At the team’s annual pre-season media event he duly restated their well-worn complaints about the reductions in testing in recent seasons: “Maybe it would be better to have one or two fewer races and a few more test sessions.”
Restrictions on testing were introduced to spare teams the enormous costs they were inflicting on themselves for little benefit. And they worked: The amount of testing done by F1 teams last year was less than 30% of what it was ten years ago.
As recent developments have shown, effective cost-cutting measures such as these are essential. Particularly as efforts to save money in other areas, such as designing and building the cars, is fraught with disagreement over whether to do so through budget caps, customer cars or tight restrictions on development.
While efforts to bring down the sky-high cost of competing in F1 stall, the grid has shrunk over the winter and there is no sign of anyone arriving to fill the gaps.
In fairness to Alonso, he is speaking from the point of view of a driver who has just completed one gruelling season and is about to embark on another: “Last year we had the last Grand Prix at the end of November and almost right up to Christmas there were events I had to take part in.
“There’s almost only the end of year holiday when one can have a break and I’ll try to fit in a few more days between now and Melbourne to recharge my batteries.”
Taken in isolation, that’s not an unreasonable point. But it contradicts his desire to see more testing, which often involves harder work for a driver than racing. Last year Davide Rigon completed over two Grand Prix distances in a single day while testing for Ferrari at Magny-Cours.
Running Formula One cars is not a cheap business. Teams can only afford to attend a certain number of events per year. The viewing public is far more interested in races than test sessions, so it make financial sense for F1 to spend as much time racing as possible.
Of course some amount of testing needs to be done. If the current amount was insufficient the consequences would be seen in cars breaking down a lot more often.
In fact they’re more reliable than they’ve ever been. Last year 83.5% of all the starts made by F1 cars resulted in a finish, the highest for at least two decades and likely a lot longer.
That may change in the future as the teams have to get to grips with a new engine formula next year. But as things stand the limits on testing are clearly working for Formula One.
It might not suit Ferrari, who have on their doorstep a testing track their F1 outfit hardly ever uses. Stefano Domenicali’s announcement that he signed Pedro de la Rosa to “work in the simulator, which with the current regulations regarding testing, is becoming ever more important” is a sign Ferrari are coming to terms with the new reality.
Hopefully once they start to make up the ground lost to McLaren and Red Bull on their simulator programme Ferrari’s whinges about testing will eventually stop.
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