We are all weathermen now

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What has been the biggest talking point on the Live Blogs during the past three races?

Plenty has been said about the state of Lewis Hamilton’s driving and Max Mosley’s libido, but I think the most popular question is this:

"Is it going to rain?"

We’ve had three race weekends of uncertain weather: brief drizzle at Magny-Cours yesterday, the thunderstorm that came too late at Montreal, and early shower that without doubt made Monaco the race of the year so far.

It seems almost everyone wants to see wet weather during Grands Prix and it’s no secret why. Rain equals action. Rain equals drama. Above all, rain equals racing.

When the track got damp at Magny-Cours yesterday we could see a procession transform into a real race before out eyes. Suddenly Heikki Kovalainen pounced on Jarno Trulli, and Robert Kubica caught up to within a second of them.

As the track dried, that exciting three-car battle stretched out into the familiar, dismal sight of F1 drivers stuck one second apart from each other, unable to get close because of the aerodynamic disturbance from the car in front.

The effect that a few drops of rain has on reducing grip levels and allowing cars to race more closely is so dramatic that some have even suggested – with varying degrees of seriousness – the F1 should look into artificially dampening tracks.

Although it would make the racing better I don’t think it would be good for the sport. Never mind the unnecessary cost and questionable environmental implications, other racing categories prove that it is possible to have good racing in all conditions, and for an example of that once again we need look no further than GP2.

F1’s attempted solution to the difficulties of racing in dry weather is slated to arrive next year in the form of massively reduced wings and other aerodynamic devices, proper racing slick tyres to replace grooved tyres, and a ban on tyre warmers.

Yesterday’s race, which was five more minutes of rain away from being a thriller, was a reminder of how badly these changes are needed.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “We are all weathermen now”

  1. I’ve said it here before, but the answer to these processional races has go to be the overall reduction of grip (be it aerodynamic or mechanical). Montreal was a fascinating race especially at ‘that’ hairpin. OK, the drivers moaned about lack of grip, but from a spectators point of view it was edge of the seat stuff, something you can’t usually accuse F1 of being.

  2. Terry Fabulous
    23rd June 2008, 12:44

    Hear hear Keith! Rain makes a race great, but we should have quality racing in all weather!

  3. What does rain do? Reduce grip. What do we need? Less downforce, like Andy Wolf says. The code is, I believe: Power > Grip, and not Power < Grip, like in F3.

    And maybe the FIA should look into using less-adhesive tarmac, too…

  4. Yeah there’s no doubt when rain appears on the track, it’s one of those moments when motor racing can’t be missed.

  5. Mechanical grip is fine. Aerodynamic grip is what we need to reduce \ remove. If you are too dependant on aero grip you are only going to go slower when you hit turbulent air, like when following another car round a corner. This is when you need the most grip to get into a passing position for the following straight.

  6. Robert Mckay
    23rd June 2008, 14:37

    “And maybe the FIA should look into using less-adhesive tarmac, too…”

    Idea there. Alternatively, there must be a way of making the tarmac off the racing line much much grippier than on the racing line, so that it is possible to find extra grip to pass someone.

  7. Ben Goldberg
    24th June 2008, 2:04

    “Idea there. Alternatively, there must be a way of making the tarmac off the racing line much much grippier than on the racing line, so that it is possible to find extra grip to pass someone.”

    That might actually change the preferred racing line, though.

    All they have to do is lower aero grip and increase mechanical grip, both of which are going to happen next year. That way the cars can still go very quick and at the same time run close to each other.

  8. Jonesracing82
    24th June 2008, 8:23

    perfect example was when hamo was behind piquet at estoril corner!
    he was on inside and had grip but as soon as piquet came across to the inside for the exit he simply had to lift or go off!
    also with rain, the drivers are unsure just how much grip there is, in the dry they know how much grip there is.
    aero must be slashed!
    i dont know next years will be enuff as each car will b the same! time will tell bit i do hope so

  9. ogami musashi
    24th June 2008, 18:28

    The interest in rain races is not because you have less grip, it is because cars are designed to run on dry tracks so when in wet their performance are quite matched.

    the low grip=better racing is non issue to me.

    Low grip simply means you have less margin of movement and you have to care more about your car state than where you actually drive.

    That’s two separate things, and by the way, the actual cars are much more sensible than the car for next years.
    Slicks tyres and less downforce make cars far more predictable in their behavior and allow them to tolerate limits overshoot more easily.

    So two type of cars: high grip=aggressive driving, low grip=car balance driving.

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