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. Rob B (@rob-b) said on 12th May 2011, 16:41

    Don’t motoGP test on the Monday after the race?

    Surely something like this could be adopted? All the kit is there and setup, the teams are already there.

    The only problem I can see is where there is a race on the following weekend – This could be remedied by having say 5 Monday sessions at GPs where there is no race the following weekend? It would take a bit of scheduling but I feel it could be one of the more cost effective options.

  2. Bill said on 12th May 2011, 17:00

    Perhaps a simpler solution would be to just let the teams test Mon-Wed at the circuit after the current GP is completed? They’re all there already.

  3. artificial racer said on 12th May 2011, 17:55

    Non championship events would be interesting, for one-off experimental or promotional tools during the season. For example, it could be used to evaluate a new potential street circuit without entering into a multi-year contract. But I would expect this to only be interesting if it was televised and with the main F1 drivers that people know and love.

    I don’t think this can replace testing. The approach to a test is different than what you do for a race, and racing adds expense, whereas testing is boring.

    They should just allow teams to test a few more days during the season, whenever a team wishes to do so, but only using actual test/reserve drivers. The objectives are 1) give new drivers some track time and 2) give teams some time to track-test new developments, which could help smaller teams who don’t have such extensive simulation and quality control systems.

  4. mingmong said on 12th May 2011, 18:26

    i like the idea very much however rookies & reserve drivers should be made mandatory to drive. The question is for one or both seats? Both have implications.

    Off topic: Apparently on formula1.com they suggest that Webber did not run the rear upgrades in Turkey after Vets P1 crash. Can anyone confirm this and also why would this be?

  5. Gnarly Racing (@) said on 12th May 2011, 18:29

    The only way to work out where best to detect and deploy the DRS is to race it. So this would be a great way to try out different wing settings, higher-capacity KERS, new tyres etc.

    I’d add Abu Dhabi as a possible non-championship venue. Then Portimao can take its place on the calendar.

  6. Keith, I have a question, and goes also for the people who know more here on the page (such as PM, Ned, etc)… we as fanatics, comment here, give suggestions or “what if” ideas, but my question is if you personally know if FIA authorities read our concerns, pieces of advice, and that could eventually lead on a change in the sport

  7. Hairs (@hairs) said on 12th May 2011, 19:03

    While I can see the intent behind your idea, Keith, I just don’t agree that the suggestion works in the way you’ve put it forward. There are a couple of assumptions that are the reverse of economic reality.

    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?

    Answer: Look at the mostly empty grandstands for F2, GP2 Asia races. F1 demos got a huge public audience in Moscow, India, and Mexico recently. That’s because they were held on the street, free, in a city centre, with a limited timeframe and in places with no other draw. There’s a massive difference between dropping into the city to see hometown boy Perez for half an hour before you go on to shopping/cinema/dinner etc and dragging the family out to a cold, empty grandstand an hour’s drive away from anywhere to see drivers nobody knows in cars they’re learning to drive shoot past 500 metres away in a big pack, once every couple of minutes. Would it be a great racing opportunity? Yes! Would it draw a crowd? Not really.

    No crowd = no sponsorship = no TV revenue = no Bernie Money = no economic benefit.

    Then there’s the cost. The teams have already disbanded their separate testing teams to save money.

    Yes they did. Now ask yourself the question: When and where are these non-championship races going to be held?
    In the winter? There’s a good reason there aren’t any F1 races over the winter – the cars are too sensitive to track temperature, you wouldn’t get any useful data (remember Pirelli were running a way out of spec car during their winter testing). So you’re looking at in-season races. The problem is that the existing race crews are already stretched to breaking point. So now you need a “B” team racing crew. That’s far more expensive than a “B” team testing crew, because there’s more to do.

    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. 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.

    Here’s a better question: What is more use to a team:
    A 3-day testing weekend, where they get 8 hours a day to run whatever engineering programmes they want, on whatever parts they want, with whatever drivers they want, on any schedule they want – or a 3-day racing weekend where they get limited time to gather data for a day and a half, then they spend the rest of the weekend running a race that doesn’t gain them any money, prestige, or engineering information, using drivers that aren’t a reliable baseline, risks damaging the cars and parts they’ve come to test (far more likely in a rookies-only race than in a lazy test session) and wears out an already overworked (and reduced) staff?

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

    You’re right. But are McLaren really going to drag the Brand Centre down to Aragon for a 3 day weekend that sponsors have no interest in, and the public aren’t going to show up to? Yes they do it for Turkey but that’s F1 Championship, and televised. Sponsors can bring corporates on jollies to that. There’s prestige involved.

    The only place non-championship racing makes any sense is on Friday or Monday of a GP weekend. That’s the only way of making it cheap, giving it an audience, and getting any data out of it. The problems:

    Where are the teams going to the extra resources to put on a spare car?

    In the middle of the championship fight, teams already bring updates to the car basically as soon as they’re out of the autoclave. There’s no spare capacity for bunging testing parts on a rookie’s car for a race he’s going to smash out of.

