F1 testing: A solution

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Not too long ago, a Fomula One fan could turn up mid-week to Silverstone and see at least one team testing their car during the summer months. Yet with the explosion of costs within the sport, the FIA has sought over time to restrict testing more and more to demonstrate they are attempting to control spending.

Next season, the winter testing has been cut from 12 to 8 days, and the annual pilgrimage to Jerez has been cancelled, despite that when this test has been run over a weekend, crowds of 30-40,000 fans have flocked to support their favourite teams and drivers in the Andalusian sunshine.

Now just two four day tests will take place at the Cirucuit de Catalunya, Barcelona and testing will begin in March and not at the start of February.

There are apparently two in season tests which could be agreed by the teams, but given the nature of next year’s draft calendar, it is difficult to see where these two day sessions can be inserted.

The drive away from ‘on track testing’ and toward CFD and restricted wind tunnel time, this would level the playing field somewhat for the smaller teams. Given the disparity in budgets and income distribution, this notion is farcical in the grand scheme of things.

The lack of testing opportunity is a matter F1’s tyre supplier consistently complains about. To develop relevant tyres, Pirelli needs to do representative testing with current F1 cars.

McLaren’s Eric Boullier, does not favour the cut back in winter testing. “The plan is for eight days of testing, we are not necessarily happy with that. But it’s been agreed by a majority [of teams] a long time ago so we just have to deal with that.”

Of course McLaren-Honda are desperate to problem solve the issues they have with the engine and chassis integration and on track testing for them is the best proving ground.

“Before we had some freedom in terms of testing and improving the car,” observes Fernando Alonso. “If you found your car was uncompetitive in the first part of the season, you could still end the year in a competitive way. Now we have our hands tied for the season.

“We run the car in Jerez and Barcelona for the tests and if it’s competitive you will have a good season and if it’s not you will have a bad season.”

The “locked in” season pecking order is not something the fans particularly like and Formula One has always been an in season development race as much as one which rewards new car design and development work.

Brawn hit the ground running in 2009, but Red Bull hunted them down all year – and by the latter part of the season Adrian Newey had developed by far the better car.

There is a solution to the problem of in season testing and its associated costs, though was one the fans I the recent Autosport survey rejected by a narrow margin with 51% against.

The FP1 and FP2 sessions on Friday’s at GP weekends could be revised into an all-day testing session. This would create problems for the support series, however their popularity is insignificant when compared to F1 and they would just have to adjust.

Team’s like Force India would not be forced into deciding against attending a test as they did this year in Jerez, due to the $800,000 cost – because they are already at the race weekends.

Pirelli too would have an abundance of testing time available to them – as teams could be mandated to provide the Italian tyre manufacturer with certain periods over the course of the year.

As with many things F1, this solution appears a simple one – which would satisfy most. Though whether it will ever make it through the golden gates of the Place de Concorde – is another matter.

 

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27 responses to “F1 testing: A solution

  1. Except that FP1 and FP2 are not just joy-rides, they’re where the teams set-up their race cars for the circuit and (as best they can) the expected track conditions. If you replace them with a test day – where presumably it’s *not* the car for that weekend which will be run – then when will the teams get to do their set-up?

    • Well, teams can surely decide for themselves when and if they want to drive with the race spec car and when to rebuild it to a testing spec. I actually believe that a whole day of Friday testing could be an advantage for the teams’ preparation, since FT2 is not always aligned properly with the scheduled start of qualifying and the race.

    • Minor suggestion, restrict race drivers to the usual FP1/2 times and reserve rest of time for reserve/test drivers. That way, the seats become worth something again and you still get concentrated coverage of cars being set up for the race.

  2. While that may be one way to introduce testing into Formula 1 without driving the costs up too high, I don’t think it would be the right move for fans. Personally, I’d much rather see the current program of GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup (or other support events) during the weekend instead of uncompetitive F1 tests. If you take away the Friday from the support events entirely, they should not even bother to turn up anymore at some tracks. On others the support races would be in constant danger of being canceled due to a packed schedule.

    There’s also a question of how much it would actually cost for a team to drive their two cars another two or more race distances per weekend. While a part will not generate additional cost if the drivers can keep from crashing, there’s still a number of expensive parts suffering from wear and tear.

    It would probably be smarter to have full testing Fridays only a number of times per season, much like the post-race testing of recent times. Friday testing at least would fit a lot better into the 2016 F1 schedule, but it shouldn’t be done so often that it disrupts the whole season of lower tier series. 4 to 6 times per season would be plenty, I believe.

    • European venues do have all the feeder series, but a lot of the flyaways have less – those would be a good opportunity to have extra Friday ‘test’ sessions for young drivers.

  3. My gut feel is this would lead to dull races. The more time the teams have to perfect their setup the less interesting the race will be.

