Bring back testing? Here’s a better idea

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Jules Bianchi, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Jules Bianchi, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Jean Todt wants to allow teams to test during the season for the first time since 2008.

But while there is a need to give young drivers more opportunities to drive Formula 1 cars, there are downsides to allowing too much testing.

That’s why I think a better alternative is to bring back non-championship Grand Prix races.

The problems of testing

Bringing back testing to give new drivers the opportunity to get mileage at the wheel of an F1 car makes sense.

Aside from that, why increase the amount of testing teams can do? It’s not as if there’s been a massive spate in car failures. The Chinese Grand Prix set a new record for the most drivers to finish an F1 race.

But a radical change in the technical rules is planned for 2013. So it’s not hard to see why teams might need more than the 15 days of pre-season running, plus a few other days during and after the season, which they get at the moment.

Still, there are many good reasons why testing was banned in the first place and F1 should take care not to forget those lessons.

Too much testing will reduce the teams’ need to run in practice on race weekends. And the more teams can test and understand their cars and the new tyres, the more predictable racing will become.

Then there’s the cost. The teams have already disbanded their separate testing teams to save money. Earlier this week Williams stressed the importance of the Resource Restriction Agreement in helping them reduce costs and remain in the sport.

This points towards several obvious things the FIA must restrict if in-season testing is to return.

How testing should be restricted

Teams should be required to test together, at the same tracks, on the same days to keep costs down.

They should not be allowed to test at Grand Prix venues, to ensure they still do set-up work and testing during race weekend practice sessions.

They should only be allowed to run drivers with no Grand Prix experience. And, of course, the total number of test days allowed should be kept to a strict minimum.

But what’s the point of going to the considerable expense of running F1 cars without taking advantage of the opportunity to draw a crowd and make some money? This is why bringing back non-championship races makes sense.

Make testing an event

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2010

A three-day, non-championship race weekend could include all the testing time teams need on Friday and Saturday, followed by qualifying and a race on Sunday.

There would be other benefits such as allowing them to test changes to racing rules outside of the championship: such as getting rid of the ‘use both tyres’ rule or changes to the Drag Reduction System.

Resurrecting non-championship race could allow teams to give testing opportunities for young drivers but also participate in a competitive event which will offer far more opportunities for promotion than a dreary eight-hour test.

It would be F1’s equivalent of a ‘friendly’ football match.

Who wouldn’t want to see Jules Bianchi in a Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo in a Red Bull, Oliver Turvey in a McLaren and Romain Grosjean in a Renault racing at Motorland Aragon and Imola?

A ‘pie in the sky’ plan, perhaps. No doubt Grand Prix contracts include clauses that prevent F1 cars from participating in any other races in countries that hold world championship events. But that still leaves us with Portimao in Portugal and Magny-Cours in France.

But running F1 cars isn’t cheap and the teams should take advantage of any opportunity to promote themselves and the sport.

F1 races, 1950-2001

The rise of the world championship means there hasn’t been a non-championship race for F1 cars since Keke Rosberg took the chequered flag at Brands Hatch on April 10th, 1983.

This chart shows how many world championship and non-championship F1 races there have been in every year since the world championship began.

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2011drivercolours.csv

1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
World championship races 7 8 8 9 9 7 8 8 11 9 10 8 9 10 10 10 9 11 12 11 13 11 12 15 15 14 16 17 16 15 14 15 16 15 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 17 16 17 16 16 17 17 17 16 18 19 18 17 18 17 19 19
Non-championship races 16 14 7 4 24 16 10 10 5 5 5 21 20 14 8 6 4 6 3 4 3 8 7 2 3 3 2 1 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

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127 comments on Bring back testing? Here’s a better idea

  1. Who wouldn’t want to see Jules Bianchi in a Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo in a Red Bull, Oliver Turvey in a McLaren and Romain Grosjean in a Renault racing at Motorland Aragon and Imola?

    Only a crazy person, that’s who!!

  2. James said on 12th May 2011, 11:17

    Disagree. I think it’ll be too expensive. The teams would be throwing stupid amounts of money at it and would probably get less of a return. I dont think the tracks would manage to break even on this one either in terms of financial gains, which is what they all seem to be caring a lot more about now.

