Little opportunity to improve wet-weather visibility with 2022 tyres – Isola

2022 F1 Season

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Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing, Mario Isola, says there is little the tyre manufacturer can do to reduce the visibility problems drivers have reported in severely wet conditions as they develop their range of tyres for the 2022 season.

With Formula 1 adopting 18-inch wheels for the new generation of technical regulations coming next season, Isola said Pirelli are unlikely to change their approach to their two wet tyre types.

In the aftermath of the Belgian Grand Prix – which was abandoned after only three official laps were completed in heavy rain under the Safety Car – Isola believes there is scope for Pirelli to help avoid similar situations from occurring in the future.

“The question clearly is about what happened in Spa and the reason for not running because of the visibility,” Isola says. “On the tyre side, I believe that there is very little we can do to avoid the spray in the air.

“We can design a different tyre, able to disperse less water, but then the problem becomes safety because clearly it’s a tyre that is not able to manage aquaplaning as the current tyre is doing.

“There are probably other solutions considering different tarmac, considering an inclination of the track to remove standing water, or other solutions to the car. But on tyre side, if we want to disperse this amount of water, it’s impossible not to have the spray in the air. And if you have spray in the air, the visibility becomes worse and worse.”

Isola resisted suggestions of introducing a universal and more extreme type of wet tyre for use in all conditions with standing water on the track, similar to the ‘monsoon’ tyre developed by previous F1 tyre constructors. He stressed the importance of having a crossover threshold of performance between the intermediate and the full wet tyres.

“I believe that at the moment for Formula 1 we have a wet tyre that is designed for full wet conditions and the intermediate tyre that is obviously more for drying conditions,” Isola said. “They are working well. There is a crossover. There is an area where the two different tyres can work as well.

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“It’s important to keep this overlay between the two tyres. But moving to a single wet tyre? I’m not sure that is the right choice now.”

Isola confirmed the tread patterns for next year’s tyres will remain almost identical to their current form, which was last revised in 2015.

“Around 2015 we made some changes to make the tyre better – I’m talking about the full wet – better with aquaplaning,” he said when asked by RaceFans.

“Now we are also designing a new tread pattern for the 18-inch tyres, we’re testing a different solution, [but] I believe that the tread pattern for next year will be very similar to the current one. Because, as I said, we want to keep this crossover and we don’t want to take the risk that we move too much on one side or the other. The tread pattern is working well, so there is no reason to change.”

Pirelli does not have the opportunity to experiment with different constructions and tread patterns on their wet tyres due to the limited testing opportunities available to them, said Isola.

“We are, in any case, estimating the different dimensions of the block, different grooves, different design. But the current one is working well, so we have to pay attention not to change it too much.

“Also consider that in one year of development we have six days of testing that are dedicated to wet tyres and three of these six days are dedicated to intermediates and three to full wets. So we need to be quite quick in developing the wet tyre.”

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19 comments on “Little opportunity to improve wet-weather visibility with 2022 tyres – Isola”

  1. I wonder how the 18″ tyres will perform in the wet .. before they are going to race in the rain. Something about sprays if a circuit resurfaced their track it must be ZoaB i think the amont of Spray is greatly reduced with that.

  2. I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to outfit the cars with attachable wheel covers for rainy conditions. Just have the FIA mandate them the same as when cars are mandated to start on wet tires (i.e. safety car wet start conditions), surely that would reduce the spray.

    I know they don’t like wheel covers for aero reasons, but in the wet, I doubt aero is of any concern.

  3. For once I don’t think Pirelli has to do anything about these kinds of conditions. Their wets work well enough. The only thing that would prevent the spray would be to add some wheel covers to the cars but that would close the wheels and the DNA of F1 is open wheel and we cannot change that, think of the comment section!

    1. From what I understand, even that would have a limited effect. Most of the water being thrown up, is being thrown up by the diffuser and ground effect. This is only going to be stronger in 2022.

  4. Next thing, F1 mandates removable mudguards on the cars, to be set whenever wet tyres are fitted.

    No need for monsoon tyres when visibility is a bigger problem than grip with wet tyres. I said that for few years already but I don’t think F1 needs 2 types of wet tyres. Most of the cases, wet tyre is just a tyre to dry the track before switching to inter within a matter of few laps. Inter with slightly more water displacement would do the job, not preventing us from any more racing, getting rid of one of the too many compounds, and bring some challenge to drivers without being detrimental to grip or visibility. Might push them to switch to slick even earlier which I’m all in favor of.

    1. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
      8th September 2021, 10:25

      Honestly, I’d rather see them have detachable mud guards (something simple, that could be attached-detached during pit stops) than another Spa “race” debacle.

  5. Very few F1 races have been red flagged due to rain. ‘Monsoon’ or extreme wet weather tyres would only throw up more spray so they aren’t the answer.
    Attempting to design tracks with enough run off so water doesn’t pond. Re-surfacing and improving drainage on older tracks would also help to varying degrees.
    But their will be times when the rain is just to heavy and the race needs to stop. Yes that may mean dropping a race and the points, but as I have said very few races will be effected.

