Formula 1

With races being held all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and the Americas, F1 teams battle with a range of weather conditions, which can impact a driver’s training and performance.

Even small increases in temperature can have a considerable impact on F1 teams. Not only do they need to consider the air temperature, but the track temperature too. As the air temperature can drop much quicker than the track, this can drastically affect the way a car performs.

F1 teams need to choose their tyre types according to what the weather is, and drivers must adapt their tactics to ensure they remain safe whilst aiming for optimal performance.

Weather

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Heat and humidity

Racing in the heat is tough for several reasons. The cockpit can become extremely hot and stuffy, and even when drivers manage to get some ventilation, it’s just more warm air.

While many F1 drivers leave their visors slightly open at the bottom in an attempt to cool down, they need to be careful not to open them fully at the pits, otherwise they could get dust, metal or carbon in their eyes.

Racing in such high temperatures means that dehydration is a common issue amongst drivers. During a 90-minute race, drivers lose approximately 3kg of bodily fluid, which equates to around 5% of their bodyweight. The problem is, that whilst drivers have a drinks bottle in their car, it only contains 1 litre of fluid, and it heats up quickly. To avoid becoming dehydrated, drivers often choose energy drinks, as they have carbohydrates and sodium to replace salt lost through sweat, and caffeine to help with concentration and focus.

However, that’s not the only thing F1 drivers and their teams must contend with. When the heat rises, so does the temperature of the asphalt on the circuit – it can become more than 10°C higher than the ambient temperature. This can cause the tyres to wear more quickly, so teams need to ensure that cars are fitted with hard tyres, as they last for longer distances compared to softer ones.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is notorious for its tropical heat and humidity, making it one of the hardest races in the calendar. The Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Grands Prix are also scheduled away from the middle of the season, due to the high temperatures in the summer.

Rain

The rain brings its own set of challenges, because unlike standard passenger cars, F1 cars don’t have stability control, traction control, or antilock brakes. This can make them very difficult to race in the rain.

During downpours, driver skills take precedence over engine power. Drivers must contend with reduced visibility due to spray coming off the cars in front, and worse-performing brakes, as the rain lowers the brake temperatures.

German driver Michael Schumacher is renowned for his wet-weather driving ability. Before his retirement, he was a true sporting icon and F1 great, and demonstrated strong skill driving in wet conditions throughout his career. One of his most notable achievements was during the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, when he overcame torrential conditions to claim his first victory for Ferrari.

If there is a lot of water pooling on the track, then F1 teams may raise the front of the car higher off the ground. Whilst that makes the car slower, it means that drivers can see more easily, which makes racing much safer. Cars can usually adapt to the conditions, and it’s not often races are cancelled due to bad weather. However, the 2018 edition of the British Grand Prix became the first to be abandoned since 1980 after torrential rain at Silverstone.

Driving at high speed always comes with risk, but especially so in rainy conditions. 2014 saw the first F1 fatality in a generation, as Jules Bianchi’s crash in Japan during typhoon season, emphasising the need to enforce greater wet-weather safety measures.

Wind

Whilst light wind doesn’t have too much of an effect on the car, strong, gusty winds – particularly on long straights – can directly affect both the aerodynamics and handling of the car.

Formula 1 drivers find that because of this, their cars can be more difficult to drive in the wind, and if they’re not careful, it can lead to an increase in spins. Plus, gusts of wind also means that drivers lose a larger amount of downforce.

The most memorable example of high winds affecting the Formula 1 calendar was in 2019. The Japanese Grand Prix suspended qualifying as super typhoon Hagibis descended on Suzuka. Winds reached 160mph, making it too dangerous to drive.

Whilst that’s an extreme instance, F1 teams are savvy when it comes to the weather, as racing in a diverse range of countries means battling a variety of conditions. Because of this, they make educated decisions on what to do if strong winds are blowing, without compromising the driver’s safety or performance.

Freezing temperatures

Drivers and teams must also adapt the way they approach a race if they’re faced with freezing temperatures. When it’s cold, the tyres are impacted the most – as it’s difficult to get heat into them, they have very low grip on the track.

Whilst tyre blankets were used to increase temperatures before a race, they’ve since been banned. This can be very problematic, because tyres only start to perform well when they reach around 100°C.

To get around this, F1 teams are encouraged to push their cars to the limit, so they can understand their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. That way, they can get a great insight into how their car performs in various weather conditions, so they can continue to adapt the way they race.

