Monday, January 18, 2010

Testing, Testing

Domenicali calls for more testing
Ferrari F1 boss Stefano Domenicali says that he believes that the Formula 1 teams must reconsider the amount of testing that is currently allowed. Testing was reduced to just 15 days this winter in order to reduce costs but Ferrari clearly believes that more time is necessary.

"We need to consider the money we are saving compared to the additional money that we are spending at races as a result," said Domenicali. "If you take money away from one place, you spend it in another. We need to think about safety, young drivers and allowing drivers to test if there is the need for a replacement in the middle of the season, as happened last year."
The money argument I think is silly. The problem has never been that (say) Williams spends (say) $100 million per year -- the problem is that Williams has $100 million to spend, and as long as spending that money sees a return in either profits or better performance on the track, Williams will undertake to spend that money.

So arguing that teams now spend more at events because they can't go testing is silly. If they have the money, especially money released by eliminating testing, of course they are going to spend it.

The driver replacement argument is, I think, more compelling. Teams should be able to have a session to bring a mid-term driver up to speed. Dropping a replacement into the hotseat is not only a waste of a car (since the new drivers can't get up to speed due to no miles in the car) but is also potentially dangerous. Slow cars and fast cars sometimes mix violently.

Personally, I'd like to see two or three official tests through the season. The best way to do it would be to open a track that has hosted an event for the first half of the following week. That way teams could test on site with equipment already there (for the most part). There would have to be a limit on the number of engines used for testing, and probably a limit on the total number of kilometers turned in such tests. And just to make things interesting you could exclude any drivers who had started more than some number of events in some number of previous months with that team.

Such a scheme would permit more development and permit test drivers to be up to speed with the cars should they need to jump into a race seat, while excluding race drivers from monopolizing all the testing.

One interesting observation from the article:
[...] but the sporting authorities know that the less testing there is, the less reliable the cars will be and thus there is more potential for breakdowns, which have become very rare in F1 in recent years due to the attention to detail that teams have managed to achieve.
Mechanical fragility as a mechanism for juicing the event results. Interesting.