Could There Be A Problem With Wet Weather Night Racing?

Could There Be A Problem With Wet Weather Night Racing?

Takuma Sato - 2007 European Grand PrixHas anyone considered what would happen if it rained during the Singapore Grand Prix this upcoming season? I wonder this following yesterday’s catch-up post when I realised how much night racing is being pushed at the moment. And today we have further news that Sepang could be ready for an artificially lit race within a year, complying with their new contract with Bernie Ecclestone. But has anyone actually thought about the consequences of really not being able to see anything while moving very, very fast?

During a wet race commencing at the regular lunchtime hour of 1pm, the skies tend to be reasonably light in most countries and even cloud cover doesn’t necessarily change this too much. However, if rain falls we all know just how much the visibility for the drivers is hindered. My concern is that should it rain at night, will this not just make it even more dangerous?

I’m not going to suggest that it would be a problem, after all, I don’t really know. My concern is that nobody appears to have mentioned it yet. Perhaps Singapore never receives a drop of rain in the month of September. Perhaps there is plan already in place. Perhaps it really is a non-issue. I however feel it could be, given that the powerful lighting system needed to illuminate the circuit will play havac with the drivers visor. Under normal wet conditions, the sun is usually hidden behind a cloud. Thus light, and therefore glare, is dramatically reduced, leaving the driver to just contend with water on and in his visor. However, artificial lights don’t have the luxury of being able to hide as soon as it rains. They will remain on, leading me to imagine the drivers being faced with annoying reflections and glare across their field of vision.

Perhaps a motorcyclist out there could shed some light on this? Have you ever ridden along the road in the night-time rain and looked up at a street light, or into the headlights of an oncoming car? Does it cause further vision-impeding glare or momentary blindness? Feel free to prove me wrong, I’d be all the more happier for it. I’m just concerned that not all factors have been considered in Bernie’s crusade to attract vampires into the series.

Photo courtesy of Super Aguri


  • You make a very good point. I have looked at all sorts of safety impications of night races from how alert marshals are going to be to what happens when people who have been awake for 18 hours straight have to drive home. It sure isn’t going to make the roads safer.

    But I hadn’t even contemplated a wet night race. It is well known that drivers can have difficulty with very dirty visors towards the end of races. Martin Brundle has spoken about this and I am sure he was the driver who pulled out his uncleaned helmet the day after the race and couldn’t believe he was prepared to drive with so little visibility. A dark night with strong lights is going to make that ten times worse and add in rain and it will be horrendous. Anone who has ever been at a floodlit football game and struggled to site the ball when it passes anywhere close to the lights can appreciate the problem. The drivers shouldn’t be facing the lights but cars spin and a driver spinning in the rain at night with lights strong enough to give good TV pictures is going to be blinded to some extent.

    I have always had some involvement with safety at work and the phrase I use most when confronted with someone who won’t change something I don’t like is ‘what are you going to do afer the accident?’ Night racing may be new, exciting and profitable for Bernie but what is the FIA going to do after the accident? They are going to ban F1 racing at night. So why wait until the accident?

  • I don’t want to be judgemental before the fact – I don’t think the cancellation of night races because of wet weather is an inevitability.

    I’m not an expert on the physics of natural light versus synthetic lighting but surely they’ll have taken this into account in designing the system? Especially if they’re planning to use it in Sepang, where we’ve seen very heavy rain in the past. The FIA did include an evaluation of whether wet weather running would be possible at night when they did the simulation at Indianapolis last year.

    But I imagine there could be weather conditions that force a night race to be stopped because of poor visibility when, had that race been running the same conditions in the daytime, it could have continued.

    I’d also point out that drivers have not been backward coming forward with criticisms about running races in wet conditions recently. If the problems are serious they will surely make their feelings known.

  • Rain falls all year in Singapore, so it is an issue. Typically, it gets 164mm in September, which is a small but significant amount. Worse still, they tend to be short and heavy (a la Nurburguring this year, or Malaysia when it’s rained there). Lakes are dangerous enough when you can see them properly!

    The lighting system is designed not to cause too many problems for the visor when racing, but surely there will still be some. This isn’t Le Mans, after all – they don’t have oodles of experience of handling night racing, nor do they use the headlight method as traditionally practised in night racing.

    Ollie, I particularly like the last sentence, “I’m just concerned that not all factors have been considered in Bernie’s crusade to attract vampires into the series”. A neat summary which made me laugh – and think. Particularly since the (known) population of TV-owning vampires is zero…

  • Great comments guys. As a quick aside, I understand the TV-owning population of vampires rose dramatically when Buffy The Vampire Slayer was being aired around the world. 😛

    I was aware that the FIA did some tests at Indy last year, I just wasn’t aware they also incorporated some studies into wet weather driving into the simulation.

    As Keith says, I’m sure the drivers Coulthard will be the first moan to if it was warranted.

  • I mentioned the possibility of rain during a night race in my post entitled Racing in the Dark. Those were thoughts after the test the FIA did at Indy and, at the time, I did not realise that they had looked at the problem of rain by spraying water on a part of the track. Since then, I have not heard of any other tests being conducted, wet or or dry.

    It seems to me that night races will happen because Bernie wants them. The drivers may object but are unlikely to be listened to, judging from the FIA’s reaction to criticism from that quarter in the past. Safety may be on the FIA agenda but it clearly has a lower priority than television ratings.

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