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Ferrari trial radical tyre concept as FIA tackle Formula 1’s wet weather worries

Ferrari test drivers Arthur Leclerc and Oliver Bearman were chosen to run in their 2023 car in Fiorano

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Ferrari have been spotted testing a new radical tyre cover designed by the FIA to combat Formula 1’s biggest issue with wet-weather racing.

The Scuderia team took the track at their favoured testing base in Fiorano, Italy, on Thursday to test out the modified spray guards on the wheel covers, which the FIA hope will increase visibility for drivers when it is raining during the race.

Arthur Leclerc, the younger brother of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, was handed the chance to take their 2023 car, the SF-75, out for a spin. The car featured fully covered front and rear wet weather tyres, featuring two holes in the front and a fully cover for the rears.

The team chose Oliver Bearman, who finished seventh on his F1 debut in Saudi Arabia, to run behind Leclerc and check to see if there was a change to their visibility.

The Wet Weather Package (WPP) test is the latest experiment put forward by the world motosport governing body as part of their efforts to increase safety by reducing the amount of spray kicked up from their cars. Other ideas explored could see Pirelli develop a ‘super intermediate’ tyre, which would combine the best features of both intermediate and wet compounds into one.

After seeing their first test fail to produce the desired results, the FIA got the chance to see their revised effort on the track for the first time.

FIA failed in first wet weather test

F1 tyres are able to churn through 85 litres of water per second when travelling at 186mph (300kmh), and the residual spray in the air – exacerbated by the increase in aerodynamic changes to the regulations in 2022 – can make it challenging for drivers to see the car in front.

While the new design didn’t look aesthetically pleasing, the main priority in wet conditions for the FIA is driver safety.

They drew heavy criticism at the 2022 Japanese GP after several crashes, with drivers unsighted when Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari stopped on track nearly causing a big incident with Pierre Gasly, and the death of Formula Regional Championship driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff at Spa in 2023 raised further concerns about the perils of racing in the wet.

The drivers complained about the spray during the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The spray guards test was first carried out by Mercedes at Silverstone last year during wet weather conditions to try and find a solution to the issue, which has forced the FIA and race control to be much stricter in applying the safety car or red flags in rainy conditions.

They concluded from the first test that there was no difference in the amount of spray generated by the cars, with FIA single seat director Nikolas Tombazis admitting they were “too optimistic” with the experiment: “The spray guards covered too little of the wheel. I was quite sceptical and imagined that we wouldn’t see important results,” Tombazis told Autosport last year.

It has since been reported by Formu1a Uno thatm while the diffuser still generates a fair amount of spray, visibility appears to have improved with the new spray guard – offering a glimpse into the future of F1’s wet races.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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