Many leading Formula One drivers have opened dialogue with the FIA over the concerns they have with racing in wet weather in 2008. The primary concern centres around the banning of traction control and incidents that occurred during 2007. David Coulthard, an advocate of safety in the sport, has spoken to Charlie Whiting about plans and procedures the race director will follow this year. The hope is to agree on when a race is too dangerous to run or continue. Many drivers have stated that the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix could not have been held with cars that do not have electronic aids such was the atrocious weather at the time. However, FIA president Max Mosley has refuted the drivers concerns and put forward a ridiculous reason for his argument.
Fernando Alonso aquaplaned off the road in Fuji – even with TC (pictured above). The electronics still couldn’t support him – and that will happen a lot more without traction control because Formula One engines are very peaky. We don’t want to see a monstrous shunt where somebody rides over another car, goes into the crowd or has an accident like [Alex] Zanardi [at the Lausitzring in 2001].
But I’m confident Charlie will do the right thing based on us helping and advising him – and that’s why we’ve started a dialogue now rather than trying to react afterwards. David Coulthard.
I’ve spoken with Michael Schumacher and several other drivers and they’ve told me it will be more dangerous driving a car without TC now than it was in the past. Another race like Fuji would be very dangerous. Felip Massa.
And if he wasn’t actually serious, Max Mosley’s response could have been quite comical.
Driving in the wet is quite dangerous – with or without traction control. It’s dangerous in the sense that you’re likely to go off but you’re less likely to hurt yourself because the speeds will be lower. That was always the theory of the grooved tyre because you reduced the grip and the severity of the accident.
Imagine, in the most extreme circumstances, holding the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on packed snow – nobody would get hurt because nobody would ever get up to enough speed to do any damage!
It will make it more difficult in the wet – but it’s difficult in the wet anyway. And people forget, even the least competent F1 driver is still amazingly good at what he does. And it won’t cause any of them much trouble. Max Mosley.
It’s Mosley’s line about the grooved tyres that does it for me. He claims that reducing the grip lowers speeds and thus the severity of impacts. But what Max fails to realise that the sacrificed grip comes in handy when you want to slow a car down very quickly. Like, for instance, when it’s hurtling towards a barrier. This is why many gravel traps have been concreted over. And the reduction in speeds? Well it is clear for everybody to see that grooved tyres have reduced speeds, but the designers soon claim it back via tweaking the aerodynamic efficiency of the cars.
Max also fails to discuss another point that David makes regarding the coming together of cars. Coulthard famously received a heavy knock from Michael Schumacher during the rain-soaked 1998 Belgian Grand Prix (and almost again after the race), and although neither driver was hurt, the incident could have been an awful lot worse. In the 2007 Australian race, Coulthard’s Red Bull mounted Alex Wurz’s Williams after a minor touch, the Austrian was lucky to escape unhurt as Coulthard’s tyre narrowly missed Alex’s head. Both of these incidents happened at reasonably low speeds, and both incidents could have turned out to be a lot worse than they actually were.
At least Charlie Whiting is open for talks about the drivers concerns.