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GP Week : Issue 151
I’ve just spent a very British weekend with a couple of F1 photographers, taking to the Grand Union Canal in a narrow boat – despite it lashing down with perennial rain. Had we been racing yesterday at Silverstone, just spitting distance from where we were on the boat (which I have christened ‘The Onion Bargee’), the scene would probably have been red flagged; the drivers whining about aquaplaning and low track temperatures like a bunch of babies who’d wet themselves. Time and again, when it gets a bit slippery out there, we hear the current generation of drivers come on the radio and call for the race to be stopped, or at least slowed. Now, is that because the Pirelli wet weather compound is about as much use as for ward gears on an Italian tank, or is it because F1 drivers have forgotten how to drive in the wet? Jacques Villeneuve believes that in the race director’s haste to send out the Safety Car, the tyre manufacturer has chosen just to phone-in the design and manufacturing of the Pirelli extreme and the drivers have become inexperienced because they so rarely get to run on the edge when the heavens open. Writing in his column this month for F1 Racing, Villeneuve says: “[Pirelli knows] there will always be a red flag if there’s heavy rain, and the race won’t restart until the track is nearly dry” . And once the race is restarted by Charlie Whiting it’s invariably under the Safety Car, and after a couple of laps of that everyone’s ready to pit for inters. No one begrudges Charlie for suspending the race when there’s a genuine safety concern, but he seems a lot more trigger-happy with the abort button than he was in, say, JV’s day. “I remember when you had to live with a wet track because that was the way it was. Nowadays drivers aren’t used to driving in these conditions because, more often than not, they don’t have to. I think the tyre manufacturers know this, so wet-weather tyres are not their priority.” This is a shame, because it’s not as if the calendar is getting drier. You know that in Malaysia and Spa you’re going to have to contend with a monsoon at some point over the weekend. Crikey, it nearly rained in Bahrain! An hour before the race start, these clouds the colour of sackcloth rolled up and fat plops of precipitation fell on the four or five people who were in the stands. Plain- clothed policemen, no doubt. Bahrain didn’t need any help in the excitement department – neither on or off the track – but often we rely on rain to spice things up, and what a shame it is when the FIA deny us. Many of the greatest races of all time have been wet. Last year’s Canadian Grand Prix was voted the best race of the year, no doubt because of all the overtaking, crashing, changing of the lead and, finally, a winner who had come from the rear. Looking back at it, it was a classic. But at the time it was also really boring and everyone pruned up like they’d been sat in the bath all day because for two hours everyone downed tools, put the kettle on, and complained about the weather – again, how thoroughly British. I would like to see a return to wet weather racing, not wet weather delays. This isn’t Wimbledon you know. It’s not even IndyCar. Wet weather racing exposes a driver’s skill and bravery, and that’s what we tune in to see. So, I’d like to see Pirelli put some elbow grease into introducing a grooved tyre that works, and I’d like to see Charlie Whiting ignore the yelping of the drivers and keep the lights green. STORM TROOPERS OPINION ADAM HAY-NICHOLS F1 Editor OPINION If run nowadays, the 1985 Estoril Grand Prix would never have even started . .. and the wet weather legend of Ayrton Senna wouldn't exist ... 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: