for those extra laps came from listening to Lewis Hamilton talk about the conditions during the delays in Japan: “It came about when Lewis said he could tell in a minute [what the conditions are like] driving out there, You can’t if you’re watching TV.
“I thought, ‘My God, you’re absolutely right.’ But that requires a change in rules and procedure, and the race director needs to be able to have that very quickly,” he continued.
Talks for the FIA to study a change in rules for racing in the rain in F1
The idea of ‘information laps’ has only been discussed internally within the GPDA so far, but is likely to be raised with the FIA during meetings in Austin after what has happened in recent races.
Wurz said what happened in Japan has accelerated the momentum for drivers to ask for better conditions when water falls on the track: “We are all affected in some way, because we are here for our safety, our sport and fans.”
“We just want to make sure our fans get it and don’t suddenly think we’re soft,” the Austrian said. “It’s not about being branded as crazy, we have to look for safety, but if they realize we don’t see the other cars then they will respect the decision to delay the test much more.”
“I know from the talks we had during the race and the red flag that Japan was a reminder that when you can’t see it and you don’t have light panels on the side, you don’t know where you are,” he said. “Nobody could see Carlos [Sainz] on the line, and that reminds how dangerous he is, like in Spa-Francorchamps with Anthoine [Huberth].”
“When there is an impact on the T-bone [part of the cockpit], which is not what cars are designed for, they could never be made for it.”
Although a change to introduce “information laps” would lead to a rule change and detailed discussions about it and how to implement it for fuel use , Wurz believes those issues can be worked around.
“It would be necessary to order the race distances and the fuel loads, etc., but I think we can find a solution because it would be useful,” defended the former Grand Circus driver, who also believes that Formula 1 could look for high-tech solutions. to help inform visibility conditions.
“Visibility sensors could be used, which then would not be a human thing, it would be a quantifiable decision based on technology. We could have additional tools to ensure that we are consistent in all situations,” said the Austrian.
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