FIA considering standard wheel arches to improve wet weather visibility in F1

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The FIA revealed it is studying how to improve wet weather visibility with the new ground effect era of Formula 1 cars.

Following a meeting of the governing body’s Formula 1 Commission in Abu Dhabi chaired by president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA have announced it has begun a study into a bodywork package in an effort to reduce the amount of spray the current cars generate on wet surfaces.

An initial concept design has been produced and was demonstrated to the representatives of the F1 Commission during the latest meeting.

The move to look at improving visibility in the wet follows serious complaints from drivers after last month’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, which began in wet conditions but was soon red-flagged and suspended for two hours due to conditions being deemed unsafe to race in.

Valtteri Bottas later argued that the race should not have been started to begin with, due to the volume of spray. “I was surprised we started because the conditions, the visibility was so, so bad,” the Alfa Romeo driver said.

In a statement released after the F1 Commission meeting, the FIA confirmed they are exploring methods of improving wet weather visibility with the new generation of F1 cars.

“Driver feedback has suggested that there has been reduced visibility in extremely wet conditions with this latest generation of cars, which is a key determinant on starting, or needing to suspend sessions,” the FIA’s statement stated.

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“Therefore, the FIA commenced a study to define a package of parts aiming to suppress the spray generated when running in wet conditions.”

Among the possible solutions being investigated by the study are standardised body kits for all cars that will cover the wheels and physically limit the volume of water being expelled from the wheels behind cars.

The FIA clarified that standard body kits, likely to be in the form of “wheel arches”, would be “minimal” in size and it intends them to have little impact on tyre changes during racing pit stops.

The study is also exploring how track-level water is channelled and expelled through the sculpted downforce-generating underfloors of the ground effect cars and look at whether cars should be fitted with additional rain safety lights beyond those already mandated at the rear of cars and on the back of rear wing assemblies.

The FIA is also investigating the idea of designing special spray-mitigating devices that could be fitted to cars only during wet running to help improve visibility.

Any solutions agreed between the FIA and Formula 1 will likely not be implemented until the 2024 Formula 1 season at the earliest. The FIA say that further updates into the study will follow next year.

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2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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32 comments on “FIA considering standard wheel arches to improve wet weather visibility in F1”

  1. All year long I have been hoping the television coverage would include a segment comparing the rooster tails of this year’s cars versus last year’s to actually see some of the impact of the aero changes. Hopefully that will happen now that there are actively discussing how to reduce the spray.

    1. All year long I have been hoping the television coverage would include a segment comparing the rooster tails of this year’s cars versus last year’s

      I would suggest that people look closely at something I noted in the pre-season testing “wet” session.

      Nine teams with notable vortices down the side of the car and prominent “rooster tails” of spray with a relatively clear area behind.
      That, and one team with a car that does not produce such clear vortices down the sides, does not produce a prominent “rooster-tail” and leaves a messy trail behind it.

      What is that team doing that somehow subverts the intent of the FIA technical crew to produce an easy-to-follow car by reducing the turbulence?

      1. Link us Steve to what you’ve seen. I’d be interested to see for myself.

      2. Don’t be such a tease! Which team was the odd one out?

  2. Add mud flaps …. Jahahahhaahah …

  3. Does this mean that tracks will dry less quickly with the spray not being thrown into the air as it is now?

    1. To add to that – or is most of the spray caused by Aero rather than the wheels.

      1. Groovy Pirellis pump the same amount of water – it’s what happens to it after leaving the track that matters.

      2. This is my understanding too. The low pressure under the car, literally sucks the water from the track, before the diffusers throw it into the air. So I’m not sure how much the fenders would help.

  4. Good move, wet weather races used to be a great addition to the calendar, equalizing the cars more and allowing driver skill to flourish. Recent years have been too marred by red flags and SC starts though. The Spa debacles being its nadir. Really hope some solution gets implemented.

    1. Yes, if it means they go back to racing in full wet conditions I’m all for it, even though it’s good to see the spray!

    2. Seems like a good idea, certainly to at least trial.

    3. … And have the Spa race moved to mid-October with chances of rain being much higher, @david-br

  5. Obviously, I haven’t seen the design and I can’t say how much this detracts from the idea of “open-wheel” racing, but if the problem is only experienced in the wet, maybe the arches can be included as part of the inter and extreme wet wheel assembly instead of being permanently part of the car’s aero package. That would of course change the aero of the car when those tyres are fitted, but it seems like there are quite a few changes that already occur when it starts to rain. And of course, it would complicate the pit stop to make sure the arch was oriented correctly when it was fitted. But I would hate to see F1 go down the route that Indy went down with wheel pods

    1. Nah, don’t worry, you need much less to surpress water spray coming from the wheels.
      All you need is a small flap, just like what the introduced some time ago in Speedway motorcycles:
      Those mud-guards made a drastic improvement.

      1. amian certainly did make a difference. Still remember the ESO ( before state acquired and branded Jawa) days fondly, and love the smell of methanol on the morning (or anytime)

  6. I did suggest this previously. Thought it would never be considered. Count me impressed. I even said maybe it could be an additional piece that is mandatory to fit when putting on wet tyres but I guess that would be far too difficult to implement over a constant new piece.

  7. More standard parts.. great. Remember when teams actually designed and built everything?

    1. Something like this should obviously be a standard part. It has an explicit purpose and nothing more.

  8. Fantastic, a new addition that can fly off or force a driver to then receive the dreaded flag and hece a mandatory pitstop.

  9. F1’s decline into a pseudo spec series continues sadly.

  10. Jonathan Parkin
    18th November 2022, 19:18

    Wouldn’t it be easier for Pirelli to simply design better wet tyres like the Goodyears from 98 that dispersed more water to the side allowing for some visibility in the wet

    1. Pirelli is already at the edge to design tires that survive don’t give them added requirements.

  11. Mudguards. About time too! It’s good to hear that the FIA are moving forward with them.

  12. Sounds like a bad idea. The front wheels will channel water to the back wheels causing grip issues.

  13. Another FIA knee jerk reaction? I think that fenders on the open wheels of the current formula’s floors will not solve the issue. What about a bolt-on lateral diffuser at the back? That would certainly make passes more impressive lol!
    All joking aside, maybe the brake ducts could blow more air laterally, and perelli could just make softer tires to tie into this system adjustment? I assume tire warm up would be the main concern in developing a fix here.

    1. @ferrox-glideh did you bother to read past the headline? They’ve begun a study. At the end of the season.

      A knee-jerk would’ve been to roll out wheel covers after the first wet race with little to no testing.

      1. Their knee jerk reaction was to put out the press release.

  14. It’s a fantastic idea. Driver’s can now return to the pits with increased visibility or remain there with increased visibility until it stops raining and the track dries out so racing can begin without them. Presumably these also solve aquaplaning. Nice one!

  15. Would be nice if it a kit that they fix during the pitstop for wet tires. Would add to show, like a front wing, now fix 4 wheel arches in 4sec.

    Added benefits we don’t have to change the dry cars.

  16. Wheel arches would be a bridge too far for me.

    It could end up like Formula E where they bump into each other at every corner, knowing that it won’t harm the cars.
    In F1 the slightest miscalculation has massive implications when there’s a wheel to wheel contact – and it should remain like that.

    At least use small mud-guards and no complete arches otherwise everyone will just barge his way through the others constantly.

  17. This could easily be a bolt-on part that is only fitted when required / necessary.

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