Formula 1

FIA Adopts Radical New Measures in Spray Guard Development for F1 Safety

In a significant move, the FIA has announced plans to completely cover car wheels in their upcoming spray guard tests. This decision follows an underwhelming initial trial at Silverstone, signaling a more assertive stance in addressing the sport’s spray issues.

Key Takeaways:

  • After a lackluster trial at Silverstone, the FIA’s next test will feature a complete coverage of the car wheels. This decision was influenced by the limited effectiveness of the previous spray guards, which only covered a small part of the wheels.
  • Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single-seater director, outlined the multifaceted nature of the spray problem. He identified three primary sources: water expelled from the tires, water accumulation between the wheel and asphalt, and water in ground cracks. Addressing these issues could significantly improve visibility for drivers.
  • The FIA faces challenges in implementing these changes without affecting car aerodynamics. A major concern is the potential impact on downforce and lap times. The ideal solution would be one that can be applied only in wet conditions, avoiding permanent alterations to the vehicles.

In an effort to enhance safety and visibility in wet race conditions, the FIA has embarked on a novel approach to solve the persistent issue of spray in Formula 1. Following an unsatisfactory spray guard test at Silverstone, the governing body, led by single-seater director Nikolas Tombazis, has decided to take a more assertive step by completely covering the car’s wheels in future tests.

Tombazis, in his discussion with, acknowledged the shortcomings of the initial experiment, stating, “What was done at Silverstone, with the help of Mercedes who created parts and McLaren [who ran a car to get feedback on spray] was perhaps too optimistic an experiment.” He expressed skepticism about the initial approach and emphasized the need for a radical redesign.

The complexity of the spray issue lies in its various origins. As Tombazis explained, the problem is not just about the water thrown upwards by the tires. It also involves the accumulation of water between the wheel and asphalt and water in the ground cracks, all contributing to reduced visibility for drivers. He estimated that wheel-generated spray constitutes around 40% of the total, suggesting that addressing this aspect could lead to significant improvements.

In searching for solutions, the FIA turned to simulation tools commonly used in the road car industry, particularly those assessing visibility. Tombazis highlighted the calibration challenges faced in these simulations, considering the restrictions and testing limitations in Formula 1 compared to the more flexible road car industry.

A key concern in this development is the impact on car aerodynamics. Tombazis revealed the wide range of effects observed in different configurations, with some causing almost no downforce loss, while others led to a significant drop in performance. He emphasized the goal of finding a solution that can be applied only in extreme wet conditions, ideally without permanent modifications to the cars. This approach aligns with the broader objective of not disrupting the competitive balance among teams.

As the sport looks forward to the 2026 regulations, the FIA continues to prioritize safety and performance, balancing innovative solutions with the sport’s competitive integrity. This move towards comprehensive wheel coverage in spray guard tests marks a bold step in Formula 1’s ongoing commitment to driver safety and enhanced race conditions.

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