    I suggested a while back that the teams stay and extra day and test. This would increase the cost slightly as they’d have more hotel time etc, but the travel costs would remain the same and it would negate any circuit-based advantage.

    Of course you get down to other issues such as which engine and gearbox to use in the test – the teams may end up spending Sunday evening stripping the car and changing to testing components.

  4. Not sure I understand the “locked in” thing with regards to testing? Yes, the engines are restricted, but that seems to be about it? Just look at the massive updates Ferrari have brought in this year as an example. McLaren and Williams have both introduced updates to their cars too, even as recently as Bottas running a new front wing last weekend.

    Referring to them as “locked in” smacks of the same kind of misleading hyperbole as referring to the engine regs as a “freeze”, despite there still being scope for updates during the season and the tokens that can be used.

    • Has there really been any huge improvements throughout the year. In terms of positions they are all still pretty relative with only Force India and McHonda making any significant (and even then small) in roads in to teams above. Ferrari may have slightly closed the gap but they’re still no way near challenging Merc, same with Williams and Red Bull.

      The lack of in season testing is clearly hurting the fans – barring stupid strategies / crashes we all know that a Merc (usually in the form of #44) will place it on pole and win the race.

      Seb’s two wins have been through mistakes by other teams – had Hamilton not had such a scrappy race I believe during the race he’d have easily outpaced over the race distance Seb and undercut him at the pitstop.

    • Don’t forgot, in the article this notion originates from Fernando Alonso – The Judge has used “locked in” as a summarising term for Alonso’s opinion.

      In regards to Alonso’s opinion, to me, it seems relatively accurate if compared to the era in which Alonso entered the sport; an era where testing was perhaps at its most prevelant. An era where testing was used to build Ferrari’s domination, but paradoxically was also what allowed the others (like Renault) to match them and inevitably end their domination.

      When compared, it’s clear teams can’t really dig their way out of a hole as easy, if at all. “Locked in” as a relative term, seems apt.

  5. I’ve always thought they should have Monday tests, the gears already there, the circuits already ‘active’. I can see a few gaps in the calender next season for this, could be outside Europe as well given they’d all be there anyway?

  6. I agree with most here in that in season testing best fits a few post race Mondays when the races are not back-to-back.
    I would also limit it to European/non-flyaway races to reduce travel as more than just the teams need to prepare for an additional day.

  7. would be a shame to lose GP2/GP3, I’ve quite enjoyed watching the likes of Kvyat, Nasr, Bottas etc over the last few years, like wise this year nice to keep an eye on progress of Sirotkin, Vandoorne, Rossi, Ocon et al. Not sure these series would survive off the F1 calander.

    I could never comprehend seeing people head away after F1 qualifying on a Saturday evening and missing out on the GP2 and GP3 races, seriously people, these are the F1 drivers of the future!!

    My solution is a tad more simple/idealistic…remove testing limits completely.
    If they’ve got it they’re going to spend it anyway, might as well create opportunities for the next generation to get some wheel time, for the have nots selling some time in the car to facilitate some development work seems like fair trade, whereas the haves can give mileage to the talent waiting in the wings.

    If we can’t have proper testing for these pinnacle of motorsport machines, ah well, I’ll vote for Stephen Hughes suggestion above, standard Monday after testing, sounds good to me.
    anything is better than just doing nothing!!!

    • That’s the paradox of it in a way though, it’s the pinnacle of motorsport yet they’re trying to set up rules that favour those who can’t afford to compete at the highest level. I get that with the skewed revenue it makes it an un-level playing field, but if they rearranged those to a fairer proportion per team then I think they should be allowed to open up the restrictions on testing and things like that. If teams constantly need bail-outs just in order to be able to trundle around miles off the pace, it kind of suggests that they’re possibly in the wrong discipline to be brutally honest. I know in the past there was more scope for the ‘underdog’ to perform well, but times have changed now.

      I’m not advocating insane budgets and it being a case of who can throw the most money at things, but playing to your weakest team seems like it’s yoking the progress of the best/brightest out there. To put it bluntly, I didn’t watch the race last weekend and think “This is all well and good, but it’s really lacking a pair of Caterhams being lapped repeatedly.”

    • Removing limits is an interesting debate. I guess it depends how level you want things to be.

      I’d guess if we had unlimited testing this season (and last) that Ferrari and Red Bull would be closer to Mercedes and McLaren would be fighting Williams for 4th and 5th.

      In other words, the teams with money could catch up.

      It would make a more exciting championship for seasons where one team had stolen a march but it would condem the poorer teams to fighting for 6th in the championship unless someone really dropped the ball.

