By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
Bernie Ecclestone’s artificial rain idea didn’t get a warm reception in Formula One. The FOM CEO proposed his idea earlier this week in an interview with the official Formula One website, and again explained his idea to the BBC on Thursday.
“I'm happy to make it happen. My idea is that we should make a programme that nobody knows exactly which programme is going to be used and it would start at some time during the race. It would be raining effectively, “the 80-year old Ecclestone explained. And added, “It would maybe stop and maybe rain again later. Or maybe not. So nobody would know.”
I’m happy to make it happen
Especially Red Bull driver Mark Webber has rubbished the idea of fake rain. In an interview with the BBC the Australian rejected the idea Formula One needs to be ‘livened up’ by sprinklers. “It can be more exciting when we have some different weather conditions, that does happen. But you just try and think of Jimmy Clark, and Jackie Stewart and [Ayrton] Senna and those guys, masters in the wet,” said Webber.
And added, “Jackie's still here but the other two would be turning in their graves if they thought we'd have sprinklers and hoses lined up around the track... it wouldn't be the most sophisticated way to make the show more entertaining.”
Many fear artificial rain would manipulate the race, and many newspapers and magazines have given their opinion. “Bernie wants water torture!” the UK Mail reported. And the Australian Herald Sun headlined: “Bernie wants to wet your appetite.” The Times of India reported: “Ecclesone’s fake rain idea gets a damp reception.”
Mercedes Grand Prix boss Nick Fry was also sceptic about the fake rain idea. “I think Bernie's putting forward some entertaining ideas but... Formula One is about contending with the conditions that prevail at the time,” he told Reuters. “I think that fiddling with those conditions artificially is not the nature of Formula One,” Fry said.
The beauty of Formula One is that there is now huge variety
Fry thinks there is already enough action, and is not convinced Formula One needs a rain button, “The beauty of Formula One is that there is now huge variety … we have races in the evening and during the day and halfway between the two and I don't think anyone could say that last year was boring. It was tremendous and I'm sure that this year will be better still.”
Ex-Formula One driver Jos Verstappen also rejected the idea of fake rain. “His proposal is to create artificial ‘rain’ for a certain period using sprinklers along the track, but I find it completely ridiculous,” the Dutchman wrote in his weekly column for the Dutch Telegraaf. “You have to let nature take its course and you don’t want to be influencing it. In my opinion it’s simple: if it rains, it rains, and when it’s dry, it’s dry,” the Dutchman wrote. And concluded, “Everyone just wants to race as hard as possible and as fast as possible, so I’m expecting little support to come of this idea.”
But Ecclestone did get some backing from Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery. “I thought Bernie Ecclestone's comments were quite interesting, said Hembery earlier this week. “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.”
Ex-Formula One driver Johnny Herbert told the UK Sun, “People will say it is artificial but it would be the same for everybody. Many of the best races in the past few years have been when it has rained.” Also ex-Formula One driver John Watson said the idea wasn’t new, “I first proposed this to Bernie in 1994! Fans want to see exciting races where the drivers are made to work.”