IndyCar had its first wet race in nearly three years at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit on Saturday. Crucially, it was the first wet race since the introduction of the Aeroscreen safety structure for the 2020 season.
After the race, comments by many drivers about the performance of the device brought the Aeroscreen’s wet-weather visibility under scrutiny. Former IndyCar driver and four-time ChampCar champion Sebastien Bourdais shared his views on Twitter after the race, explaining his view that the actual screen should be removed for road and street circuits.
“Oh boy. Is it when I come out and write, I told you so?,” Bourdais posted. “Don’t get me wrong. Never argued the need for the aero screen at speedways and superspeedways. But initially, talks were supposed to be open to use the halo part only for road and street because of heat and rain visibility issues. Dismissed in an instant by the man.”
Conor Daly explained a troubling phenomena he encountered on his way to a fifth-place finish: “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “It was like the water just stayed in the centre of the screen. And I don’t know why, but even as you went faster – which you would hope it would clear – it didn’t.
“Obviously, this is very much a scientific test run. Obviously, we have a lot of data to go through with the series, and I’m sure [IndyCar president] Jay Frye will look at it as well. And he hates when I talk about the Aeroscreen, but I’m just describing what I saw. That’s all.
“I used to race in the rain all the time, so we had a visor that you can work with. But this is a new era, so obviously there are things that we can figure out.
“It was definitely hard to race like that, because you don’t want to, obviously, end up on the wrong side. Even under yellow – I couldn’t see the cars in front of me under yellow. I had to be guided into pit lane, and that’s concerning. Hopefully we can figure that out, but hopefully we also have very shiny weather for the rest of the year.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Simon Pagenaud, who finished second, suggested the addition of a windshield wiper could help with visibility problems in the future. “I mean, if we had a wiper, it would probably help,” Pagenaud said, “but that was the first real race with the Aeroscreen, so you got to give credit to IndyCar. The safety is amazing, but in these conditions you would need a wiper like they do in the sports cars.
“It’s possible, and it would probably help in these conditions. Obviously I’m not an engineer. I don’t know what we should do. It’s certainly the first real test for the Aeroscreen.”
Pagenaud says he maintains a positive opinion over the Aeroscreen’s protective qualities, citing an incident at Texas where Ilott’s car was hit by a suspension wishbone. “The windscreen saved him,” Pagenaud said. “That’s good, and we want to go forward from here. So we’ll find solutions and improve it and make sure that when we have rain races, then we don’t have these issues.
“It’s only been positive. I’m not being negative at all. I’m being quite positive about it and what we could do forward to make it even better.”
Third-place finisher Will Power said he did not experience the same degree of difficulty with visibility in full wet conditions. “I didn’t have much problem with the rain,” Power said.
“The worst part for me was when it was half wet. We’re on dries, and you have kind of that gritty just dirt on top of water. That was when I struggled to see a little bit, but in the full wet, I mean, the biggest problem for me was the spray from the cars. There’s really nothing can you do about that with open-wheel cars.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
The inherent nature of the spray being generated from high-level formula cars was also something that fourth-place finisher Marcus Ericsson pointed out during a short Twitter thread explaining his views on the Aeroscreen in the wet.
“My view from my car: It worked well. The visibility issues was coming from all the standing water and spray, mainly on the straights. You could hardly see because of it. [I’ve] done many races in the past in similar conditions with the same problems. It didn’t fog up. And it cleared the water well. Racing big Formula cars in heavy rain will always be a challenge because of all the water they kick up. But I am happy IndyCar let us race in these conditions.”
Even Herta, the winner, had some visibility issues – but suggested that the problem would be the same with, or without, the Aeroscreen. “I think we would have been in the same situation without the Aeroscreen there at the end, though, because it was really, really wet,” Herta remarked.
“The only downside I think there was, was not having a tear-off when it dried up. Because you get all the mud and raindrops on there. But once I had a tear-off, it was fine.”
Herta echoed Ericsson’s comments that the Aeroscreen fogging up did not become a problem, as was feared initially by some drivers.
