FRIDAY FOCUS -- DRIVING IN THE RAIN Weather conditions in northern Europe over recent weeks have been unpredictable to say the least, and things don't look likely to change this weekend in Spa-Francorchamps. Furthermore, Spa is notorious for ...
FRIDAY FOCUS -- DRIVING IN THE RAIN
Weather conditions in northern Europe over recent weeks have been unpredictable to say the least, and things don't look likely to change this weekend in Spa-Francorchamps. Furthermore, Spa is notorious for its unpredictable climate - and rain is always a possibility at some point during the weekend. So how does the team prepare?
"Our five-day forecasts have predicted rain," explains Pat Symonds, "and so in the last week, we have taken this into account with our preparations. We always do basic preparations for wet running at every circuit, but the weather situation means we have spent longer than usual on it in the past week."
However, managing the possibility of rain is not a simple task. Typically, if it rained on Friday but the forecasts predicted sun on Saturday and Sunday, the cars would not run in the wet as the information would not be useful for the following sessions. If the teams think it might be wet for qualifying or the race, though -- and it is a possibility this weekend -- then they will run to gather information.
"When we run in the wet, we do not make too many changes to the car, because in actual fact there is very little we can do," explains Pat Symonds. "Under the current parc fermi rules, you would need to be certain of rain throughout the race in order to make significant alterations to the car set-up, and history has shown that a continuously wet race only occurs about once every ten years."
"Instead, our main priority is to determine the crossover lap-times when we can change from an extreme weather tyre to a standard wet tyre and from a standard tyre to grooved tyres. These periods of transition are often where wet-dry races can be won or lost as lap-times improve very rapidly on a drying circuit."
When running in the rain during practice, learning is also the main objective of the men in the cockpit, as Fernando Alonso explains. "It is all about getting used to the grip levels: working out how late we can brake, which kerbs we can touch and trying different lines to find the best way round the circuit."
"While you are doing that, you also need to be thinking about improving the balance, because small changes to the car can make a big difference to your lap time. And then, finally, there is the inconsistency of the conditions -- something changes every second, and you need to be adapting all the time or correcting the car. As a driver, when you see a wet track, you know it means you will be under a lot of pressure."