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

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

  1. Warren said on 12th May 2011, 13:30

    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.

  2. Fixy (@fixy) said on 12th May 2011, 13:42

    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.

  3. Redxibi said on 12th May 2011, 13:46

    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.

  4. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th May 2011, 13:59

    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.

  5. James Ogden said on 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!

  6. Don M. said on 12th May 2011, 14:04

    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!

  7. Autopulated (@autopulated) said on 12th May 2011, 14:17

    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.

  8. sid said on 12th May 2011, 14:34

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th May 2011, 14:40

      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).

      • sid_prasher (@) said on 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.

  9. TheVillainF1 (@thevillainf1) said on 12th May 2011, 16:24

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. Gnarly Racing (@gnarly-racing-2) 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.

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