  6. Let’s see how the next generation of F1 cars behave in wet conditions. The ground effect should generate more grip but on the other hand could cause even more spray. I don’t think there’s anything Pirelli can do about.

    What they can do though is providing a better product. Norris didn’t crash due to visibility but because of aquaplaning. And to be honest, the conditions were bad but nowhere near as bad that running should be impossible.
    Of course it’s not only Pirelli’s fault (Parc fermé rules, car weight, etc) but their rain tyre is not and never have been great.

    1. Norris didn’t crash due to visibility but because of aquaplaning.

      Didn’t know, or read before, that it was aquaplaning.
      What I recall is that he lost grip on the wet lines.

  7. Some blue-sky thinking to mitigate the visibility problem — link the in-car and track-side flags to the transponders, so a slow or stopped car on the track automatically triggers yellow flags for the following cars? Fit the with radar to detect stopped/slow cars ahead? IR camera and in-helmet heads-up display?

    I’m sure there are solutions to the problem of racing in the rain.

  8. The cars already have those deflector things over the wheels in 2022. Just allow them to fit bigger ones if the race is “declared wet”. If traditionalists want to cry about it they can just pretend the race never happened (like Spa) and not watch it.

    Job done.

  9. There isn’t much that Pirelli can do and I guess the statement is just to let us know they discussed it. Given that the issue is the spray, it would seem the only solution is to have a contingency plan in place so the race could be held the next day and/or at a different time.

  10. Probably a dumb question but I’m going to ask anyway: Can they have narrower tires in the wet? A narrower tire would help with aquaplaning because the pressure would be concentrated in a smaller area and it would throw less spray simply because it doesn’t move as much water and create as large of a wake.

  11. Coventry Climax
    8th September 2021, 19:37

    I’m amazed at both the article and -most of- the replies here.
    The water displacement of Pirelli’s full wets is not particularly fantastic, drivers have been complaining about them right from the moment Pirelli came in -or back, actually. As someone already said in the comments, Norris didn’t crash from lack of visibility, he crashed from lack of grip. Ofcourse, they’re supposed to be the world’s best drivers, and you can argue he should have gone slower. But maybe the tyres are too tricky, behave too unpredictable in the circumstances they were intended for, namely heavy rain.
    That certainly is not a new idea, given ongoing unpredictable Pirelli failures over the years – which they claim is never their fault.
    I’m afraid with this stance, Pirelli saying there’s not much they can do, and Masi’s tendency to call the whole thing of at the first problem he has no immediate answer to, creates a given certainty the tyres will ever improve. I’m afraid that before soon we will no longer have any wet races at all.
    It’s actually quite similar to mr Wolf saying there’s not much to be learned, where there very clearly is, as Dieter Rencked proved in a recent article.
    There’s actually only one way to find out if the construction of the tyres can be improved yes or no, and that’s to bring back the tyre war and have two -or even more!- tyre constructors fight it out for what’s the best tyre.
    I’m not a Pirelli fan, to say the least, and I’m pretty sure they would not be the ones to come out on top.
    Just wish they (both Pirelli and the FIA) would be courageous enough to pick up the gloves, take on the challenge, instead of having this fatalistic approach. It’s not what F1 is supposed to be about.

    1. Coventry Climax
      8th September 2021, 19:40

      ‘ever’ misses the ‘n’ and should have been ‘never’, obviously.

    2. Yes, the Pirelli full wet is not a great tyre. It doesn’t offer enough grip and has a ridiculously narrow operating window. As soon as it’s possible, drivers switch to the inters, even if there is some risk of aquaplaning.
      The inter itself is actually a pretty decent tyre, which has a wide operating window. They can be run from wet to nearly dry conditions and the drivers seem to be satisfied with it.

      I think Isola is right when he says there is little to nothing they can do in terms of visibility. These wider cars along with the wider tyres just creat an awful amount of spray. Both of them need to become narrower in order to improve the situation, which isn’t about to happen anytime soon.
      However, what Pirelli can do is improve their full wet tyre, make it easier to work with. In order to do that they would need to run much more testing than what they currently do.

      1. Any amount of droplets of water in the air will be pulverized by the force of the air that these cars are displacing as they move along.

        Another reason why such a big dependence on aerodynamics is bad for racing

        1. Coventry Climax
          9th September 2021, 14:01

          The displacement of air and the force of it, is directly proportional to the projected frontal size of the object and the speed (propulsion power) at which it travels. How that air is displaced, determines the amount of lift/downforce and drag, same as in airplanes, so that’s where aerodynamics come in. In ridiculously simple terms, it’s why an airplane flies nose first, instead of belly first.
          So, it’s not aerodynamics as such that is necessarily bad, it’s the way aerodynamics is used.
          In my opinion, the FIA should come up with a way to measure/determine the amount of dirty air that is generated by an aero concept (car), set a limit to it in their rulebook and see to it that the teams stick to it. That’s waht a rule is for, although the FIA sometimes seems to arbitrarily forget this -see track limits. Cars getting bigger is also a negative that we can hear drivers complain about frequently, if not constantly.
          If the airplane guys can do it, why can’t the FIA/F1?

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