The coldest F1 race on record was the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix. Held in Montreal, the air temperature was just 5°C; and while practice sessions were delayed, overall, it didn’t really affect the races. However, with warmer climates scheduled for F1 later this year, it’s unlikely drivers will have to worry about their tyres not reaching the desired temperatures.

Close

Heat and humidity

Racing in the heat is tough for several reasons. The cockpit can become extremely hot and stuffy, and even when drivers manage to get some ventilation, it’s just more warm air.

While many F1 drivers leave their visors slightly open at the bottom in an attempt to cool down, they need to be careful not to open them fully at the pits, otherwise they could get dust, metal or carbon in their eyes.

Racing in such high temperatures means that dehydration is a common issue amongst drivers. During a 90-minute race, drivers lose approximately 3kg of bodily fluid, which equates to around 5% of their bodyweight. The problem is, that whilst drivers have a drinks bottle in their car, it only contains 1 litre of fluid, and it heats up quickly. To avoid becoming dehydrated, drivers often choose energy drinks, as they have carbohydrates and sodium to replace salt lost through sweat, and caffeine to help with concentration and focus.

However, that’s not the only thing F1 drivers and their teams must contend with. When the heat rises, so does the temperature of the asphalt on the circuit – it can become more than 10°C higher than the ambient temperature. This can cause the tyres to wear more quickly, so teams need to ensure that cars are fitted with hard tyres, as they last for longer distances compared to softer ones.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is notorious for its tropical heat and humidity, making it one of the hardest races in the calendar. The Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Grands Prix are also scheduled away from the middle of the season, due to the high temperatures in the summer.

Close

Rain

The rain brings its own set of challenges, because unlike standard passenger cars, F1 cars don’t have stability control, traction control, or antilock brakes. This can make them very difficult to race in the rain.

During downpours, driver skills take precedence over engine power. Drivers must contend with reduced visibility due to spray coming off the cars in front, and worse-performing brakes, as the rain lowers the brake temperatures.

German driver Michael Schumacher is renowned for his wet-weather driving ability. Before his retirement, he was a true sporting icon and F1 great, and demonstrated strong skill driving in wet conditions throughout his career. One of his most notable achievements was during the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, when he overcame torrential conditions to claim his first victory for Ferrari.

If there is a lot of water pooling on the track, then F1 teams may raise the front of the car higher off the ground. Whilst that makes the car slower, it means that drivers can see more easily, which makes racing much safer. Cars can usually adapt to the conditions, and it’s not often races are cancelled due to bad weather. However, the 2018 edition of the British Grand Prix became the first to be abandoned since 1980 after torrential rain at Silverstone.

Driving at high speed always comes with risk, but especially so in rainy conditions. 2014 saw the first F1 fatality in a generation, as Jules Bianchi’s crash in Japan during typhoon season, emphasising the need to enforce greater wet-weather safety measures.

Close

Wind

Whilst light wind doesn’t have too much of an effect on the car, strong, gusty winds – particularly on long straights – can directly affect both the aerodynamics and handling of the car.

Formula 1 drivers find that because of this, their cars can be more difficult to drive in the wind, and if they’re not careful, it can lead to an increase in spins. Plus, gusts of wind also means that drivers lose a larger amount of downforce.

The most memorable example of high winds affecting the Formula 1 calendar was in 2019. The Japanese Grand Prix suspended qualifying as super typhoon Hagibis descended on Suzuka. Winds reached 160mph, making it too dangerous to drive.

Whilst that’s an extreme instance, F1 teams are savvy when it comes to the weather, as racing in a diverse range of countries means battling a variety of conditions. Because of this, they make educated decisions on what to do if strong winds are blowing, without compromising the driver’s safety or performance.

Close

Freezing temperatures

Drivers and teams must also adapt the way they approach a race if they’re faced with freezing temperatures. When it’s cold, the tyres are impacted the most – as it’s difficult to get heat into them, they have very low grip on the track.

Whilst tyre blankets were used to increase temperatures before a race, they’ve since been banned. This can be very problematic, because tyres only start to perform well when they reach around 100°C.

To get around this, F1 teams are encouraged to push their cars to the limit, so they can understand their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. That way, they can get a great insight into how their car performs in various weather conditions, so they can continue to adapt the way they race.

The coldest F1 race on record was the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix. Held in Montreal, the air temperature was just 5°C; and while practice sessions were delayed, overall, it didn’t really affect the races. However, with warmer climates scheduled for F1 later this year, it’s unlikely drivers will have to worry about their tyres not reaching the desired temperatures.