F1: Coulthard’s wet-weather warning

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, January 11th, 2008

 
 

David Coulthard says he fears the safety effects of removing driver aids such as traction control from Formula One cars, especially in rainy weather.

New rules due to come into effect for the 2008 season state that such aids will no longer be allowed on F1 cars and drivers have already spent some time coming to terms with the new regime during winter testing.

However, speaking in his role as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Coulthard said he is concerned the new measures could prove dangerous in bad weather.

“The cars have been designed for years with all these driver aids and suddenly taking traction control off could have serious consequences in the wet.

“I’ll race in any conditions, but we would all look silly if something was taken away like this and we didn’t raise our concerns.

“It might look OK from the safety of the stewards room but its very different when you are in the car. Some people are bound to say drivers are not real men these days but they can say what they like.”

The GPDA is already in talks with FIA safety delegate Charlie Whiting over the issue and is due to meet him at the Australian Grand Prix Albert Park in March. The issue is also up for discussion when drivers meet during Valencia testing later this month.

Coulthard said he would like to see more consideration given to keeping cars off the track in extreme conditions like those at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

The race started under the safety car with drivers experiencing tyre problems and there were a number of heavy crashes including one involving then-reigning world champion Fernando Alonso.

He continued: “It’s all very well for people to say cars have been slowed and that means lower impact speeds, but it discounts the fact that cars are now far more likely to aquaplane in heavy spray.

“No one could see a thing in the conditions but we drove with confidence that the cars would all be going in the same direction.

“But, remember the Suzuka 94 race without traction? Martin Brundle hit a marshal and broke his leg in the spray and Johnny Herbert spun on the straight. We are trying to remind everyone to act with caution when it comes to a wet race.

“You don’t send a canoe out in the high seas. You use a speed boat because it’s designed for the conditions. You don’t play football or tennis on a waterlogged surface so why would you race on one?

“It’s not about bravery. It’s about common sense and racing according to conditions.”

* It wasn’t all serious stuff. Coulthard has also given his predictions for the season ahead.

He reckons that his Red Bull team will be competing with BMW for the ‘best of the rest’ slot behind McLaren and Ferrari.

And he predicts a good year for Lewis Hamilton, who he says is “a far more complete driver now and has the armoury to win.”

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