Formula 1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone has come out in favor of limited in-season testing. According to Bernie’s plan, testing would be allowed at race venues on the Mondays following race weekends. This would be an economical alternative to the old testing protocol, which involved a completely separate testing schedule, with the better funded teams typically employing separate test crews.
While the current in-season ban has proven to be a money-saver in many respects, it has had some notable side effects. Naturally, it has made ongoing car upgrades more of a gamble, as teams must develop new components in the virtual world, and then test them during free practice sessions on race weekends. If the new parts take cars in the wrong direction, teams have no time to regroup. As a safety precaution, many teams teams now run one car as a beta version on weekends, to test the new components, using the second car as a control element.
The second major effect of the test ban is the impact on the reserve driver system. Prior to 2009, reserve drivers had an active test role during the year, which helped keep their preparation level high should they have to step in for an injured driver. It was also an effective method for evaluating young drivers who were working their way up the food chain towards full time Formula 1 drives. Under the current system, rookie drivers get their baptism under fire. Romain Grosjean, for one, was recruited to replace Nelson Piquet, Jr on short notice, and thus far he has struggled to find his way.
Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that a workable, fiscally viable compromise between the old system of unlimited testing, and an outright ban, would be limited testing on the Monday following each race weekend. As reported in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Eccleston said, “I am sure that in the future we will test on the Monday after races. The cars are already there, the people as well. The costs will be kept within limits and we can give young drivers a chance. The failure of the current system is that it is virtually impossible to test young drivers. That protects the established drivers, but it is absolutely wrong.”
Ecclestone is merely acknowledging what has been painfully obvious to most everyone throughout the year. As former Benetton mechanic Steve Matchett suggested on a recent Speed TV broadcast, extending race weekends to include Thursdays, and selling tickets for the additional day, would also be an appealing alternative, especially since it would generate extra revenue for the race venues, and for FOCA as well. Hopefully this plan can be hammered out by next March.
Image source: Wikimedia, released to public domain.