When Bernie Eccleston suggested F1 Grand Prix tracks should be equipped with sprinkler systems to induce artificial rain, everybody laughed. This week, however, after a scintillating, rain-soaked Canadian Grand Prix -- yet another great advert for wet racing -- turning on a random shower might not be such a bad idea.
As a spectacle, Sunday's race had everything -- team mates crashing into each other, a 42-year-old former champion almost clinching his first podium finish since an ill-advised return to F1, and Jenson Button coming from what was essentially the back of the grid to beat the reigning world champion on the final lap. Even Lewis Hamilton, who'd been forced to retire after being driven into the wall by the eventual winner, had to applaud.
There are several reasons for the eventfulness of the Canadian Grand Prix. The twin DRS zones, in which chasing drivers can adjust the angle of their rear wing to boost top speed, helped Button pass Schumacher, and the KERS hybrid power boost system undoubtedly helped the 2009 champion close the gap on an increasingly pressurised Vettel. These gadgets were mere sideshows, however, to the great big dollops of water falling from the clouds above.
This was no one-off fluke. Whenever F1 races take place on a wet track, the racing is almost always epic. Cast your mind back to Silverstone 2008, when Lewis Hamilton drove through carnage to clinch the most memorable British Grand Prix in recent memory; the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix; the 2007 European Grand Prix; and 2008 in Brazil, where the rain-drenched drama unfolded in such dramatic fashion it caused a Ferrari mechanic to lurch from wild celebration to violently headbutting part of his garage in disbelief.
Rain, and there can be no debate about this, makes any form of motor racing a million times more interesting, so it's about time the sport embraced Bernie's suggestion and developed the legislation and the technology that brings on-demand wet racing to Formula One.
The tech required to make this happen is already in place. Bernie suggests it would be as simple as turning on sprinklers at random points during the race, mimicking Mother Nature by giving drivers only a few minutes warning before a deluge. "Why not let it 'rain' in the middle of a race for 20 minutes?" he has said. "Or the last 10 laps? Maybe with a two-minute warning ahead of it? Suspense would be guaranteed."
He's right, too. F1 has long been criticised for being somewhat processional as the cars and drivers, which are pretty evenly matched, snake their way around a bone-dry circuit, barely changing position over 70-odd laps. A different picture emerges when it's wet, however, with the bravest, most skilled drivers and teams that choose the most appropriate strategies faring the best. The least skilled, least fortunate or least prepared, meanwhile, slow down in terror, spin embarrassingly off the circuit, and contribute to the immense drama.
The idea of fake rain does have its detractors, and some drivers insist it would make racing too artificial -- too much like Mario Kart. F1, however, with its KERS power boosts and adjustable DRS wings, is already artificial. Drivers already achieve cheap overtaking moves at the push of a button -- as if they were, in fact, playing Nintendo's iconic racing game.
Wet races, even if they are artificially induced, would help reveal the truest indication of driver skill and -- let's face it -- it would make all races a damn sight more entertaining to watch. Somebody, please, turn the tap on.
Image credit: Jaffa The Cake