Why don’t F1 cars drive in the rain anymore?

At Suzuka and Singapore, the allure of racing in the rain has taken a big hit. Now here are five reasons why Formula 1 cars no longer turn off when it rains.

“Formula 1” drivers were quick?

This is a provocative and absurd question that some F1 fans were able to ask themselves in front of the TV screen during the last two races. Indeed, the departures of the Singapore and Japanese Grands Prix were delayed by an hour each time due to very wet asphalt.

But the oldest remembers that it wasn’t always like that. So why don’t we drive more in the rain in F1 anymore?

F1 2022, F1, rain, tires, Pirelli


Today, when the track is completely covered in water, F1 cars don’t come out like we saw at Marina Bay and Suzuka. It appears that Pirelli’s “rain” tires, which are normally used in these conditions, are too stiff and therefore have trouble warming up properly. Therefore, drivers prefer to avoid them and use intermediate tires:

“I don’t want to criticize anyone, but we need better rain tires. Max Verstappen said in Japan. When you see what we did with the same amount of water on the road in the 1990s and early 2000s, you’d think we could do better.

“It’s too slow and doesn’t take much water. That’s why everyone moves up to intermediates as soon as possible because they’re faster. I’d like to do some testing with Pirelli to get a better tire and actually drive in the rain instead of doing two laps in the extreme and then going to the intermediates and calling it a race in the rain. Grand Prix in the rain is driving in the rain.”

F1 2022, F1, rain, tires, safety car, Red Flag, rain, weather

Already in Monaco, Sebastian Vettel has hinted at the clearly blue circled tires that his future retirement status allows him:

“Go to intermediaries as soon as possible. “Extreme rain” tires are too difficult for this track and even for Imola [une autre épreuve affectée par la pluie].”

“When it rains, these cars suffer from aquaplaning. Pirelli has not been working on this issue for years, everyone knows that… So we have to wait for the rain to stop before starting the race. If earlier it was possible to drive a car in the rain with the same amount of water without any problems, today it is impossible with these tires.

F1 2022, F1, rain, tires, Vettel, weather

Pirelli’s claims were quickly refuted by Mario Isola after the Monaco Grand Prix:

“The rain mix is ​​different from the intermediate, but not as difficult. Our tests show that the tires have the same characteristics as last year. We wanted to keep the same difference between the mixes.”

“It’s important to remember that we only have one compound for the ‘rain’ and only one compound for the interval, which has to work over 22 laps. Therefore, we have to compromise. Also, we don’t have many opportunities to test in the rain. Our Fiorano test [en juin] it is the only rain that is rainy this season. But this is not enough to make a tire. “We depend on the good will of the FIA ​​and the teams to organize the next tests.”

“I would add that when we got the track wet in Barcelona this winter, the teams did very little with the extremes and concentrated on the intermediates… We have to be allowed to test or we won’t be able to improve. they are fresh. wheels.”

In short, everyone is passing the buck and the FIA ​​is slow to play referee.


According to the drivers, the F1 2022 cars are still creating a lot of splash in their wake. Their larger diffusers project droplets into the air, greatly reducing the visibility of the following drivers:

“The biggest problem with these cars is visibility in the rain. Charles Leclerc confirms. Do your best to reduce splash and improve the visibility of those behind you. In fact, most of the time the conditions allow riding. Because we don’t see anything if we don’t drive.

Last weekend, Alex Albon also complained about the lack of visibility in the rain and regretted having to look to the side of the track to get his bearings. Jacques Villeneuve protested in Boomer style: “It’s always been like that, driving in the rain you’ve always had to look away.”

F1 2022, F1, rain, visibility

True, even F1s have more downforce than their time, and as a result they absorb and spit out phenomenal amounts of water. The current rain tires, which are no longer effective at removing water from the circuit as we see them now, are very wide (about ten centimeters longer than when the Canadian was World Champion) and expel a lot of rear water: 80 liters per second.

Fernando Alonso, questioned after last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, already pointed to this phenomenon when asked why the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix could be held in the rain:

“Available cars [2021] produce more water spray for those behind and the tires are wider than 2007. Extreme combinations were perhaps better at the time.

F1 2022, F1, rain, park fermé, garage


Although the summer of 2022 was marked by a terrible drought, several Grand Prix weekends this season were marred by rain: Imola, Monaco, Montreal, Budapest, Singapore and Suzuka.

In some cases, qualifying took place on a dry track, and the race took place on wet asphalt. As per the rules, no parameter changes are allowed, so it became difficult for cars parked on dry land to move in the rain.

This complexity has not always existed. There was a time when several manufacturers competed (Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone) and chassis settings could be adjusted over the course of a weekend. Adjusting the focus to more or less likely rain was a hell of a bet that sometimes paid off. Today, everything is simpler with an ice cream and single tire supplier. Even in theory, the driver could risk selecting rain settings, spoiling the qualifying session. But the risk is great…

F1 2022, F1, rain, radar, weather


We shouldn’t equate the past with the Stone Age, but weather forecasting tools have improved over the years. In the late 1990s, Benetton became the first team to be equipped with a radar capable of predicting the onset of rain. Today, all teams have the same tool, provided by Météo France and operated by the FIA.

Even if weather forecasting is far from an exact science, this device allows you to know with relative certainty whether the rain will increase or decrease during such and such a part of the circuit… Engineers use it to get cars out at the best time, and race direction uses it to learn about changing conditions.

Based on this information, the FIA’s alternate race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas may decide to delay the start of a Grand Prix like Singapore or Suzuka, because they know that the track will dry out with a little waiting. . A few years ago, these tools weren’t as accurate, and certainly easier to get started with because of the lack of short-term data.

F1 2022, F1, FIA


We should be happy with the progress made in terms of safety in Formula 1. The look of HANS, the halo, more and more fireproof suits, more and more solid monohulls, etc. It even saved the lives of Grand Prix drivers.

The FIA’s efforts, as well as the FOM’s takeover in 2017, helped move the slide into an acceptable danger scale. Today, in the smallest pond (by forcing the line a little), the race management considers it dangerous to send the drivers on the straight or wrong track.

After the dismissal of Michael Masi last year, the current holders of this position, Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, are reluctant to take on responsibilities with serious consequences, preferring to hide behind the argument of pilot safety.

Read also

Even in the age of the omnipotent Bernie Ecclestone, it is not certain that such caution would be appropriate. Let’s remember the start of the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix in Fuji, despite the torrential rain, after 19 laps behind the safety car.

F1 has never been a safe sport, but we can only be glad that death in racing is not common. With the tractor that Jules Bianchi died from the same cause at Suzuka, it can be proven that even if there is still work to be done, there is enough work for the race to protect its actors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *