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.
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.
Detractors 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