The Austin Grand Prix was predicted to be a wet race but that never happened and the rains arrived too late failing to give us the first wet weather race of the season.
To ease that disappointment, here’s our take at Formula One’s best Wet weather drivers who epitomise the saying “Driving in the rain is what separates the men from the boys”.
The latest entrant to the Formula One Wet Weather Specialist list, but in mere three wet race performances, Verstappen has shown us all that he is amongst the greats in F1 when it comes to wet races.
It’s a reputation that he has justly earned merely by the measure of his incredible drive in Brazil last year where he made almost every other driver look like complete noobs, taking lines that no one took and finding grip in the most unconventional of places. His performance was very reminiscent of the greatest Wet Weather Driver that the sport has seen i.e. Ayrton Senna.
But this isn’t Verstappen’s only standout drive, this year at the Chinese Grand Prix which was a damp race to begin with, the Dutchman starting P16 following engine issues in qualifying took a stonking start to slice through the field on the opening lap by the end of which he was already in P7! going on to finish the race in P3.
The Kid Wonder’s career has just begun and we’re lucky for we’ll get to witness more of such masterclass drives from Verstappen and if he continues to perform like this, he may very surely cement his reputation as a Wet Weather master.
Sebastian Vettel is another driver who performs really good in the wet weather, however, he rarely gets the credit for his list of achievements as a majority of people write him off pointing to the dominant Red Bull he drove.
But Sebastian Vettel has a few exceptional wet weather performances under his belt in addition to the 2008 Monza race. Unknown to a lot of fans, Vettel has raced really good in damp and rainy conditions for examples like 2007 China where he started from P12 but ended a great P4 in his Toro Rosso and 2008 Monaco where he rose from P18 to P5 on a day when the race started out wet and dried out over the course of the session. And who’d forget the 2012 Brazillian Grand Prix, the race that saw intermittent rain with conditions changing between wet and dry, starting on slicks Vettel got into trouble on the opening lap dropping to last place and with a failed radio his pit stops were delayed however the German tackled the conditions well to come home at P6 which was just enough to hand him the crown that year.
Hamilton already had a reputation as a wet-weather specialist before his arrival in Formula One and he delivered on the grandest stage with a masterful performance in the wet at Fuji.
In what was his rookie year, Hamilton belied his age and went on to claim the win in the rain-soaked race where his more experienced and reigning World Champion team-mate Alonso spun while giving the chase.
And he followed it up with what was arguably the best performance by a British driver in British Grand Prix history. Hamilton won by a mammoth 68-second lead lapping everyone upto P3 in what was a classic British weather race.
Hamilton has performed exceptionally everytime in the wets for example 2014 Suzuka and Austin 2016 Brazil where even the phenomenal Max Verstappen failed to make any inroads into Hamilton’s lead once the kid was past Rosberg’s Mercedes.
Known for his wet weather driving, Michael Schumacher’s best display was arguably at the 1996 Spanish GP. Driving a car that was quite a bit slower than the front-runners Williams, Schumacher lost ground at the start and found himself down in seventh.
But in terrible conditions, he steadily rose up the order and snatched the lead from Gerhard Berger on lap 12. From there, he proved to be an unstoppable force, ending the race 45 seconds clear of the next driver. Quite a drive.
Jenson Button is famous for being a very technical driver and a wet weather performer, a reputation that mainly evokes the memories of the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix. Button’s win on a sodden Montreal afternoon made his debut win at the Hungaroring look like child’s play. Seldom has a driver been forced to battle through more adversity to achieve victory than he did that day. A collision with his team-mate, a drive-through penalty, a puncture and finally a last lap overtake for the lead all of it in a race that lasted for 4 hours 4 minutes and 39 seconds.
But a year earlier, Button produced an equally laudable display of drive in the Chinese Grand Prix that started out with light rains but saw the rain intensifying in the later stages, Button showing his skill of anticipating the changing conditions at the right time executing his pitstops in the correct manner and leading his team-mate home.
Sadly Button has retired and we won’t get to see his tactical masterstrokes again but the Briton has given us really great memories to look back to.
Sir Jackie Stewart
Okay close your eyes and go back to the F1’s treacherous era of the 1960s, specifically the fearsome Nurburgring or “Green Hell” as it more commonly is referred to. Imagine yourself as one of the drivers taking part in the race amidst intensely wet conditions. Let’s compound the matter by adding the fact that you’re suffering from a broken wrist!
Now how would you fare? Sounds less like a race and more of a 319.690 Kilometers long horror story, doesn’t it.
But it was in exactly these conditions that F1’s Great Scotsman Jackie Stewart, starting from 6th on the grid, took the lead on lap one and never relinquished it rather extending it to 30 seconds by the end of lap 2 and by the end of the race he had built a mammoth lead of over 4 minutes!
And it was not just any sort of wet weather, it was the most horrible weather that you’d seen. The conditions were truly appalling – it had been raining for three days and there was dense fog hanging over the already-dangerous Nürburgring.
So bad was the rain that the organisers scheduled an additional practice session on the Sunday – Saturday was abandoned with visibility down to ten yards – but the conditions did not improve and several drivers slid off in the morning.
The start of the race itself was delayed by 50 minutes, but all that happened was the fog grew denser and the rain heavier.
But Stewart prevailed in a race that he himself put as “a teeth-gritting effort”.
If you mention Jackie Stewart’s win by four minutes at the Nürburgring, you have to mention Jim Clark’s victory by nearly five at that other great circuit loved by the clouds – Spa-Francorchamps.
In the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix, Clark started eighth and had lapped the entire field bar Bruce McLaren by lap 17. At the flag, he finished 4m54s ahead of the Kiwi.
Youtube Senna’s wet weather performances and you’ll encounter the barrage of videos that capture his heroics on a damp track or slicing through the field, Senna is arguably the best driver that the sport has seen, but he is undoubtedly the undisputed king of wet weather.
Right from his rookie year in 1984 when he took his backmarker Toleman to P2 in the stonkingly wet conditions in Monaco upsetting the establishments, the Brazillian that day looked completely sublime overtaking his highly experienced rivals with panache and would have won the race had it not been halted for just a few more laps. But that race was just the beginning for the next year itself, in the second race of 1985, Senna put in another wet weather master class, finishing a full minute ahead of second placed Michele Alboreto and lapping everyone else.
The list would be incomplete without the mention of Donington 1993, driving an underpowered McLaren, Senna took on the mighty Adrian Newey-designed Williams FW15C and won in spectacular fashion. The race started with Senna dropping down to fifth place, but in arguably the greatest lap in Formula One history, the Brazilian powered his McLaren through the field and into the lead by the end of the first lap.
In his favorite conditions, Senna gave yet another of his signature wet weather drives and came within a few seconds of lapping the entire field.