Teams have trouble getting useful data from testing

2013 F1 seasonPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013F1 teams begin their final four-day test in preparation for the new season on Thursday.

But for several reasons some have had difficulty making the most of the running they’ve had so far.

At the first test at Jerez the abrasive track and cool conditions made gaining useful information difficult. Williams chose not to bring their new car to the test as technical director Mike Coughlan explained:

“To begin with we didn’t plan to do Jerez at all,” he said. “We only did Jerez because Pirelli were bringing their new tyres and we felt it would even be better with the old car so we had a known platform.

“I’m sure a lot of people who went to Jerez with a new car, new driver and new tyres got lost. We didn’t.”

Coughlan listed Jerez’s shortcomings as a testing venue: “It’s very unique, very high degradation, really aggressive, very rear [tyre]-limited”. “We don’t even go to a track that’s similar,” he added.

Williams ran their 2012 car at the test and focussed on learning as much as they can about the new generation Pirelli tyres: “We came away with a very good understanding of the tyres, what we can do on pressures and cambers.”

“With the current breed of rear suspension it’s very difficult to do damper changes and bar changes and spring changes. So it gives you an opportunity to prepare lots of things. Different types of damper, things like this. Things you can’t do in a [practice] session because it takes too long, when you’re trying to understand the tyres.”

However Coughlan says he would have preferred to test the new car at a more representative circuit: “If it’d been three Barcelonas, we’d have done them all with the new car.”

“I think we’re happy with Barcelona,” he continued. “Barcelona is very good, we all have lots of simulations of the Barcelona track. I think Barcelona is fine, it’s very easy to get to, cheap flights, good hotels, nice city. I’d like to see three at Barcelona.”

But after the teams moved on to Barcelona low temperatures and high tyre degradation remained an issue.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Jenson Button explained the problems McLaren had encountered during their test: “It’s very difficult, you’re doing qualifying runs to understand the car.”

“We all know that qualifying isn’t everything in Formula One so it’s very difficult. And also you have the complicated task of trying to understand what fuel load you should run.

“It’s very easy to go out of the pit lane with low fuel because you’ll go quick, it’ll look nice and the tyres will be great. But you’re not always going to be running low fuel on these tyres.

“So we have to do high fuel runs and we then have to do very high fuel runs. So sometimes you see laps stand out and I think it’s because people have just thought ‘there’s so much degradation, maybe if we take more fuel out we can get more laps out of it’. But you still lose the tyres very quickly. It doesn’t seem to matter what fuel you run.”

Button lost a chance for further running on the last day of the test due to rain. And the weather forecast for the final pre-season test this week offers little encouragement. Rain is expected on Thursday and Friday, with conditions improving for the final two days.

“It’s the same for all of us,” Button admitted. “Putting mileage on the car is very important, something we have to work on a little bit more before we get to the first race.”

When testing concludes at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday the first race of the season will be less than two weeks away. Time is running out and those who’ve made the best of the limited testing opportunity they’ve had may carry an advantage into the beginning of the season.

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Images ?? Jamey Price/James Moy