    What I think should happen is what Bernie Eccelstone and Eddie Jordan touched on in the BBC coverage to the Turkish GP – and that is have very limited testing sessions/weekends per year, but only allow young drivers to test – ones who have not raced in F1. That way the teams are able to run their own programmes to develop both their cars and their drivers. Two birds, one stone.

    I dont think fine tuning race craft of the drivers would be a reason for non-championship events either, as pretty much all test drivers compete in other racing series anyway.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th May 2011, 11:44

      But having inexperienced guys doing testing will be only beneficial for teams like McLaren who have an experienced tester who qualifies as a newby driver (paffet).

      Otherwise using young guys limits what you can test apart from straight line runs and shake offs.

      • BBT said on 12th May 2011, 13:11

        Testing yes, race weekends no. Too expensive

      • Don Mateo said on 12th May 2011, 17:08

        But having inexperienced guys doing testing will be only beneficial for teams like McLaren who have an experienced tester who qualifies as a newby driver (paffet).

        They could always impose a mileage limit – i.e. not allowed to run drivers who have covered more than X miles in an F1 car. That would avoid the issue.

  3. Shimks said on 12th May 2011, 11:40

    An absolutely superb idea, Keith!

  4. King Six said on 12th May 2011, 11:45

    I was thinking exactly this just a few weeks ago. But I think there would be too much commercial wrangling, FOTA, FOM, FIA blah blah blah… it’ll never get through

  5. Calum (@calum) said on 12th May 2011, 11:50

    Friday:
    Standard Practice 1
    3rd Driver Practice (Quali)

    Saturday:
    Standard Practice 2
    Qualifying

    Sunday:
    3rd Driver Practice (Race)
    Standard Race

    With more teams are running 3rd drivers in practice again, why not sacrafice one of Friday’s practice sessions for the registered 3rd drivers only. They could have their own tyres and engines for their practice sessions which would promote more F1 running on track for fans, rubber in the track for teams as well as testing new parts and helping with weekend setup.

    There would be 12 competitors on track using each teams 3rd car, and I suggest they turn this 1hr session into a quali session for the 3rd drivers to line up in their own Sunday race, using a 1hr countdown and fastest lap at the end wins pole.

    Also add a new session on the Sunday so there is 2 sessions on each of the three days, the race day is the most expensive but gets the least hours of F1 action. I suggest adding another 3rd driver session using the 3rd chassis. This would be a one hour endurance race where most laps wins.

  6. topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 12th May 2011, 11:51

    Sounds like a great idea to me, Keith, you’re a genius.

    I was actually wondering a while back whether a ‘winter series’ for drivers with no F1 seat in the previous year might be a goer (not for testing, just for the sake of it). You’d have a mix of new drivers from GP2 and Superleague (trying to get themselves into F1 seats for the year coming up), veteran guys like Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Montoya and Raikkonen, and guys from other series like Loeb and Rossi, driving cars from the previous season.

    • James said on 12th May 2011, 12:41

      veteran guys like Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Montoya and Raikkonen, and guys from other series like Loeb and Rossi, driving cars from the previous season.

      Good luck getting Montoya and Raikkonen back into an F1 car. lol

      Although what you’re essentially describing here is Race of Champions.

  7. Keith – how’s about whether or not the teams get to use their tested components in the race? Ie would the race be under FIA regulations, or would they be relaxed?

    If the rules are relaxed, then I think it could be quite spectacular to get to see the effects of some real innovation.

    Although, perhaps if the teams found something really useful in their testing they would sand-bag to hide it…

  8. Tim said on 12th May 2011, 12:35

    As a fan, I think it’s a great idea and I’d love to see it happen. The teams would be able to turn testing into an event with more opportunities for PR and corporate hospitality than a normal test day.

    Sadly, however, it’s likely to be little more than pie in the sky – as acknowledged in the article. A testing programme a team would want to run is usually very different from a race weekend, so there’s probably less technical benefit to be had. If you introduce an element of competition together with young drivers then it adds to the risk of them throwing cars into walls more often than they currently do.

