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F1’s Prototype Spray Guards Really Stretch the Definition of ‘Open Wheel’

F1’s second-gen design gives us “rental kart” vibes.

byJerry Perez|
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I don't recall Formula 1 severely objecting to racing in the rain when I started watching it in the early '90s. But then again, we used to see crazy pile-ups like this one at Spa in 1998 due to poor visibility. While frustrating for some die-hards, the FIA nowadays prioritizes safety when it comes to racing in wet conditions, and these second-gen spray guards seen in action Thursday at Ferrari's home track could very well be the solution to the dangers of wet-weather racing.

Scuderia Ferrari was granted special permission by the FIA to test two new prototypes of spray guards, one with fully enclosed sides, and another with spoke-like sides. The test was carried out at Fiorano given that the Scuderia's own playground features a state-of-the-art sprinkler system. Carrying out driving duty was Arthur Leclerc in the lead car (yes, Charles' younger brother), and Ferrari's Super-Sub Oliver Bearman in the second car.

The purpose of the test was to analyze the guards' effectiveness in reducing spray for following cars. A video shared by YouTuber Varryx reveals that the Scuderia only soaked a very small portion of its track, instructing both cars to do short laps and repeatedly run over the wet tarmac. It's also noticeable that Bearman followed the lead car at various distances, ranging from right-smack behind Leclerc to several car lengths.

Neither Ferrari nor the FIA have revealed any results yet, but images from the test show that the carbon guards are drastically different from the first-gen prototypes tested at Silverstone in 2023. Images from that test were not shared with the public, but these technical images highlight those differences. According to Motorsport.com, it's known that the first units tested did not reduce spray at all. Maybe this new design will be more effective, though chances are we're still far from the final iteration.

While not exactly pretty—by a long shot—spray guards should, in theory, reduce race delays and lower the chance of races getting shortened or canceled due to unsafe driving conditions. Of course, it will also make racing in the rain safe for drivers, track marshalls, and spectators. Whether you're for them or against them, that's something we can all get behind.

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