Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Mercedes test rain visibility lights for FIA in Spain

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes conducted tests of rear lights intended to aid visibility in wet weather conditions during today’s running at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Lewis Hamilton’s car was fitted with a pair of red vertical lights on either side of its rear wing.

An FIA spokesperson confirmed to RaceFans test was requested by the sport’s governing body as part of its research in how to improve safety in wet races. Mercedes offered to run the lights and the FIA will analyse the outcome of the test before deciding whether to introduce them.

F1 cars are already required to feature a single central red light which must be illuminated during wet weather conditions.

The lights have served a further safety purpose since the current V6 hybrid turbo power units were introduced in 2014. The lights flash if the car begins running at reduced torque to save fuel, to warn following drivers it may slow down on the straight. It is not clear whether the new lights would also perform the same function.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya
Rain visibility lights on Hamilton’s Mercedes

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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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23 comments on “Mercedes test rain visibility lights for FIA in Spain”

  1. In the thumbnail for this article, the current single light is far more visible than the thin vertical strips.

    Maybe they should just pulse alternate rows of the current light, as the human eye sees motion better.

    1. @phylyp It’s supplementary. If the main light is obscured by thick sprays, the drivers can still have a chance to see the extra lights. The position that higher and further away from the diffuser also put it out of the thickest part of the water spray. I agree a motion is better, but instead of alternate pulse, I think its better to have chaser motion for both sides. F1 cars doesn’t need to care about vertical axis yet…

    2. True, but I think they can enhance the look of the cars too.

      1. Now, I became suspicious.
        Vertical light? What is hiding inside? Any other function apart from light? It must be checked thoroughly and agreed by all other teams..

    3. agreed but, if the bottom rear light is not visible other drivers trying to overtake would see the res wing lights. It also gives the overtaker more of an idea how far across the track they need to go to get passed without contact. That may seem obvious as to how far to move but in the misty spray from the car infront it could work.

    4. DocNuke (@)
      16th May 2018, 1:46

      The problem that comes up with the rain and that single light is the way the water is thrown up from the underside of the car from the rear diffuser. The light traditionally has been obscured to the driver trying to follow another car until they get up closer which might be too close in the wet.

      I an partial to how the LMP cars have them mounted on the pylons up to the rear element/wing. At least this testing is a step in the right direction in trying to find a solution.

  2. A serious question to all. Would a colour-blind driver have problems seeing the red lights, or would they ‘see’ the lights, just not in red?

    1. I know you asked that seriously, but I couldn’t resist… a colour-blind driver wouldn’t start a race, as he can’t see the starting lights! :-)

    2. Jokes aside – such a driver would see the brightness aspect for sure, and might see shades of other colours, based on the bulbs used (e.g. do they emit red + orange) and on the extent of their colour blindness.

      That said, I think colour blind drivers would not go very far in competitive racing, seeing as a lot of signaling is based on colour (“Your honour, Mr. Steward sir, I didn’t back off much because I saw that yellow flag as a blue flag”).

      1. Very well said

    3. Depends on the type of colour blindness.
      I have done some marshalling in the past and have no issues with flags. One mustn’t assume we can’t see the difference between colours, it is normally very subtle. I am red/green colour blind but can see the difference between a red light and green light on a traffic light for example. But if for example a football team is wearing an all red kit against the back drop of the green potch then I struggle, or if there was such a thing as a brown flag in racing and the green flag happened to be a darker shade then I would struggle. But yes, I can see the merc light is red.

      1. A colour blind driver could simply wear EnChroma sunglasses. Not sure if clear versions are available.


    4. And even more seriously, red is the worst color for visibility in rain, fog, etc. The long wavelengths don’t penetrate as well as other colors.

      1. I got a light in my room at night that can cycle colors or be one solid color so if I need to get up to take a leak in the middle of the night I can see without tripping on stuff. The red light by far is the darkest, and that is why dark rooms for developing film use red light.

    5. Think about what you asked ……. what about the present “red” high visibility light which have been in place for years, surely drivers would not be allowed to race if they can’t see/distinguish red lights.

  3. Why not just like up the entire edge of the rear wing and be done with it!

    1. The heat from the exhaust will cause problems if lights are place along the rear wing. This would be especially be the case for Renault who are trying to use the exhaust to “blow” the wing (i.e. increase the effectiveness of the wing).

  4. > The lights flash if the car begins running at reduced torque to save fuel, to warn following drivers it may slow down on the straight

    I really think this is about the MGU-K cutting deployment, just following the energy deployment strategy, not necessarily saving fuel.

    1. Andrew in Atlanta
      16th May 2018, 1:04

      That is the reason for that strategy and having the K unit working. The entire reason for it at that moment on the track is under lift and coast strategy calls.
      Unless there’s another reason why they would use less fuel AND slow? Less fuel and kinetic working to push car would maintain speed, and there’s no reason they would use the K unit to harvest at high speed BEFORE the braking zone. It flashes because the driver is on lift and coast part of his lap.

  5. Use LEDs that can do different colours and you’ve got a multitude of uses… engage the fans!

    Yellow for yellow flags
    Purple for in qualifying
    Blue for slower cars
    Flash red when braking hard/brake testing your rival
    Flash yellow for Grosjean/Verstappen

    1. Andrew in Atlanta
      16th May 2018, 1:05

      Verstappen had to have his on the FRONT wing endplates to show you he’s coming.

      Grosjean, well his may have to cover the car and operate on the side facing the most cars at that moment

  6. Francorchamps (@francorchamps17)
    16th May 2018, 0:20

    Now just close the cockpit (first step was the Halo) and you have an LMP1.

  7. Vertical lights on the sides of the rear wing..cool. They could have one on the top too–just below the DRS winglet (if its possible and doesn’t distract the drivers behind in any way)

    On another note, they should fix turn signals on those who weave on the track too much.
    Might avoid a few crashes.

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