FIA Plans Wet Weather F1 Wheel Arches Trial at Silverstone Test
In response to the rain-affected 2021 Belgian GP, the FIA is set to trial a new concept called the wheel arch or mudguard. The idea behind this concept is to equip all cars with removable wheel arches for extreme wet weather conditions, ensuring that track action can still take place. If the track dries up, the devices will remain on the cars.
The FIA announced its testing plan following the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Abu Dhabi last November. This initiative was prompted by feedback from drivers, who expressed concerns about reduced visibility in extremely wet conditions with the current generation of cars. Such conditions affect the decision to start or suspend sessions.
To address this issue, the FIA initiated a study to develop a set of components aimed at minimizing the spray generated when racing in wet conditions. The testing will particularly focus on investigating the role of the diffuser in creating spray and analyzing the impact of surface water collected through the underfloor tunnels.
However, an important requirement for using the wheel arches is that they should not significantly impede pitstop tire changes.
The upcoming trial will take place at the Silverstone national circuit, where only the main straight will be artificially soaked with water. Mercedes will participate with the arches installed on their car, while McLaren will run without them, enabling a direct comparison and independent evaluation. The test will also gather aerodynamic data to assess the arches’ impact.
The test session will be recorded to allow the FIA to closely examine the behavior of the arches and, specifically, how water droplets interact with them. This aspect is challenging to simulate accurately.
The drivers participating in the trial have not been announced yet, although a Mercedes source indicated that Mick Schumacher is likely to handle the W14 on behalf of the team.
Nikolas Tombazis, FIA single-seater director, emphasized that the wheel arches would only be utilized on rare occasions: “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. We don’t want it to be that every time there’s a drop of rain, then suddenly you have to fit these things.”
Tombazis further stressed the importance of avoiding situations like the rain-affected Spa race in 2021, which negatively impacted the sport. The FIA aims to act responsibly considering the spectators, ticket sales, and the efforts of teams traveling worldwide to compete.
Since the Silverstone running is conducted on behalf of the FIA, it falls outside the restrictions of the cost cap. Prior to the wheel arches trial, Red Bull, Haas, and Williams will undertake two days of Pirelli tire testing on the full circuit, featuring Daniel Ricciardo’s first track appearance in the RB19.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wheel arches
What is the purpose of the FIA’s wet weather F1 wheel arches trial?
The purpose of the FIA’s wet weather F1 wheel arches trial is to enhance visibility and allow racing to take place in extreme wet weather conditions. The wheel arches are designed to suppress the spray generated when racing in the rain, ensuring better visibility for drivers.
How will the FIA test the effectiveness of the wheel arches?
The FIA will conduct the testing at Silverstone on the national circuit, with the main straight artificially soaked with water. They will compare the performance of cars equipped with the wheel arches to those without them, gathering aero data and studying how water droplets interact with the arches.
Will the wheel arches be used regularly in F1 races?
No, the FIA intends to use the wheel arches only on rare occasions, possibly a few times a year, in extreme wet weather conditions. The aim is to avoid having to fit the arches every time there is a drop of rain and ensure that racing can proceed without hindrance.
What considerations are being made regarding tire changes during pit stops?
A key proviso of using the wheel arches is that they should not unduly hinder pitstop tire changes. The FIA aims to ensure that teams can still perform tire changes efficiently while utilizing the wheel arches to enhance track safety in wet conditions.
How will the test results impact future F1 races?
The test results will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of the wheel arches in improving visibility and spray suppression. Depending on the outcomes, the FIA may consider implementing the wheel arches in selected races where extreme wet weather conditions pose a significant challenge to driver safety and race continuity.