Circuit testing during an F1 season has been almost entirely banned since the start of last season
But now several prominent figures in F1 have voiced a desire to bring back in-season testing in the near future.
Would increasing the amount of testing allowed be good for the sport? Or are there better ways to use expensive track time than testing?
Ferrari’s recent use of a ‘filming day’ to run the latest upgrades for their F10 provoked discussion over the revival of testing.
McLaren team principal and FOTA president Martin Whitmarsh put the case for it:
A little bit of testing in F1 would be the right thing. We had to take significant measures, given the crisis that our economy and F1 had, but I think now as we can see and feel signs of the economy improving, then hopefully we can go back to testing.
F1 is about running cars. I think drivers enjoy testing, the teams enjoy going testing and developing cars, so I think it is a good thing to do and progressively, as the health and well-being of the teams develop, then hopefully we can do it.
Yesterday HRT’s Geoff Willis urged the teams to find a way of making testing a regular part of the F1 calendar:
While it was sensible to stop unrestricted testing, a better balance would have been to have certain fixed testing times common to all teams and wrap up a commercial operation around it.
You have to remember that there are often fairly large gaps when there is no F1 in Europe and we could have one test in Spain, one in Italy, one in the UK, something like that.
The most obvious downside of increasing testing is the cost. As Willis explained, even a small increase in the amount of testing could have a disproportionately large effect on teams’ budgets:
Unless the calendar was particularly sympathetic [it] would mean going back to requiring an additional test team. Unless you can synchronise the calendar and actually use your race team to do the tests, but that might be difficult and would probably take a couple of years to work out.
There have also been beneficial effects from the testing ban. Teams have been much busier during race weekend practice sessions, as they are now their best opportunity to try new parts.
Previously it was not unusual for some teams to sit out most or even all of some practice sessions at race weekends. Where’s the sense in having cars pounding around a deserted track for hours then hiding in their garages a few days later when thousands of spectators have paid to see them?
I think it’s an encouraging sign that teams feel they are able to increase the amount of activity they are involved in during a season. But I don’t think it automatically follows that more testing is the best thing to spend it on.
Given a choice between more testing and more races, and I’ll always pick more races.
Allowing a small amount of testing would be worthwhile – with certain restrictions. For example, teams may only use drivers not currently active in the world championship, and all the teams have to test together and only at venues not currently used for F1 races.
But I can’t see any value in going back to the days of teams covering more ground in testing than they do on race weekends.
More races or more test sessions? Or both? Cast your vote and leave a comment below.