Jean Todt thinks that future F1 cars should be designed to race in the rain
The current FIA President doesn't want the debacle of this year's Belgian Grand Prix to happen again
The controversy that surrounded the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix has definitely not been forgotten about in the world of Formula 1. The 'race that wasn't a race', which only ran for a few laps behind the safety car with the drivers being awarded half points at the end, has caused shockwaves amongst fans, drivers and head honchos of the sport alike. This includes current FIA President Jean Todt, who has openly said that the circumstances surrounding the rained-off Belgian GP need to be addressed. He feels that when the F1 regulations are next overhauled (most likely in 2025/2026 to coincide with the all-new power units), they need to take wet weather running fully into account.
"There were many who criticised what was decided at Spa [by not racing], but what would have happened if, after the start, we had had an accident with 10 cars that resulted in injured drivers or worse," Todt said to Autosport. "We would have been massacred. And even without injuries we would have been criticised. For the 2025 regulations, we must think about having cars that can be driven even in the rain."
"Do you remember [Niki] Lauda at Fuji in '76? He was the only one of the drivers to give up racing in the rain. Today, every driver thinks as Lauda did then."
Former Formula 1 driver and current DTM boss Gerhard Berger has gone a step further from Todt's suggestions, however. He reckons that F1 needs to make a choice between either never racing in the rain at all or pushing on when the conditions might be far less than ideal. "I have no sympathy for this to be honest," he said about the Spa controversy. "My opinion is: you have to decide beforehand if you want to have races in the rain or not. In America [on ovals] they have decided to have no wet races, which is fine and everybody knows it. But Formula 1 used to have them and we race in the rain as well in DTM.
"Motorsport is dangerous and yes, it is difficult in terms of visibility, but if you decide in favour of rain races then this is what you have to deal with. When it is slippery or when you have a lot of water, you just have to reduce your speed. That is part of our game. Maybe in the end it was very bad at Spa, but in the beginning I didn't see any reason why there shouldn't be a wet race going on."
"Starts behind the safety car are the same thing for me," Berger continued. "I don't agree. You should have standing starts, also in the rain. For me, that is less dangerous as you approach the first corner with less speed. With a flying start you have more water and less visibility. Just do two laps behind the safety car and then have a standing start."
This brings the question of whether Formula 1 should even be racing in the wet in the first place. There are several series' in the world where races are cancelled if it's clear that it's going to be fully wet conditions, especially those that race on ovals. Wet races can be very unsafe due to the lack of visibility and very slippery conditions, but in the wetter countries in Europe and Asia that Formula 1 tends to run in trying to avoid wet races is nigh-on impossible. Perhaps Jean Todt is right in that future F1 cars need to be better designed to run in the wet? Perhaps Gerhard Berger is also right in that F1 needs to make a choice between just not running in the wet at all or pushing on even if the conditions are very bad? I guess that this all comes down to personal opinion in the end...