FIA provides more information on wet weather wheel arch concepts.

The governing body of automotive sports announced last month that it will begin testing wheel arches to assist in wet weather conditions.

It is thought that wheel fairings will help, as the main limiting factor in bad weather is the lack of visibility caused by swirling spray.

The concept is already being evaluated, and it is hoped that prototype versions of the wheel arches will be ready for use as early as the second half of next season, but 2024 seems far more likely.

The evaluation of the proposal raised the question of exactly how things would work out if the experiment were successful.

The FIA’s technical director for single-seaters, Nikolas Tombazis, has now provided some background on the concept, explaining why the wheel arches would only be used in exceptionally difficult conditions.

“We only think it’s going to be something that gets used on a couple of occasions a year, maybe three, that sort of thing,” he explained.

“We don’t want it to be that every time there’s a drop of rain, then suddenly you have to fit these things.”

The ultimate goal, Tombazis said, is to prevent a retirement like the one at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, when unfavorable race conditions meant it was only possible to finish a few laps behind the safety car.

However, after the delays at this year’s Japanese GP in Suzuka due to bad weather, the issue has become more important.

“Spa in 2021 still left scars on the sport because it was very unfortunate circumstance,” explained Tombazis. “It would have been 10 times worse I think if we had gone all the way to Japan and had to pack up and come back. We really need to avoid that.

“We have so many people watching, spectators paying tickets, teams travelling all over the world, and then to suddenly say we can’t race is not very responsible of us.

“I think it will bring the raceable conditions from what is maybe currently intermediate tyres, as you almost never race with the wet tyres, I think it’ll bring it well into the wet tyre territory.”

The FIA has already begun running some computer simulations to determine the benefits of the wheel wells. However, it acknowledged that it would be difficult to assess how visibility would be affected by spray kicked up from the ground rather than from the tyres.

“We have done a lot of CFD simulations, because we want to make sure the effect of these devices is relatively small on the overall aerodynamics,” added Tombazis.

“There still is an effect, but not a massive one. Also, we are simulating the droplets of the rain and so on, and seeing how it affects spray.”

“What is a bit of a challenge in the simulations is to determine the relative proportion of what comes from the diffuser to what comes from the tyres.”

“Once we have a solution, we’ll get to do some prototypes and run them on some cars to try and evaluate that properly. I’m expecting that it’s going to be a maybe 50 percent improvement kind of thing.”

Tombazis also stressed that the wheel wells will not be removed from the vehicles when the weather improves, but will remain on the vehicles for the duration of the race once they are installed.

“We would not be asking for them to be fitted or removed in a rush,” he said. “So their fitting or removal would either be before a race or during a red flag. If a race starts very wet and gets dry, they would stay on.”