      There is also a technology transfer aspect to this. The teams are an ideal testing ground for CFD and the like but as they have very little opportunity to correlate theory with practice the benefits are surely being massively reduced. It seems as if a part doesn’t work immediately it is binned. With more testing they could refine the techniques better which would be of benefit to wider industry and could also have a cost benefit to the smaller teams.

      Don’t forget that Manor were originally set up on the premise that a car could be designed purely using simulations. Nick Wirth was ahead of his time unfortunately but F1 – with testing – could be in the forefront of pushing that technology to maturity.

  8. There were 2 things I was surprised about in the results. One was that pointed out in the this article. I think it would be great to have at least 4-5 hours (perhaps in 2 chunks of 2.5 hours each, in between which we could have support races) of testing time on Friday with no tyre or engine limitations. I am not familiar with circuit politics but I have heard that the circuits themselves rarely make any money so an expanded 4 day schedule would probably be met with great resistance.

    The second thing was favouring refueling. I remember constant, and I mean constant complaints about F1’s lack of passing or the preferred passing in the pits strategy, even more so than previous to refueling and after. If they do eventually bring back refueling and it is similar in nature to what happened before, I’d lose interest in the sport quickly.

    • “I have heard that the circuits themselves rarely make any money”

      Could it not be argued, that by having a fourth day for testing that the circuit could then charge F1 or teams for track time and sell tickets?

  9. “The FP1 and FP2 sessions on Friday’s at GP weekends could be revised into an all-day testing session.”….

    What about the effects on engine mileage and gearboxes? Surely that’s going to be the teams major concerns with only 4 power units available for the entire season.

    From my perspective the simplest solution to this problem, is just not to change the current structure.

    As for Pirelli’s request, why not each team supplier the car, reserve driver and a skeleton Crewe to do a 4 day testing session and they’ll (Pirelli) would be responsible for the cost?

    • You’d have to have testing engines and gearboxes (and probably other parts as well). The production costs dwarf the R&D costs for these items so the cost of producing 2 or 3 more won’t be massive. You would of course get issues with what specification these engines have to be in – can manufacturers test upgrades or do they have to be race-spec?

      As I said elsewhere, one option to is re-introduce a spare car. This could be used for testing but also in cases where a driver totals his race chassis. I feel it would be an improvement to enable more cars to compete. You’d have to monitor mileage on the components where this happened and work out some way to level things but I’m sure that is doable.

  10. No testing restrictions, just let them do what they can afford. End of argument, ….we’ve gone over it and over it. Stop spending billions building wind tunnels and simulators and spend a few thousand on a bit of track time. There is no alternative to track time.

    • ” Stop spending billions building wind tunnels and simulators and spend a few thousand on a bit of track time.”

      Why do you presume that it is an either or situation? The teams already have wind tunnels and simulators why do you think these would simply go away? If you have a simulator, then it is still cheaper to run than going to the track.

  11. Here’s an idea. Does the race have to be on Sunday? Could they not do FP1/2 on Friday, qualifying on Saturday late morning / lunchtime then race Saturday afternoon. Teams then stay on for a test session on Sunday. Heck, bring back spare cars and let the test drivers race on Sunday afternoon so you have two full days of entertainment. Maybe have a mixed F1/GP2 race with test drivers in the F1 cars and the top 10 from the GP2 race getting to fill out the grid.

  12. So my fantasy solution:

    1 billion dollar pot.

    Remove all historic and bonus payments that teams like Ferrari and red bull receive ( I know never gonna happen) and suck 1 billion of the tv revenue to be distributed amongst the teams via a points system similar to current. Remove all other testing and cost restrictions.

    The solution works because with money like that up for grabs we have the following:
    1) a highly marketable factor guaranteeing interest and viewership, it’s pretty easy to sell: they are racing for a billion.
    2) teams will be willing to spend quite a bit chasing that money and our current back markers will not have a chance on thier budgets BUT new investment will come and healthy budgeted teams will continue to grow ( personally I find it embarrassing that there are teams not spending at least 100m to compete in F1)
    3) with money like this on the line we will see even more fierce competition and teams will be more than willing to open up testing. The teams make the rules as you know, the FIA is a shadow of this mechanism.
    4) if the winning team receives 400m for example they could spend 350m and be quite profitable – don’t we all want to see what f1 cars are like on truly unlimited budgets?

    The billion is there if cvc gave it up, it would be a wise move in the long run.

  13. I’ve always preferred to see a more natural way of sharing the wealth. Teams would be allowed to test any number of days for any number of hours. All days must be open to the public. For the purpose of fan appreciation, a small number of tests would be mandatory at the team’s discretion, requiring any 2 of 3 selected tests as mandatory (or 3 of 4, 1 of 2, whatever works). Teams would also be allowed a small number of exempt hours for shakedown and/or media/sponsorship events.

