F1 should bring back testing as an event

Fans wait to meet Lewis Hamilton at last year's F1 test at Silverstone

Fans wait to meet Lewis Hamilton at last year's F1 test at Silverstone

Michael Schumacher’s return to F1 and Jaime Alguersuari’s debut in Hungary has sparked a debate over the problems with the ban on testing during the season this year.

The ban was intended to cut costs, but it has caused problems for teams wishing to evaluate new drivers.

I think F1 is missing some valuable opportunities by not having testing during the season. Here’s my proposal for bringing it back.

The World Motor Sports Council agreed to ban testing for nine months in 2009 (with some exceptions) shortly after Honda’s shock withdrawal from F1 last year.

Last year much of the in-season testing was done in Spain. This meant teams incurred the costs of transporting their cars to distant circuits and back again.

The remainder were often conducted in the run-up to Grands Prix on the same circuits where the teams would be racing. Although it was cost-effective, as it fit in with the teams’ travel schedules, it meant they were less inclined to do running early in the Grand Prix weekend, meaning worse value for money for spectators at the event.

Could they combine the two approaches and get the best of both worlds?

What if a limited number of tests were allowed per year? These could be at circuits other than Grand Prix venues, but near to them.

For example, the pre-Italian Grand Prix test could be held at Imola, just a few hours away from Monza. Similarly before the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, the teams could test at Hockenheim.

Public entry to the tests could be charged (at a much lower rate than race weekends, of course), drivers could do autograph sessions and perhaps the paddock area could be opened up a little more than it is at hectic Grand Prix weekends.

There is definitely a demand for such an event in F1′s heartland countries. Last year Silverstone sold 5,000 tickets at ?é?ú12 each for its three-day pre-race test (?é?ú30 for all three days), which was held on weekdays.

There could also be ‘rookie only’ tests for teams looking to evaluate up-and-coming drivers. This would help the likes of Red Bull, who replaced Sebastien Bourdais with the untried Jaime Alguersuari. Similarly Nelson Piquet Jnr’s likely replacement, Romain Grosjean, has only driven the 2009-spec Renault in straight-line aerodynamics tests.

Given that F1 fans have so few opportunities to see modern F1 cars in action – just 17 races this year – I’m sure test sessions could, with a little imagination, be reintroduced as extra mini-events on the F1 calendar.

What do you think? Should they allow some testing during the season next year?

See pictures from last year’s Silverstone test here: Pictures: Silverstone F1 test paddock

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59 comments on F1 should bring back testing as an event

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  1. Howard said on 5th August 2009, 7:45

    One other possibility would be to allow them to test the day after each race on the same circuit, that way no extra travel costs/time & no risk of damaging the car before the race.

  2. Hear, hear! I’ve had this exact thought for a number of years, now. There are 3 options for this, in my view:
    (1) Testing at GP venues after the Grand Prix, like they do in MotoGP.
    (2) Official pre-season and in-season testing sessions where all teams would be present, at non-GP venues, perhaps even in non-GP countries, like Austria, Portugal, the Netherlands, et cetera. And F1 could even consider flying the entire testing circus to Kyalami, for instance.
    (3) And, like you stated, having Imola and Hockenheim to accompany Monza and the Nurburgring. While the first option would be by far the easiest to accomplish, this could be more interesting, since it would see additional circuits being visited during the year.

    To accommodate official tests, and official tests only, the FIA could mandate, say, 2 pre-season tests consisting of 4 or 5 days, one 3-day session at 1/3rd season distance, and one 3-day session at 2/3rds of the season. This would spread out testing somewhat, too.

    Rookie-only tests are a good idea, too. Say 1 day per in-season session.

    And lastly, FOM should stream those sessions online, and have video items end of day, too.

  3. Jocky Boy said on 5th August 2009, 8:05

    have to say i like the idea of the testing at the track AFTER the race. the arguements for this idea are exellent.

  4. Ben Ell said on 5th August 2009, 8:27

    I’ve been thinking something pretty similar for a while too, based on what the Le Mans Series do, where there are official test sessions during the season.

    For F1 scale it up to 4 or 5 per year or something. But yeah, 1 or 2 day session at a circuit, every team can attend with up to 2 cars. But if they don’t attend the official test days, they can’t test. Maybe have 1 or 2 at Jerez or Valencia, one or two at HTTT Paul Ricard (maybe have a different track configuration each day), and one or two at Algarve (or Mugello, Imola, Hockenheim, etc, just not any GP circuits). Testing only allowed on those days, at those locations. Open it up to crowds for a nominal fee (thats the key, not blowing out to Eu40 per day or something), they’ll have as many at 20 cars on track for an entire day and much more action than a friday at a GP weekend.
    F1 gets limited testing, teams get testing, fans get to see the cars on track that they might not get to otherwise (cos lets face it GP tickets are beyond a lot of people).

    I still think pre-season should be the current situation, but in season testing change to official test days at particular circuits.

  5. Ronman said on 5th August 2009, 8:40

    Definitely Keith, Testing should be re-introduced.

    to cut costs, in season testing would definetly be logical at a different track in the same country, and pre season testing could be held in each constructors respective country to cut transportation costs.

    now i guess they all bundled in Spain’s Jerez because they get a deal, that could keep up as well… if it makes financial sense..

