Fewer races and more testing? No thanks, Alonso

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Jerez, 2012Fernando Alonso may not consider himself “political”, but that doesn’t stop him from toeing the Ferrari party line.

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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84 comments on Fewer races and more testing? No thanks, Alonso

  1. Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 18th January 2013, 16:49

    I think there is some wiggle room left in this situation.

    If some teams, Ferrari obviously being the most vocal, want more on track testing, why not give them the option at a few races per year where there is a two week gap, to have one or two days (e.g. Tuesday and Wednesday before the race weekend) to run as testing days? There are no added travel or staffing costs as the team are already there for the upcoming race.

    I can’t see why this hasn’t been explored as an option. It’s the same for all the teams, nobody is able to use the unfair advantage of a track in their back garden, and it’s real ‘rubber on the asphalt’ testing. Obviously there are other testing costs though; such as tyres, fuel and wages. But what it does avoid is the creation of separate ‘Testing Teams’, as they could stipulate it had to be exactly the same staff that work on normal weekends.

    • Paulocreed (@paulocreed) said on 18th January 2013, 19:12

      What if instead of having more testing days, cancel the testing days and add another practice/test day session to the weekend at each or some of the races on the calender?. Since the teams are at that venue anyway for a race, would it not be more efficient to have an extra day at that track for testing rather than an entirely different day/weekend at an entirely different venue which adds to freight costs and so on. And then there’s the option of having fans attend to generate revenue instead of no fans at testing venue’s. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of this, but what do the F1 Fanatics think?

      I had actually mentioned this earlier and think it could solve many issues.

  2. Lee_GH said on 18th January 2013, 17:35

    Something I think is worth pointing out regarding testing is that just about every racing category on the planet has begun to either ban or severely limit testing over the past 5-6 years so the testing restrictions are not just an F1 thing.

    On the whole I actually think the testing ban has been good for F1, Its prevented those who can afford to test gaining massive advantages over those who can’t. Ross Brawn said a few years back that the biggest advantage Ferrari had in the early 2000’s over other teams was that they did twice as much testing as any other team. He even spoke about how in late 2003 they had Luca Badoer & Felipe Massa testing during F1 race weekends in order to catch up to Williams/McLaren & Renault who had pulled ahead of them.

    Something to consider also now is tyres. People complained last year how races got boring when everyone figured out how to use the tyres, Well bring in testing & they woudl figure out the tyres a lot sooner so we may end up seeing more boring races.

    Also everyone praised Sauber last year for having a good car & maintaining it throughout the season, If testing was allowed & the big teams were able to spend days testing & Sauber was unable to spend money on testing they likely would have been well behind by mid-season, Something that was often seen with mid-field teams when we had testing.

    Based on following F1 for about 35yrs I can pretty much guarantee that bringing testing back would see the gaps between teams rise again & that mid-field teams would once again be a few seconds off the front runners which would only hurt the quality of the racing.

    Also its not as if we actually get to see anything from testing anyway, I’d much rather all the focus be put on the race weekends which are afterall way more important.

  3. Testing was not banned to save money, but to stop Ferrari domination.
    Ferrari knows, the other teams know about it.
    For sure testing will be back again, not this year but in the up coming years

    • GT_Racer said on 18th January 2013, 23:57

      Not true, It was purely to save cost’s.

      The Ferrari domination had been over for a few years before the test ban was introduced. The last year Ferrari had a big advantage over the others was 2004, The test ban wasn’t introduced until 2009.

      Testing is expensive & teams were spending millions on testing, One could say that they didn’t have to test if they could not afford it, However if you don’t test you fall behind & that puts you in deeper financial trouble so effectively you have to test.

      The finances in F1 were getting out of hand, You always hear about the financial constraints of the backmarkers, However when you had even some of the bigger established teams talking about struggling financially you know its unsustainable to keep things the same.

      I remember the end of 2004, There was talk of upto 4 teams going bust & the prospect of teams having to run 3rd cars to keep the grid numbers high, Problem been that it soon became apparent that only Ferrari & McLaren could actually afford to run a 3rd car which is why that idea never got anywhere & likely never will.

      Ferrari don’t like the testing ban & don’t like other parts of the cost cutting agenda because they are probably the only team in F1 that has the finances & facilities to not really need to cut back to the same level as many of the others. Also consider that since they saw the biggest benefit of testing in the past they perhaps lost the most from its ban.

      Finally remember that Jean Todt was quite keen on reintroducing testing when he became FIA president & it was FOTA (The Teams) that blocked it. If the teams wanted testing to return they could quite easily suggest it’s return.

  4. Puffy (@puffy) said on 18th January 2013, 21:32

    I think it depends what you want out of F1. If you’re interested in all the cars being similar in performance and it being a straight out fight between the drivers, then surely a single spec formula would be a much better option? If on the other hand you tend to enjoy technical innovation then the current formula isn’t going to offer much… To my mind, the racing in the 70’s was some of the best ever, the ability for teams to innovate didn’t make for boring racing…

  5. Noner said on 19th January 2013, 10:30

    Every team in formula 1 do they interests. Everyone and everything look for their interestsEvery team in formula 1 do their interests. Everyone and everything look for their interests
    This is how life rules, in every single business.
    Probably you are happy with this rules because ferrari doesn’t win, me not.
    Probably you don’t want the rules to change because your favorite team feel comfortable with it, me not.
    Probably you don’t want testing back because Ferrari can be strong again, me not.
    Probably you know that your team will be weak in testing, me not.

    You see we both are fans of formula 1 but certainly have different interests

  6. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 20th January 2013, 12:18

    Th only way I would be in favour of more testing would be if reliability was poor. Reliability is good, as point out by Keith.

    Fundamentally the car has to be reliable, further testing beyond that point just serves to satisfy the aerodynamic qualities and that’s a bottomless pit.

  7. Antonio (@antoniocorleone) said on 16th February 2013, 2:41

    To be honest, Ferrari build their curcuit for this reason, testing parts (and drivers) knowing that it would make them more competitive on the race track. But the FIA made their rules and if someone did that to me personaly (if I invested money for something I can not use), I would be really dissapointed and angry. So what Ferrari is doing is to be respected cause they invested in what they thought was their way for success. The FIA (Ferrari International Assistance as some of you put it this way) is not doing any favours to the prancing horse.

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