    Nice idea. But testing is better for the teams, cheaper, and has fewer downsides.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th May 2011, 19:22

      Answer: Look at the mostly empty grandstands for F2, GP2 Asia races.

      But they don’t drive F1 cars – and that’s a big part of the draw.

      Tell people there’s an F1 race, tell them Ferrari, McLaren et. al. will be there and I bet you’ll get a decent crowd.

      A 3-day testing weekend, where they get 8 hours a day to run whatever engineering programmes they want, on whatever parts they want

      And I’m saying two days of testing plus a day for qualifying and a race. Not really all that different to what you’re proposing.

      As for staffing levels, that’s already limited under the RRA for race weekends, they could introduce a lower limit for non-championship races.

      are McLaren really going to drag the Brand Centre down to Aragon for a 3 day weekend that sponsors have no interest in

      They bring sponsors to test sessions, so why not? At least they’re getting to see a race instead of just a test.

      testing is better for the teams

      For what purpose? The only thing they need more testing for at the moment is to give rookies some mileage, something they could do just as easily through what I’ve proposed.

      • Hairs (@hairs) said on 12th May 2011, 23:26

        But they don’t drive F1 cars – and that’s a big part of the draw.

        Tell people there’s an F1 race, tell them Ferrari, McLaren et. al. will be there and I bet you’ll get a decent crowd.

        But it’s not an F1 “race”. It’s an F1 “exhibition”. As the teams claimed at the breakaway – and we all agreed with them – fans follow drivers, then teams, then, and only then, the formula. F1 is a big “name”. But is a bunch of rookies racing in cars they can’t control the same draw as Hamilton vs. Alonso? Not at all. Non-championship races fell by the wayside because the casual fan doesn’t care. Why should they? It’s the same for sports all over – small-time events draw a crowd of handfuls, and the Premier League events get packed out. There’s really no in-between, particularly not with motorsport.

        And I’m saying two days of testing plus a day for qualifying and a race. Not really all that different to what you’re proposing.

        It is when the testing time would be restricted, and would be followed by two days of risking the car getting written off at worst, and not getting any useful data at best. Free-practice style testing isn’t the same as “no pressure” testing – the team’s programmes of work would be skewed by the need to prepare for the race.

        As for staffing levels, that’s already limited under the RRA for race weekends, they could introduce a lower limit for non-championship races.

        Exactly – staff are limited. The staff who can run the race weekends are already stretched to the limit doing the championship races and there’s no way the teams will compromise that. Where do you get the extra staff to run the non-championship races? You’d lose headcount in another area of the organisation, and that’s no use to the teams.

        They bring sponsors to test sessions, so why not? At least they’re getting to see a race instead of just a test.

        They bring limited sponsors, and they don’t bring their full “brand presence”. It’s “technical partner” time, not “brand exposure” time. And the extra expense would never be offset. Sure they could do it. But I don’t see why they would.

        For what purpose? The only thing they need more testing for at the moment is to give rookies some mileage, something they could do just as easily through what I’ve proposed.

        As McLaren proved, even the richest, best, most intelligent, most organised teams – need all the testing they can get. Giving rookie drivers extra miles in the car is something the teams don’t need to bother providing “race weekends” to do – as DiResta and D’Ambrosio proved last year. The only people who need to put miles on their reserve drivers are Ferrari, and frankly, that’s because Ferrari are thick.

        You make a good argument. But I don’t think it’s convincing enough, and there’s no way the teams think it’s a better option than more testing.

  8. Skanda said on 12th May 2011, 19:22

    The biggest benefit of in-season testing will be it will provide teams to restrategize their design during the course of the season. That way it offers a chance for the McLarens and Ferraris and Mercedes to test new components aggressively to regroup and fight the Redbulls. The lack of testing has helped the team starting strongly at the start of the season to maintain their advantage for a longer time.

    With testing allowed, there wont be a repeat of Brawn (2009), Red bull (2010/11) running away while the others use the race weekends to test their parts for the race.

  9. GeorgeTuk (@georgetuk) said on 12th May 2011, 21:21

    Sorry but I stopped watching when Schumacher was at Ferrari and winning all those championships are running so much testing.

    I like the unpredictability we have at the moment, the balance is there as the better teams/drivers are still at the front but regularly a dead cert can be changed with the wrong tyres or tyre fade.

    If we give them chance to test and perfect every set up it will be more long years of (probably) Vettel winning again and again and again.

  10. rob said on 12th May 2011, 22:25

    I think you’re wrong Keith. Testing isn’t about giving young drivers chances, it’s about improving the car so your championship hopes aren’t dead after the first qualifying session of the season. New drivers have pre-season testing to adapt themselves and apparently this works well.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th May 2011, 8:22

      improving the car so your championship hopes aren’t dead after the first qualifying session of the season

      Teams can still do that without in-season testing. Look at the progress Ferrari made last year without in-season testing. Look at the progress McLaren made in 2009.