    • It’s also much better weather than can be expected in Britain (home of most teams at the moment). I remember when Midland/Spyker used to test cars when there was frost on the ground…

  6. Chris said on 5th August 2009, 8:46

    On a small side line what do people think of the F1 Rocks (F1 Rocks) Idea for revenue generation.

    I must admit i think it is a great idea. Also quite good at attracting younger audiances to F1

    • matt said on 5th August 2009, 13:24

      Nice idea but I disagree with the name as Beyonce in particular is not rock. And although it is a nice idea it does not even slightly appeal to me as I would rather cut off my ears than watch a band like Black Eyed Peas. The trouble with it is that it is not like a typical music event where people all go for a particular type of music, it is an event which is aimed at F1 fans, who naturally like different things, and it will be extrordinarily difficult to appeal to everyone. If they put a range of bands on, then people may only like one band on the bill, and although better than nothing, that probably won’t justify the ticket price.

      • DGR-F1 said on 5th August 2009, 14:39

        For sure – this is just Bernie trying to get more money back for CVC on the back of all the expensive TV deals he has in place…… :-)

      • todd said on 6th August 2009, 5:06

        yeah black eyed peas (sell outs to anyone who wants to give them money) and beyonce are hardly worth going to see. maybe for teens but i doubt many f1 fans.

        the only good thing at the last malaysian GP i went to was a DJ up on one of the hills beating out tunes all weekend.

  7. I think all the ideas in the article + monday testing are great. Unfortunately that’s the requirement for FIA to avoid using it.

  8. CovertGiblets said on 5th August 2009, 9:09

    I think most sane people would agree with the idea Keith. It smacks of both common sense and oportunities for the fans to get close to the cars at reasonable prices. As long as the logistical costs can be minimised then everyone will be happy.

    That’s why the FIA will never agree to it!!

    I would add that the nominated test drivers/rookies should be the ONLY drivers to test in ANY of the sessions. That way all the team drivers get time in the cars.

  9. Damon said on 5th August 2009, 9:15

    The testing ban is good because it reduces costs for developing the car.
    But the teams should be allowed to give their rookies drivers old cars to drive in.
    Just like Schumacher’s driving the 2007 Ferrari now.
    Even if the car was 4 or 5 years old – it’s still a modern F1 car. Paradoxically, those cars where even faster. The teams could evaluate their rookies, without compromising the testing ban, which prohibits them from putting money into the development of the cars. This would also hinder them from cheating.

  10. Alex Cooper said on 5th August 2009, 9:19

    I’d like to see 3rd / 4th / etc. and test drivers be given more to do. There’s a pool of drivers around F1 who do little more than wear a team shirt for most of the season (Klein, De La Rosa, Gene, Badoer, Liuzzi, Davidson when he’s not commentating, etc.).

    Recent changes to the rules have created a buffer of quality, if not championship winning, talent that has no where else to go except the usual retired F1 drivers’ route such as Touring Cars or Le Mans.

  11. Arun Srini said on 5th August 2009, 10:08

    As much as I love to hear F1 tests in the ‘nearby’ circuits, safety, circuit conditions may hamper this, and if they need to be in place, the circuit may charge a bit higher fee.
    Anyway, it was nice to read this and feel happy that someone else thinks about me, but I just woke back to reality that F1 is very un-friendly to the fans, governed by ppl unworthy for their posts!! so let me get back to work

  12. YODADDA said on 5th August 2009, 10:08

    Another bonus for Monday testing would be to miss the traffic!!
    1) Watch race
    2) Sunday night entertainment – Camping, food and drink revenue
    3) Watch testing – drive home early afternoon Monday with less traffic.
    Y

  13. Arun Srinivasan said on 5th August 2009, 10:08

    ……………..

  14. Russell said on 5th August 2009, 10:16

    There has been talk (started by Luca) of teams taking a ‘third car’ to F1GP races, but clearly, 39 cars on the grid is a non-starter for many circuits (e.g., Monaco). So how about a rookie ‘wind down’ race after the main event of the Sunday? They would get to race in the current F1 cars, but effectively what used to be called the ‘T car’. Yep, there would be only 13 cars on the grid, but that might not be a bad thing for rookie drivers as they go into the first corner… And I’ve seen plenty of exciting races with far less than 13 cars in it…. It would help stagger the departing crowds and the traffic as well.

    • While the idea is quite good, there’s one practical issue: teams are no longer allowed to bring a T-car to races, and I doubt they’re willing to risk one of their race cars in what is in a way a meaningless race.

    • bwells said on 5th August 2009, 21:26

      I think we need in season testing for sure..
      The idea of testing after a GP sounds awesome… better than watching the race 6 times after it’s over… and it’ll give young drivers a chance to get behind the wheel… if the new F1 is going to be anything about the fans well these sort of things should happen for sure… :)

      Anybody on facebook come and join the Formula One Fans Association… a great little group all about the people!… :)

      http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/FOFA/118635260743

  15. sean said on 5th August 2009, 10:23

    there is only one problem Keith you show way to much common sense. Brilliant idea but Im sure the powers that be will shoot it down because it will work.

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