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 ??12 each for its three-day pre-race test (??30 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

  1. I think Fridays should be turned into test days. From 8am to 6pm (or whatever time scale is feasible), F1 teams are permitted to test with up to three cars, with engines/gearboxes exempt from the long-life regulations that apply to qualifying and races. In-season testing outside of the race weekend should still be banned. This way, rookies get a chance to test, teams can still do part development and setup work, and the fans get a good show.

    The only possible issue with this is the timetabling of support races on only Saturday and Sunday. But in the end most of the fans pay to see F1 cars, which is what they will get for the whole of Friday.

    • Bigbadderboom said on 5th August 2009, 12:03

      Good point Andy, logistical costs would be kpept to a minimum and then tests would be “open” in respect of fans. This would also be much easier for tv coverage as the BBC in the uk would just red button it all day.
      This would give the fans a real insight as well, the more I consider this the more i like it, nice one Andy, but it makes too much sense so we know the FIA wouldn’t support it, and it wouldn’t give Bernie any more money so it’s not in his interest.

  2. Sjakie said on 5th August 2009, 10:59

    Some good ideas are listed here. I would love to see all F1 cars in Zandvoort as preparation for the Belgium GP. I’ll be there for sure.

    But when you look at the costs, testing at the same circuit after the race is the best option. The cars, people and equipment are there already.

    But the people that work during the weekend, now have to work longer, until the test are over. Many teams have a testteam, that would mean more people will have to travel to the circuit.

  3. Adrian said on 5th August 2009, 11:00

    Keith, have you considered throwing your hat into the ring for FiA President?

  4. Sven said on 5th August 2009, 11:30

    Yes make the fridays free testing days where the teams can test with 3 cars, test drivers or new drivers with engines and gearboxes outside the limitation rules.
    There would be a lot of action on the track for the fans,
    cheap for the teams and fair for everyone.

  5. beaker said on 5th August 2009, 12:47

    I am not sure about fridays, my only reservation being that it may make for less interesting races, e.g. being able to set a car up to its absolute potential could lead to processional races.

    Does anybody know whether that testing ban has led to lower development costs? logistical definitely. Given that you now have to ensure that any upgrade must work first time, does this lead to high development costs? or is the old method of throwing upgrades at a car and testing what works and what does not more expensive.

    Just some random thoughts…

  6. matt said on 5th August 2009, 13:15

    Yes, and surely they could combine it with some other series’ demonstration races to keep it more varied and interesting.

  7. Leaf said on 5th August 2009, 13:39

    Brilliant idea. However, being as jaded as I am from observing the constant politics that go on in F1 I have to say it won’t fly. While FOTA would most likely try to introduce something along these lines Williams will have an objection to it. :-)

  8. GooddayBruce said on 5th August 2009, 13:44

    Hells yeah!

    What about using a track in the US, with top drivers from the US scene testing alongside regular F1 drivers and young prospects?

    I think we could go further – why not some non-championship Grands Prix? Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel vs Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at Elkheart Lake or somewhere? I would stay up late to see that.

    The only solution to less testing is to have more racing. A non-championhsip, FOTA run grand prix would surely not be beyond the realms of possibility and would certainly put Max and Bernie in their place.

  9. nolaughs84 said on 5th August 2009, 13:49

    how about replacing the current scheme w/ tests on an oval? arent people compaining about the noise around airfields where they do the straightline tests? and airfields dont have grandstands…

  10. Brian said on 5th August 2009, 14:58

    I think everyone agrees with Keith its great. But if it in anyway benefits the average joe fan, then I have a feeling the FIA won’t allow it. As far as I can tell, they are prett anti-not rich people.

  11. marc said on 5th August 2009, 15:01

    Why not winter testing (pre season) and about this time have 2 more testing session on a agreed/selected track. This way they can test new drivers when others are taking a break,

  12. mp4-19b said on 5th August 2009, 15:02

    people who support the testing ban are nuts!! thats all i can say.

  13. net.sticks said on 5th August 2009, 15:19

    YES, them never should be banned in the first place… We own our thanks (again) to Mr. MAD Max Mosley for that…

    It’s cazy – the teams are testing aero improvements on matchbox models and small vans…

    And this is the top of technological achibements…

    Poor F1… poor us how love it… God damn the powers that allow (I know it all) the rising of a star – Schumi – because ratings went donw after Senna dies and then created a monster that they couldn’t control, have givven a lot of vantage to Ferrari, rating went down again because the damn bozo have the races won before even starting… and now, after he won everything it was to win, break every record there was, bring back the 40 year dude again – it’s a splash, rating will go up again, for sure, everybody wants to see what’s going to happen – will he do something, will he do nothing?… Will we laught of it – will FIA start introducing a clown per race to keep Bernie’s and their own pocket’s full?… We never know – them already prove to all of us that they can do whatever they want and, no matter how stupid it is, they get away with it and nobody can do nothing (execpt the teams – retire all and leave two old men playing with matchbox formula 1 car from the ’60s… Man I’m so tired of all this ‘formula one’… I just wanted to see good races, fair and normal rules… Keep the safety improovments and return to the ’80s… That’s an ideia! Remeber Keke Rosberg’s 1.000 horse power Williams? Remmeber Dallas, all those REAL stars, all those GREAT tracks… now all we get is those frigid tracks from that german guy nobody ever heard before many Bernie ‘invent’ him to do some drawings of new tracks. I admit – the edifications on the new tracks are nice, related to local tradition, but the tracks have no soul… there’s no history, everythin is design with a rule and a compass… I wonder if Silverstone was even drawn on a paper before they make the first race race – now that’s a track with a lot of soul, maybe the one that has more…

    • Patrickl said on 5th August 2009, 18:18

      YES, them never should be banned in the first place… We own our thanks (again) to Mr. MAD Max Mosley for that…

      I guess you don’t realize that I was the teams wo proposed to cut testing? Mosley simply accepted their proposal. You can hardly blame Mosley for that!

  14. zplol said on 5th August 2009, 17:03

    I think the friday practice sessions should simply be changed to a test day…
    Most teams realize on the sunday if what they brought was competitive or not. Also, what’s the point of testing parts that will be replaced / be obsolete for the next GP. I don’t think you would get to see much action on mondays.

    I think it should be 8-12am 3rd/test drivers only, 1-5 race drivers only.

  15. SoLiD said on 5th August 2009, 17:24

    I think a complete friday testday could be great (altough you need to get the other classes to drive).
    The day(s) after the race is a good solution too. MotoGP has been doing it indeed, they would be testing a lot for sure!

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