Rain rain go away, away from here today. In the case of Formula One so far, the 2010 season could not be further from the truth. What exactly about wet tarmac makes racing so good?
Formula One cars are very powerful beasts, weighing around 600kg while having more than 700bhp. If one is to look at it that way, Formula One should be the most exciting form of motorsport in the world. But the only way to harness all that power in such a light package is by adding tons of downforce to make the cars grip to the race track better.
These big wings, besides creating downforce makes a lot of so-called "dirty air" behind the cars and the new double diffusers create an even larger wake of that same "dirty air" making it impossible for cars to run close to each other on the race track.
Further, big, slick tires add a lot of mechanical grip making the car stick to the ground even more effectively adding to the aerodynamic grip created by the wings and the diffusers. Big, slick tires give the car better stability coming out of corners and in slow speed corners and tracks in which the cars are not so dependent on aerodynamic grip to go around corners quickly.
Rain, cancels out of all of those factors, effectively flipping the racing on its head. Rain tires are not slick, the treads are like normal street tires, which take mechanical grip away from the cars. Furthermore, the wet tarmac also has lower grip levels that takes away from grip.
Downforce is created by cars moving through the air and the wings creating high pressure over the wing. But this can only be achieved at high speeds when the track is wet. Cars have less mechanical grip, which means they must not go as fast. If slower air is rushing over the wings and into the diffuser, less downforce can be created.
Which is why there was so much overtaking at Melbourne and Shanghai during rainy races. there was less grip both of the mechanical and the aerodynamic sort. So what can we learn from this?
Formula One cars need smaller tires so they have less mechanical grip, forcing them to go slower around the corners. Wings and diffusers must be made smaller, for two reasons. First, to reduce the amount of "dirty air" allowing cars to run closer together on the track. Second, to take away downforce which gives the cars better stability in high speed corners and circuits. Another way of taking away downforce is by installing permanent f-ducts on the cars to stall the wings so less downforce is created.
I would also prefer that the FIA changed the engine formula or at least loosened this current configuration to allow for more power and thus better racing. Either of these recommendations would be sure to make racing better.
Formula One should copy the formula from one of its most succesful eras the 1970s. When cars had little downforce, moderate amount of mechanical grip and very powerful Cosworth DFV V-8 engines. Races in those days was always very close and exciting if not exceedingly safe.
If anything can be learned from other series, especially touring cars and GT racing. Is that downforce is not always a good thing. It makes exciting racing tougher, by taking away grip and downforce and adding power. Formula One could be made more exciting if first of all the cars could race closer together, that would be a huge first step. Every thing else would fall in place naturally.
I don't want to take away any credit from Keith Collantine at www.f1fanatic.co.uk and his series under the same name. But I had this brainwave after watching two rainy races at Melbourne and Shanghai and could not help but notice what rain did for the racing. So I am not ripping of Keith in any way, its just an article focusing on the same concepts.