Are these the inspired words of a marketing genius or the ranting of a madman? The paddock seems to be divided, actually, after Bernie Ecclestone suggested in a recent interview with F1’s official website that artificial rain would make the racing “more exciting”.
According to Ecclestone, “Overtaking is impossible in the dry [because] there is only one line good for maximum speeds because of rubber on the track. You have a completely different picture when it is wet. We always had the most exciting races in the wet so let’s think of making rain…”
Race promoters were quick to agree, especially since on-track antics in the wet are sure to lure more crowds on race days and ensure higher television viewership. It certainly worked in Singapore where – after intense criticism – the night race that is run under lights is one of the most spectacular events of the season. And that’s the point; the sport is still striving for more excitement by increasing passing during races.
“There are race tracks that you can make artificially wet [by way of sprinklers] and it would be easy to have such systems at a number of tracks,” Ecclestone added. “Why not let it ‘rain’ in the middle of a race? For 20 minutes or the last ten laps? Maybe with a two-minute warning – suspense would be guaranteed and it would be the same for all.”
Aussie Red Bull driver Mark Webber has been the most outspoken driver against these plans, stating that Ecclestone has had more good ideas than bad ideas, but that this is not one of them. “It can be more exciting when we have different weather conditions, but that does happen already,” Webber said, “and it wouldn’t be the most sophisticated way to make the sport more entertaining.”
The opening round of the season is scheduled for 27 March in Melbourne, Australia and the experts are predicting rain. Let’s just hope that remains the only dark clouds to hang over F1 in 2011.