“I think a lot of people were worried about the fogging because it can still be quite muggy when it’s raining here, but it wasn’t a problem for me. I was happy with it.”
- Palou leads Ganassi charge with McLaren in pursuit – but many more could win
- McLaren reveals special ‘Triple Crown’-inspired livery for Monaco Grand Prix
- “Bittersweet moment” for Rahal as he replaces injured Wilson on Indy 500 grid
- Wilson ruled out of Indy 500 due to back injury sustained in crash with Legge
- Wilson taken to hospital but “doing well” after Monday practice accident
12 comments on “IndyCar drivers raise visibility concerns after Aeroscreen’s “first real test” in wet”
16th May 2022, 12:07
OK, so they didn’t test it under rain conditions before approving it for racing…wow.
16th May 2022, 14:44
They did test it in the rain but not with a full grid of cars. Weather has a nasty habit of being quite random, you know. It just happened that when they had most of the grid assembled for testing there was no rain. And with only 2-3 cars on track there were no visibility issues in rain.
Then again, not every driver was complaining, and some said they’ve experienced worse visibility racing in other series already (like F1 or WEC), so certainly there’s room for improvement but it doesn’t seem to be an extraordinary problem.
16th May 2022, 17:22
Rain is not something you can order, man. Think about it. And using a couple of sprinklers on a 20m stretch of asphalt is nothing like a field of at least 5 cars splashing each other at 300km/h on a 600m long straight.
16th May 2022, 20:50
@johnrkh in 2019, Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay both took part in a wet weather test session at Barber Motorsport Park, with Pagenaud giving positive feedback on the performance of the aeroscreen in those conditions. However, as noted by Radoye, that test was only undertaken by two drivers, and it is not clear how much work was done simulating the visibility conditions behind another car or how wet the track was during those conditions.
The only time that it seems multiple cars were on track at the same time was in Feb 2020, where there was some limited testing carried out at COTA in wet conditions. That said, they only ran a rather small number of laps in moderately wet conditions (17 laps), with only a limited number of other drivers on track (only 11 drivers went onto the track) and with speed restrictions in place, before they then abandoned the session after 10 minutes.
It might perhaps be unfair to say that there has been no testing, but the problem seems to be that the testing that was done in 2019 did not properly simulate the sort of conditions that might occur when you have multiple cars on track at the same time.
16th May 2022, 14:50
“But I am happy IndyCar let us race in these conditions.”
I absolutely love that comment from Ericsson! Ayrton Senna would’ve been be proud.
From the standpoint of a fan, I would totally like them to only use the halo for road/street courses. It would make the cars look better – as the IndyCar halo design is quite slick – and also make the oval races feel even more special with the oval aero kits + “oval” screens.
16th May 2022, 15:17
Safety first. I hope that this helps.
16th May 2022, 15:29
Bourdais seems to be the most vocally negative about the Aeroscreen and he wasn’t in the race. All the drivers who were there seem to have relatively minor complains.
16th May 2022, 18:25
The alternative explanation (as is hinted at a bit in Daly’s comment) could be that the series tend to make it VERY clear to active drivers that they shouldn’t say some things Dane.
17th May 2022, 22:14
You’re suggesting active drivers can’t make safety related suggestions? That’s kind of a big accusation to throw at IndyCar. I find it more plausible that the guy who hasn’t experienced the Aeroscreen in the rain knows less about it that people who were in the race.
16th May 2022, 17:24
It’s balancing the risk of debris that misses the halo frame and would be too hard for the helmet and visor to withstand, versus the risk of impaired visibility. For me when it’s wet the risk shifts away from Aeroscreen to Halo. The area of helmet either side of the front strut is pretty small, and the helmet/visor is starting to curve away. Also you mostly only need part of the object to hit the halo strut to deflect it. While on the other hand, being able to see where you’re going is quite fundamental to safety.
16th May 2022, 20:53
maybe not all the screens had a nano treatment?
Using that removes all the water during driving.
Most drivers in the race seem to like the screen so the headline is a bit confusing.
18th May 2022, 14:49
Comments are closed.