  9. Christian Briddon said on 12th May 2011, 12:54

    I wish they would bring back testing as it is a cheap way to experience F1 live.

    My wife and I go to Silverstone every year and my 6 year old daughter is getting into F1 now. It’s too expensive to take her to the race with us so being able to go to Silverstone for a days testing would be great.

    I’m sure there are others who would love to see F1 cars live without having to pay the high ticket prices for a race.

  10. Boost (@boost) said on 12th May 2011, 12:55

    Non-championship races shouldn´t exist and shouldn´t be called races at the level of F1 if they don´t give points towards a championship.

    I don´t think that F1 needs more testing. The only reason to have more testing is to help younger drivers to get into F1 to get more used to the cars.

    If you have to increase testing I would instead use the race weekends very much like Calum mentioned above. Prolong the practise sessions so the last part of the session will only be for a third car not bound by restrictions to amount of engines, gear-boxes etc. with a test driver/young driver.

  11. baldry888 said on 12th May 2011, 13:01

    Have a non champioship race at bathurst during the bathurst 1000 weekend as a support catergory
    !!!

  12. HounslowBusGarage said on 12th May 2011, 13:02

    Keith,
    are we talking about pre-season or in-season testing?
    The real F1 season is already pretty long and the build-up to the first race of the new season is already pretty fraught for many teams trying to get ready in time. So I’m not sure an organised, non-championship race for ‘apprentice’ drivers is going to be too appealing if the teams are desperately building two cars for the start of the real season. Only the super-rich teams could afford to split their effort (or duplicate personnel), and I don’t think the idea is to benefit the super-rich teams, is it?
    Once the season actually starts, there aren’t many weekends when in-season testing is possible without impinging on the August break or the three week break we’ve just had. And if Bernie manages to cram in another two races, it’ll be even more difficult.
    The best solution I can think of is to follow the Moto GP example and have Monday testing post-race at some venues. I have no idea if that’s open to spectators, or what the cost is, but I would pay to see twenty or so F1 cars pounding round with test drivers replacing the mega-stars.

  13. BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th May 2011, 13:04

    Another positive is, it would enable different tracks and teams of people have a try at getting an F1 race organised. And why not let them throw in the odd concert as well if they are doing an event? There are bound to be some entertainers who would like to combine the things.

    Certainly not a luxury if we look at the so far bland experiences in like Turkey, China, AbuDhabi and Bahrain (sorry LAK, but you must admit its not been a huge crowd at your place)

  14. BBT said on 12th May 2011, 13:16

    The teams / new drivers need a bit more testing (or a least the lower teams do if they can afford it) not a non points race weekend, that is nothing like testing, the season is over congested enough.
    It you are taking about 15 championship races and 5 non points races then that has a bit of merit but I’d still be against it.

  15. DrJon (@drjon) said on 12th May 2011, 13:16

    Non-championship races! A real blast from the past. In the 1970s, as a teenager, I used to go to the Race of Champions, which was held at Brands Hatch in the middle of March. It was cheap to get in (I seem to remember paying £5 or so for circuit entry) and for an extra couple of quid you could walk round he paddock as well. The weather was always a bit unpredictable: one year I got sunburn and the following year I remember the surreal sight of watching Formula 1 cars racing through a snowstorm! There was an amazing mixture of entries – most of the WDC entrants would turn up, but there would also be up and coming young drivers given a chance in a current F1 car – in fact I think Keke Rosberg’s first F1 win was at the Race of Champions . Making up the rest of the field would be a collection of Formula 5000 cars and 2-3 year old F1 cars that had been bought up from the teams and were being raced by privateers.

    I think F1 teams must have rather less precious in those days, as nobody seemed to think it wrong to have such a mixture of cars in the same race. The F5000 cars were several seconds a lap slower than the F1 entrants but less prone to breaking down, so we used to get some quite exciting races. Could such a race take place nowadays? Almost certainly not. In the 1970s, teams went racing because they wanted to win races, the finances apparently being secondary. Provided the entry money covered the costs then they would turn up. I can’t imagine the accountants who run F1 now taking a similar view. Ah well – it’s nice to dream.

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