Potential ban on in-season testing to give F1 inflated sense of accomplishment

Potential ban on in-season testing to give F1 inflated sense of accomplishment


As costs in F1 come under increasing scrutiny with each passing day, the teams and the FIA are constantly searching for new avenues in which to reduce spending. Already proposed are a three year plan in which the standardization of parts, a change in wheel size in 2017 and the elimination of tire warmers in 2015. However, it has come to light that a restructuring of testing is being considered as another method of cost reduction.

In-season testing was banned in 2009 with the introduction of new regulations. The financial crisis, one that continues to affect the sport today, was such that current spending habits were deemed unsustainable. Since the ban, most teams have more or less operated at the same level and with little to no increase in unreliability or performance.

Post-Spanish Grand Prix test proved useful
Post-Spanish Grand Prix test proved useful

This year, with even more comprehensive and radical regulation changes, the FIA brought back in-season testing. Four separate events were set aside for the days following certain Grands Prix: Bahrain, Spain, Britain, Abu Dhabi. However, with costs still escalating and many teams on the brink of financial collapse, the teams and the FIA have proposed a potential re-ban on in-season testing.

The problem with this proposal isn’t immediately apparent. In re-banning in-season testing, it would seem that the FIA is looking for a way to artificially improve an already terrible financial situation.

Before in-season testing was re-introduced to the sport costs were already at an unsustainable level. Teams were still on the verge of financial collapse and there was little on the horizon in the way of a solution. It appears that having seen that in-season testing only adds more cost to the sport (you think?), the FIA is looking for a way to pat themselves on the back. Even with another ban on in-season testing, however, costs will still be higher than is sustainable in even the intermediate future.

It is important to note the benefits seen from the two already-completed in-season tests so far this year. First, in Bahrain, Lotus did comprehensive work with its car to try and climb up the order having suffered a disastrous opening stanza to the 2014 season. At the next race in Spain, Romain Grosjean qualified fifth and finished eighth, thus securing the team’s first points of the season. After the Spanish Grand Prix, Marussia also worked hard to close the gap to the lower end of the midfield, a gap, it should be pointed out, that was already shrinking. At the next race in Monaco, Jules Bianchi scored Marussia’s first EVER points in Formula One.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Monaco Grand Prix - Sunday - Monte Carlo, MonacoDetractors will point out the high rate of attrition that aided the Frenchman’s journey into the top 10, and they would be right to do so, but also of note was Bianchi’s ability to fight with other cars around him rather than just simply stay out of trouble.

Before the FIA do away with an aspect of the sport that has produced tangible benefits all for the sake of saving a few bucks, it should first focus on previously proposed ideas, such as the expansion of pard ferme rules and the reduction of the number of personnel allowed at a Grand Prix.

Also proposed by the FIA in its testing overhaul is a reduction in pre-season testing. It was suggested that instead of three tests taking place in Jerez and Bahrain, just two would occur and would stay in the less favorable climate of Europe. This seems pretty steep considering how raw the technology still is to most of the teams, and an increased understanding of in in 2015 doesn’t seem enough to make up for the loss of a complete four day test.

The future of Formula One rests in the teams’ and the FIA’s ability to spend money wisely. With these bans, sure money would be saved, but the downfalls could potentially out way the savings.

Images courtesy of Octane Photographic

  • Steffen V.

    To me it’s the wrong path. Restrictions on testing has not led to F1 being any cheaper. In fact it might have led to the opposite. If F1 is supposed to be relevant for developing tomorrow’s technology in our road cars it makes no sense to have testing bans and engine freeze.
    Restrict aerodynamics. Developing in wind tunnels, using super computers for heavy CFD calculations and running advanced simulators are very expensive. Go for standard wings and diffusers and put more restrictions on aerodynamics, but more freedom on mechanical development. Allowing track testing gives much more valuable data, than a wind tunnel, simulator or test rig can provide and will make development more efficient and thereby cheaper. Aerodynamics to the extreme extend that we see in F1 is irrelevant to road cars whereas new hybrid technology is much more useful. But engine freeze is actually preventing development in that area.
    Keep the limit on number of power unit components allowed to be used in a season, but allow the teams to develop their power unit hardware. New hardware can be used, but a total of 5 items of each PU component is still the limit. New items and old items all together.
    Same restrictions can be made on aerodynamic components. For each race all the teams bring along a different design of front wings. Very complicated designs taking many hours to develop and many calculations and different designs to be tested. Only to be used in one specific race. Building the items in carbon fiber is not cheap either. Standard wings and diffusers will solve this problem. Aerodynamics will focus on drag efficiency, which is relevant to road cars, and will be focused around larger components like side-pods and nosecone, which is components more or less the same throughout a season because of crash structure and packaging. This will lower the costs dramatically. Testing ban and engine freeze is not the way. Previous attempts has shown that before.
    Bring F1 away from the aerodynamic dominated formula and back to mechanical development and mechanical grip and use real full size track testing instead of artificial methods like simulators and wind tunnels, and the costs will go down as well. It’s a win win for the sport, the teams and the fans.

  • E Hulm

    Standardization in the cars leads you back to the IROC racing series in the US. That was a dud. They want to race Priuses, then cancel F1. Limit all the teams to using one wind tunnel, max of 40 hours of testing per year. Get rid of ERS. We should be racing cars with an engine and a driver. The only CPU is between the driver’s ears. If F1 continues to be a green consciouss racing enterprises, then they might as well fold their tent and go home. Who cares. We have Formula E for that. Vettle was right about driving the old V12 cars.

  • Ian Smith

    The FIA keep changing the rules, this costs the teams money.

    How much has the change from V8’s to V6’s cost. How much has been spent developing the new power units, I expect $Billions.

    F1 is VERY expensive, if you can’t afford it, don’t do it.

    If the cars had DNF’s at every race Bernie and the FIA would be calling for change, the cars need to be tested, again if the teams can’t afford it don’t test.

    Does FIFA ban training or how much clubs can spend, or what kit they have, how often they can change it, NO

    F1 is supposed to be the pinnicle of motorsport, it can’t be done on a shoestring budget, or Team Owners with big ideas, and no money.


  • Kidza

    Every successful business not only needs to manage costs, but also grow its revenue base. In F1, all we ever here about is cutting costs. What about revenue growth?

    How will any of the cost cutting proposals make the sport better or attract new fans or sponsors? There has to be a limit to how far you can cut the costs without affecting the quality of the product.

    Any CEO of a major corporation who fails to increase revenue and grow the business will be fired. Why are the FIA, Bernie and the teams silent on revenue growth? Other sports are growing their revenues. Whither F1?