Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Bring back testing? Here’s a better idea

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.


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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Image ?é?® Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Red Bull / Getty images

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

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

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

        Which, of course, is what the last ever non-championship race was called!

      2. Funnily enough I find the RoC completely contrived and dull.

        I like the thing NASCAR (is it NASCAR?) is doing with the 5 Million Dollar Race though.

        1. Its IndyCar doing that, I agree that is a nice idea to spice up the series and get in new viewers.

  2. 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…

  3. 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.

  4. Christian Briddon
    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.

  5. 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.

    1. But that would just put more cost in (3rd car, extra engine and tyres) for no real benefit at all.

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

  7. HounslowBusGarage
    12th May 2011, 13:02

    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.

  8. 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)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. It seems some of the commenters “in favor” of the testing ban, which is a “completely arbitrary” rule conjured up to force teams to behave inside of a pre-determined box of parameters defined by some committee in France, are the same commenters that “are against” the DRS as being phoney and not in the spirit of unbridled, pure racing-sport. Oh the irony. Hmmm.

    1. The comparison doesn’t make sense.

      It would if, for example, teams that finished lower down in a race got to do more testing.

  12. I think in-season testing is good. Teams need to test their car before the season and halfwya through to improve it. Having said this, non-championship races would give teams the same information and mileage but provide a new entertainment for the viewer. I’d rather see some race weekends at other circuits during the season, where young drivers can deeply examine the experience of being full time drivers in F1, than having three day tests with drivers that can’t improve their driving or their handling because of testing new parts. Sure, new components can be tested too, during the practice sessions of these non-championship races, but on the second day there would be a qualifying session, just as in F1, and the following day a race, maybe a little shorter tha normal ones, on different circuits.
    It would be like having the usual testing days, but with a win to be earned in a race between the rookies. It would be fantastic to see young talents driving cars they might drive in near future, and possibly see exciting duels between future champions.

  13. I think the idea is not bad, but I can’t see it happening today due to logistic problems.

    Before 1981, the seasons’ calendars were only at maximum 15 races long. With the 20 race calendar of this season (19 if Bahrain is not rescheduled), a calendar which spans from March until November, it doesn’t leave much room for testing, let alone for extra races.

    As already mentioned, one must also not forget the the contracts circuits have in place to host races. With the introduction of U.S.A. next year and possibly some country like Russia the years after, it would be less likely that non-championship races would be done, given how large the calendar would be.

    The restrictions you listed regarding testing are good, but from a team’s point of view, especially the smaller teams, I doubt that they will view them as cost efficient, thus raising resistance. By testing in circuits which drivers do not compete on during the championship, traveling costs will rise. Some teams might also not like the idea that young inexperience drivers will crash the cars during testing, incurring more costs in the process. Unfortunately, this last point is a reality because it is a paranoid nature of the competitive and now, cost efficient nature of Formula One.

    How about a day of testing on Monday after the Championship weekend ends on Sunday? I believe this idea has been put forward by some already. I think MotoGP does something similar, although I stand to be corrected on this.

  14. Hmmm not sure about this. I like the idea that if testing has to be conducted it should be done in a way to reduce costs and perhaps engage fans more. However, we’re not really suffering without it. Admittedly that doesn’t do the younger generation of potential drivers many favours but GP2 is a great proving ground, considering 5/6 (or something like that) past winners of that championship are still in F1. Our current F1 WDC came from Formula Renault and DTM may prove a decent ground also.

  15. James Ogden
    12th May 2011, 14:01

    why do they not just use two cars again, i agree it will increase the cost of it but not as much as increasing the amount of days spent testing. you do however get the chance to do twice as much within the same space of time. im sure that most manufacturers have more than one test/academy driver!

  16. I think a few test days would be a good thing. Teams that are struggling are more likely to improve, so there’s more chance the field will close up than spread out.

    Keith, I can see where you’re coming from with the idea of non-championship races. It would be good to have more F1, and good to have something that wasn’t just more of the same. One way I can see for that to happen is if costs were brought further under control so that more teams could compete in F1. There would be pre-qualifying sessions at different stages of the season to see which teams took part in the championship races. The rest of the teams (there would be 12 cars left over if 18 teams were involved) could compete in ‘EuroF1’ events. The grid could be filled out by using F1 chassis from previous seasons, run independently or by the teams themselves. Ferrari and McLaren, at least, should be required to run an old car to draw attention to the series.

    The pros are:
    . New teams and drivers would get proper F1 experience.
    . Circuits would get more use.
    . Fans would get more F1.
    . Guest drivers like Brundle, Rossi, could get involved.
    . No addition or disruption to regular F1 season.

    This is one way I could see non-championship F1 working, but I realise it’s a daydream so no need to be too critical!

  17. But who would have the television rights to a ‘non-championship’ event?

    Would it undermine the commercial rights holder?

    If Ferrari, McLaren, RBR and Co. sold the broadcast rights to a 4-or-5 team ‘non-F1′ race in which all their star drivers raced, they could get quite a bit of money, and pretty soon see that perhaps having someone else take the largest cut of their brands’ pulling power might not be the most attractive option.

    If nothing else this would be a contractual nightmare to sort out between the teams, the FIA and FOM.

  18. How about restricting the maximum miles teams can do in testing to about 10,000 Kms.
    Let them decide how much they want to do during the winter break or between races. This will allow teams like HRT who don’t have their car ready in time to catch up later.
    Post winter break, the teams can stay back for an extra day and test or if we want to promote the sport, we can go to new circuits.

    1. There is already a restriction, off the top of my head I think it’s 15,000km.

      However when they can test is also restricted (15 days pre-season, eight post-season plus straight-line aero tests and filming days).

      1. sid_prasher (@)
        12th May 2011, 16:11

        Ok I didn’t know about the 15K limit but I think none of the teams did even 10K this year.
        What I was suggesting was to keep the 15 day pre-season days for testing and if teams use up their entire quota then they can’t test through the season.
        What ever miles they haven’t used, they can use during the year in further testing.

    1. Yeah, shame about the massive pitot tube on the top, spoils it a bit.

      1. First time I saw that, I thought it was to make the car bear a closer resemblance to the windtunnel model (they are attached with a beam from the top as well)!

  19. I love the idea, esp when it comes to giving young drivers some real competitive F1 racing, but I believe it would be very hard to just find the time to do it. F1 is already at 19 (20 w Bahrain) races in a year, when will they find time to do a full blown non chamionship race weekend.

    A solution might be to organize such a non championship race on Mondays after a GP, with only young drivers as you suggest. Quali in morning, race in afternoon. Tie it in with the ticket price for a full weekend, but also allow people to buy a cheap ticket for just one day.

    Doing it this way cuts down a lot of the logistics cost and helps with the timing issue. Granted, it won’t see that many new components tested I imagine (since any they had they would’ve been desperate to use at the GP.) However looking at Mclaren this weekend, I’m sure they’d have loved to stay on Monday and see if they could work out the upgrades they didn’t manage to put on on Sunday.

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