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Testing changed when the FIA banned unlimited testing. Prior to this, you could rock up to Silverstone most Wednesdays (and other circuits) and see F1 cars on track trying out the latest developments.
Cost concerns changed all this and testing was limited (and without going into the minutia of the regulations) to 12-15 days pre-season with a few additional limited filming and straight line aero testing days allowed over and above this.
According to a team principal I was chatting to, the teams used to pay the circuits around 100,000 euros for each testing day. The testing venues decided to try to make a few extra bucks and began charging 5-10 euro’s a day entrance fee for fans to come and watch.
This led to the renegotiation of the fee’s payable for circuit hire and the teams refused to pay a fee if the fans were being charged. Laudable you may say, however this meant that the test venues hiked the price to a staggering 10-20 euro’s (depending on zonal access) to ensure they were not out-of-pocket.
Doing the maths, Jerez needs between 8-10,000 fans a day to break even on the deal, otherwise the teams paying a hosting fee would be preferable.
Testing is nothing to do with Mr. E (hence no TV) and the teams decide the dates. 2 years ago in Jerez the track days was Thursday to Sunday, with Alonso driving at the weekend.
I attended all four days, and for the first 2 the access for fans was restricted to the final chicane through to turn 3. There were a few thousand in attendance each day on Thursday and Friday.
Then Saturday, the car parks were full, the queues were 30 minutes to get in, and the whole circuit was opened up and I estimate 30-40,000 fans were present. A bonanza for the circuit owners, but more importantly the drivers were notable in their comments about the atmosphere that day being unique in F1 testing history.
Why the explosion in interest? Fernando Alonso drove for Ferrari at the weekend, hence the huge attention.
In 2012, the days Jerez received were Tuesday to Friday. The attendance was markedly smaller. If I remember rightly, Alonso drove on the Friday and the attendance was the best day of the week, though not a patch on 2011. There were maybe 10,000 who turned out at the circuit.
I suspect they may have scrapped 20,000 fans over 4 days which delivered between 200-250,000 Euros. This creates far less revenue for the circuit than if the teams coughed up the 100,000 euro’s a day fee from the teams.
Again in 2013 Jerez has a Tue-Fri schedule and so far I would number the attendance in hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand at most. Further, Fernando is not driving until Barcelona, so I suspect the turnout on Friday will be little more than the first 3 days.
I’m not suggesting that Ferrari should be forced into putting Fernando in the car for the first test season of the season; however I was visibly shocked at the scarcity of fans in attendance both yesterday and today.
The circuits make nothing from F1 races and hence should be given some slack for generating cash on other events. Yet when you schedule a Tue-Fri test, this will exclude tens of thousands of fans from taking the trip to Jerez due to work commitments.
Its 2am CET and I have to be at the circuit at 7am, so gotta be brief.
A fan caught Di Resta coming into the hotel and asked him how it was going. He was utterly downbeat and muttered, ‘its fine, nothing special”. Surprising considering the media comments published from Paul.
Lewis also told another fan on Tuesday night that the team were hoping he would get 200 laps in on Wednesday. Mercedes are seriously behind the curve with just 14 laps on day 1 from Rosberg and 15 from Lewis today.
Perez was seriously trying today. I watched all the drivers coming out of the chicane 2 corners before the end of the lap, and the Mexican had the car dancing around on the limit of control – lap after lap.
Massa had a wild moment, coming into the pits way to fast; he spun the car across the grass and bumped backwards over the kerb ending up pointing towards the oncoming traffic. (Pics on the site soon).
For UK TV viewers, Jake was here enjoying a last hurrah, but Suzi Perri rocked up, knee-length boots as always and was stealing the show with the fans.
Gotta go, much more to say…but hey you’ll hear it soon.