“Rain guards,” starting on the wrong foot
After the farcical 2021 Belgian Grand Prix and the chaotic race in Japan last year, the FIA and Pirelli have studied some solutions to improve the visibility of drivers in case of rain. The wider tires and ground-effect cars (which direct water upwards) have actually increased the problems on wet tracks, leading to the testing of removable rain guards to be placed behind the rear tires.
The novelty was tested during the latest Pirelli tests at the Silverstone circuit by Mercedes and McLaren (Red Bull, Haas, and Williams tested on dry conditions). However, according to German media outlet Auto Motor und Sport, it was a failure.
On the British circuit, Mick Schumacher and Oscar Piastri drove on wet tracks: unlike the McLaren driver, the former Ferrari Driver Academy member was using the first prototypes of the so-called “Spray Guards,” which proved to be largely ineffective.
Every time the Mercedes car drove through water, the W14 still generated an impressive amount of splashes, directed in different directions. Not only their effectiveness but also the aesthetics would be a headache, to the extent that photos of this novelty were not published a week later. “We are not yet where we want to be,” a source in the Federation told the German publication.
The FIA, always very attentive to safety issues on the track, is not giving up and wants to try another type of splash guards. The ones tested at Silverstone did not cover the entire width of the rear wheels (40.5 centimeters) but only a part of it. With the new “Spray Guards,” the intention is to cover the entire tire, but it is clear that at that point, a compromise will have to be found between safety, aesthetics, and aerodynamic consequences.