      All that in-season testing would do is further accelerate the development process and increase costs and I don’t think that’s needed.

      Except, as I say, to help give up-and-coming drivers the chance to test F1 cars.

      New drivers have pre-season testing to adapt themselves and apparently this works well.

      I don’t know what makes you think that – very few drivers other than regular race drivers ran in pre-season testing this year.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 13th May 2011, 8:29

        Actually i would think bringing back non championship races (and having the rules stable for some years) would help save cost.

        Why? If we would get some events done in warmer areas during the winter, teams would just keep bringing improvements to the car all winter instead of every year building a completely new car.

        And that would save enormous amounts of money. Sure some would do a bigger step to really catch up, but I would like to see teams bringing new chassis gradually and not all of that at the season start.

  11. sam3110 (@sam3110) said on 13th May 2011, 0:14

    No thanks, there isn’t enough people going to races now, add some more on with rookie drivers and no points involved and you will have a huge white elephant on your hands. Look at how much HRT struggled to get ready in time for Australia, look at how much it costs to transport all the staff and equipment all over the world already. Testing in Barcelona, Jerez and Valencia may well be boring as hell, but it is 10 times more cost effective than going from Dubai to Portimao, to Brands Hatch, to Brno, to Mangy Cours etc. etc.
    No-one will be interested in it, many people on here are saying how great an idea it is and how it would attract a large audience, but the simple fact of the matter is the tickets will still cost a bundle, as they have to cover the cost of marshalls and track hire, and the lack of TV revenue, and the lack of sponsorship money too.
    Testing should be 20 days long, 16 in the winter, split into 4 4 day events, at Jerez, Valencia, Portimao and Paul Ricard, and a 4 day event in the middle of the season, at whichever German track they aren’t using this season (so if it was this season they would use Hockenheim, last season they would have used Nurburgring)
    I’m not slamming the idea OF Non Championship events, but there isn’t room for them with the current calendar, and I personally think it will be a big step backwards in what Formula 1 is currently trying to achieve.

  12. TestingBanIsGood said on 13th May 2011, 0:46

    races are not testing and no matter how “friendly” they are, they’re inherently more likely to result in crashes and car damage. Especially if novices are driving.

    If the teams want more testing than is already available to them, give them an extra day of testing at Grand Prix weekends.

    I think the testing ban has added huge value to the sport for fans who shell out their hard-earned money to attend a race weekend.

  13. Radoye (@radoye) said on 13th May 2011, 2:02

    Non-Championship races – YES!!!!!

  14. Jonesracing82 said on 13th May 2011, 7:48

    i’d like to see a return of he old “BMW M1 Championship” for F1 drivers and/or Test Drivers, all inthe same car…

  15. Jonesracing82 said on 13th May 2011, 7:49

    they need to be televised as well :P

  16. Francis said on 13th May 2011, 8:20

    Testing is what pushes innovation – it may not be the one single reason that does BUT it helps A WHOLE LOT. Why not allow it? Why ban it in the first place? If cost is the issue then things can be done to lower costs but still meet the need for testing.

    I agree with what the article said about having multiple teams practice on the same track – but non-championship races? No way. That, for me, would be a bigger ‘waste of money’. Teams will have a hard time testing new tech whilst racing and thinking of strategies. Teams that take it easy in those non-championship races will disappoint fans who in turn will just decide to stop watching.

  17. Nullius said on 13th May 2011, 11:06

    If we were to re-introduce non-championship races (an idea I like very much), there would have to be some reduction in the number of championship events. Otherwise, with 20 races on the championship calendar already, where would we squeeze the new races in?

    I propose that we revert to 17 official championship races, and the FIA/FOM could authorize 2 or 3 extra non-championship events, in countries that do not host a GP – which would be the two or three countries that will give up their GP, along with Portugal, France, Austria, Mexico, Argentina and South Africa – the only countries with a circuit that might be brought up to spec for F1 events. These should be rotating or bi-annual events, otherwise there will be pressure for them to become regular championship races. A January race in Argentina every other year (alternating with South Africa) would be lovely.

    Each non-championship race might have some particular feature that sets it apart from normal racing – some novel technical rules; a sprint and feature race; unlimited KERS; endurance race with two or more drivers – things which would differentiate the event as well as offer an opportunity for teams to try new kit and drivers.

    I hope this idea succeeds.

  18. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 13th May 2011, 11:23

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/91347

    The teams are looking set to reject the proposal of limited in-season testing.

  19. WarfieldF1 said on 13th May 2011, 14:26

    No, …………….because F1 needs testing and this isnt testing, this is F1 Lites and will attract no-one.
    Test on Mondays after a GP, no extra travel and little extra cost, make it available to testers and the GP drivers. ……………………..theeeen watch Schumi go well !!

  20. moondoggy said on 13th May 2011, 14:46

    I can see why. The last three seasons have been absolute crackers, assuming this season continues as it has started.

    Nothing is broken, what are we trying to fix?

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