In a move that suggests the folks at Pirelli at least know to whom they should be genuflecting, the company’s motorsports director Paul Hembery has backed Bernie Ecclestone’s idea of having artificially wet Formula 1 races.
Quick! Someone get Crash Davis on the phone! We’ve got a job for him.
As I know you will recall, and I’m just learning after a three-day business trip that had me out of the loop, Bernie in a Q&A at the F1 site suggested the following:
Q: Any more ideas?
BE: Yes. Look at the races we have now. Overtaking is almost impossible because in the dry there is only one line good for maximum speed because of the rubber on the track. You have a completely different picture when it is wet. We always had the most exciting races in the wet so let’s think of making rain…
Q: Making rain?
BE: Yes. There are race tracks that you can make artificially wet and it would be easy to have such systems at a number of tracks. Why not let it ‘rain’ in the middle of a race? For 20 minutes or the last ten laps? Maybe with a two-minute warning ahead of it. Suspense would be guaranteed and it would be the same for all.
(Now, that was just one of any number of crazy Bernie ideas in the full Q&A. As Negative Camber did, I encourage you to hit that above link and read the whole thing. He’s got ideas on keeping drivers from running in other series, suggests Michael Schumacher won all his titles because the competition was lame, etc. Classic Bernie.)
Ah, guaranteed suspense, even if it is artificial. No problems, right?
Well, the folks at Pirelli don’t have any, as they told Autosport (smart enough to ask the tire people about it):
“Straight after our recent successful [wet-weather] Abu Dhabi test I saw him and said, ‘why don’t we do an artificial wet race?’ The technology is such that you can wet a circuit with a sprinkler system, so the idea is not as daft as it sounds.
“Having seen what it was like in Abu Dhabi, certainly with a wet element it would look spectacular – and visibility shouldn’t be a problem because there would be no clouds.
“From a tyre makers’ point of view, there is no difficulty in making suitable tyres. We have seen great races in the past when you have had an extra variable like the weather, so why not?”
“At the end of the day you want people to watch what you are offering,” he said. “F1 ultimately competes for entertainment space with other sports – so people need to see something that is interesting.
“From that point of view, an artificial wet race would add to the show – and you want something people will watch.
“A good example of a radical idea in the sport that have been accepted is the Singapore Grand Prix. You could argue that running at night under lights is a gimmick. But it has turned out to be one of the most spectacular races of the season. It is stunning.
“Couldn’t you in fact argue that a street circuit itself is gimmicky? After all, you have created a circuit out of normal roads.”
He added: “I would agree that something fake like throwing in safety cars frequently to close the field up if they got too spread out would be going too far, but in terms of throwing something of a new challenge, like an artificial wet race, at drivers, tacticians and engineers, it would be great.”
OK, shall we break that down?
1. This apparently was Pirelli’s idea. What do you think or make of that? Is that the company’s role?
2. Are street circuits and night races equally gimmicky? (Does the night race add to the “show” other than to have all the pretty lights, though?) I’m not sure anyone would accuse Monaco of being gimmicky in the sense of more overtaking. (Remember: SJ hearts Monaco.)
3. The big one, I think, is his last statement about the fakery of safety cars vs. artificially wet races. Does anyone see a big difference there?
And, of course, the final question: What do you all think? There were some good thoughts on the older Bernie/rain post. Maybe I’d add to the questions: Is F1 in such horrible shape that such elaborate steps are necessary so people will keep watching? Didn’t F1 claim a bump in viewers last year? Maybe having a handful of teams that can win races and at least that many drivers with legitimate shots at wins and even being in the title hunt is the real cure?