    Sharing the wealth would come by way of how teams pay for testing. The more you test the more you pay. The wealthier teams can test as much as they can afford. The scrappier teams may choose to test as little as possible. An option might be that various levels of drivers offer discounted hours — for example, a test driver may accumulate at 80% and a junior driver accumulate at 50%. At various checkpoints in the season the accumulated fees would be divided amongst the teams proportionate to the number of hours testing in reverse order. By way of example, there are three teams testing 10 hours, 50 hours, and 100 hours respectively. Team 1 with 10 hours would have a weight of 90 (100-10). Team 2 with 50 hours would have a weight of 50 and team 3 a weight of 0. Team 1 would receive 90/140 of the accumulated fees. Team 3 would receive 0/140.

    If such a system could work then it could also be applied to wind tunnel testing in a similar fashion. Perhaps paying additional fees for larger scale models or various types of wind tunnels that might offer greater levels of utility relative to others.

    Regards,
    Matt.

  14. Mr mckidd ..so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the new kid on the block to have to spend 400 million on a R&D facility to rival red bull, merc and Ferrari without first receiving any of Mr E’s pennies and without the huge sponsorship of a global brand. How can you expect any one to ever enter formula 1 again with a clever little car and turn a few heads. That’s why the romance of F1 is dead..

  15. The FIA should try and find a balance. And the best way is to increase price money to the poorer teams and not try impose testing restrictions to suit teams that cannot afford it.

    Sometimes it isn’t about affordability it is about preparedness sometimes, so restricting tests to a single car means test sessions get wasted when a car develops a serious fault.

  16. Adopting more relaxed regulations on the Friday practice sessions is certainly simple and reasonable. On the account of helping keep costs reasonable, it doesn’t even have to happen on all GPs, only one those better suited for testing and/or where the promoter could help cover the costs. Not only would it allow development, but it would also make the GP weekends much more attractive and help boost attendance and TV audience, on account of the natural added interest generated.

    But, like I said. It’s simple and reasonable. I don’t think the people in charge are capable of anything less than convoluted clouded by political interests.

  17. “That’s the paradox of it in a way though, it’s the pinnacle of motorsport yet they’re trying to set up rules that favour those who can’t afford to compete at the highest level. I get that with the skewed revenue it makes it an un-level playing field, but if they rearranged those to a fairer proportion per team then I think they should be allowed to open up the restrictions on testing and things like that. If teams constantly need bail-outs just in order to be able to trundle around miles off the pace, it kind of suggests that they’re possibly in the wrong discipline to be brutally honest. I know in the past there was more scope for the ‘underdog’ to perform well, but times have changed now.”

    I really think Formula 1 rule book needs to be looked at closely and paired down greatly. The token system isn’t really a good thing and it’ causing issues for new manufacturers and teams as they enter the sport. The restrictions need to be lifted on in season testing, development, and wind tunnel time.

    Trying to level the playing field for the have nots is hurting the sport. If a smaller team with a smaller budget wants to enter Formula 1, they should be prepared to constantly be looking for new sponsors and diversifying themselves. Basically acting like a prostitute who continuously is marketing herself to customers. Formula 1/FIA should have a program in place to help the smaller teams with less name recognition learn how to get sponsors that align well with their teams.

    Formula 1/FIA should also have protocols in place that look at a potential F1 team owner’s business and dealings to make sure that they are on a course of long term stability that is ethical before they are allowed to enter the sport. This way there wouldn’t be the worry of owners going belly up or ending up in jail and the grid being in trouble. The smaller teams that have been closed in the last couple of years have had somewhat shady ownership with questionable business ethics.

    I honestly think that the smaller teams could have an easier time if they would think outside the box but instead they have the “we can’t” mentality.

    Testing in Formula 1 is important. The sport should be increasing the testing days not decreasing them. If testing time keeps getting decreased, the Australian GP could end up being more of a race of retirements then it is now because the teams haven’t had track time to work out the bugs in the power unit, gearboxes, etc. This effects the quality of the racing and the show for the fans.

    Wind tunnel time is important too. If a team wants and needs time in a wind tunnel, they’ll find a way to make it happen.

    If the teams are looking for a way to have testing days at reduced costs, they could have them at Silverstone. The teams, big and small, would get valuable on-track time and the factory staff could come and watch wIth their families. Logistics would have to be worked out as far as crowd control, security, etc.

    Once Bernie Eccelestone passes and he is no longer taking his cut of the money pie and that money can be redistributed to the teams, I think that things will get a little easier for the smaller teams because hopefully the person that takes over for Bernie will have a better grasp of Formula 1’s current situation and take less money. After all, what does a person do with it all? They live in Monaco and Switzerland to avoid the tax man and there are only so many material things that a person can buy.

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