F1 should bring back testing as an event

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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