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Formula 1 to trial mudguard device to tackle spray problem

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Racing in rain and the blinding spray is now Formula 1’s biggest safety concern and a trial of a mudguard-style device next week – after Sunday’s British Grand Prix – and could be fast-tracked onto the cars if it works.

F1 drivers revealed to reporters at Silverstone today that the trial was in the planning since last year but has acquired greater significance since the death last weekend of Dutch 18-year-old Dilano van’t Hoff in a wet junior series race at Spa-Francorchamps, where rain and subsequent spray played significant roles.

McLaren and Mercedes will be providing the test cars, one with and one without the modification.

“It’s a huge safety issue at the moment and it needs to be addressed. We can’t see anything in heavy wet weather,” Aston Martin’s Canadian Lance Stroll told reporters at the British Grand Prix.

“I can recall many races over the past few years in Formula One where you just cannot see anything when you are behind a car and it’s extremely dangerous … we shouldn’t be racing in those conditions.

“If it works, it (the mudguard) has to be put on the cars as quickly as possible. And if it doesn’t work, we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in situations where we’re racing in conditions where we can’t see.”

Norris: Actually seeing where we’re going, that helps sometimes

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McLaren driver Lando Norris said the spray issue was “the biggest safety concern at the minute within Formula 1” and it was about time to do something.

“It’s a shame we had to see such a consequence for people to understand what can happen. I think it’s something that needs to be done. Actually seeing where we’re going, that helps sometimes,” Lando said sarcastically.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen agreed and said drivers might as well close their eyes in some conditions: “There is zero visibility in the spray and it would be great if that could be improved significantly.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez said the device could be a big step forward: “Especially what has happened last weekend, I think it’s something that we’ve got to improve. For now, I think it’s important that race directors let us race only when it’s safe and the whole grid is able to see something.”

Racing in the rain always ramps up the risks for drivers in all forms of motorsport from lower formulae single seaters to GT3s and sportscars.

Notably, Jules Bianchi, the last driver to die due to an F1 accident, during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prixhe was critically injured when rain pelting down over Suzuka that terrible Sunday, with low visibility in treacherous conditions his Marussia spun off track and hit a recovery vehicle. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)