F1 Bloggers Swap Shop: A Testing Question

In order to stave off the heart-wrenching absence of Formula One, I’ve taken part in the Viva F1 swap shop. I’ve written a piece for the guys at Viva F1 and I’m hosting the talents of Joe Ryland, who runs F1 Heaven. So dig in, share it about and enjoy!

A Testing Question

Almost every year at least one team will launch their car after the first test. They often will do this to ‘improve the car’ or they just need some more time. But is it really necessary to have a few days extra honing the car’s features? Or should the car be out on track, giving real results?

This year McLaren have chosen to keep the car in the factory for an extra 3 days, in the hope of keeping any inventive designs away from rivals and to make improvements before it’s all set in stone. However this is the dilemma, does the track give you the information that you need or is keeping the car in the factory better?

History tells us that choosing to postpone the launch does often bring great results for the season. Last year Red Bull skipped the first test as they usually do and won both constructor’s and driver’s championships. In 2009 Brawn GP also missed most of the test sessions and still achieved the same feat.

Although, the point could be made that McLaren struggled in 2009 due to the fact their car just wasn’t capable of being fast. This was possibly down to the fact that the rules had changed so much and the team just needed as much track time as it could to understand how things worked with new rules.

When things change so that you don’t really understand how they will affect the car, then surely it’s paramount to get the car on the track and work things out. In the real world. At the moment, it’s still pretty impossible to get everything exactly right using computers and wind tunnels.

So then, is it worth holding off for a few days? When a team says it’s to protect any innovations, it’s almost certainly rubbish, as if it was something that other teams didn’t have, they would find a way around it eventually and in the long run, 3 days won’t make too much difference.

Each year is slightly different, and with this year having not many rule changes, but few major ones, it seems that in this case, track time is key. Brand new tyres, extra KERS weight and moving wings mean that there will be some unknown territory that the teams have to go into. A computer wont be able to guess these factors accurately, only by driving the car on the track will give the real answers.

Really, it has to be viewed on a case-by-case basis. But to be honest I feel that postponing things by a few days is nonsense, even by developing the car. It’s only really necessary when the team has no other choice but to have a late launch, due to things taking longer than expected.

But if you take McLaren’s excuse this year, then I think it’s a risky step to take. A team can get a lot of miles in a weekend test that is absolutely vital, especially with the new rules. The only way I can understand it is if they really do have something radical up their sleeves. I do hear that their car is quite radical, but to be certain, only time will tell.

To come back to the original question. Only the team can really answer it. But taking my little knowledge and a dose of common sense, I still feel that it is a huge risk to take if you could just put the new car on the track earlier. As we’ve seen in the past though, a delayed start can work wonders.

3 Responses to “F1 Bloggers Swap Shop: A Testing Question”
  1. saltire says:

    I read this yesterday evening and really meant to leave a comment (bad salti). The trouble with testing is that you never really know how good a car is until it rolls onto the track for the first race of the season. McLaren, Ferrari et al are so good at sandbagging their future potential that you can never really tell how good a car is.

    I reckon Joe is right and three or four days is never going to make a huge difference to the finakl spec but we also have to consider teams sponsors and the big deal they make of car launches as far as their advertising goes. Now be honest, with 5 cars launching on the first day of the first test, how much time are you going to devote to an individual team (unless it is you favourite)? Now build the suspense for a few days and launch on your own and you’ll get far more exposure, heck you can even lull some of the other teams into thinking they’re not ready yet some of the teams are past masters at one0ipmanship!

    • Joe says:

      In reply to the last point of your comment, isnt that why Ferrari etc unveil just before the tests, such as the 27th? But then one could say that theres the problem of copying before a cars release. but again is a few days going to hurt?

      • Maverick says:

        I don’t think it makes a big difference – the only time the launch car is the same car as the one doing the tests is when teams launch half an hour before testing. Novel components are easily left off: Using last year’s front wing is pretty normal.

        Similarly, McLaren can test new aerodynamic components on last year’s car in the first test if they really want to. Realistically though, a four day test is nothing compared with what they can achieve in the windtunnel in the same time. You have to remember that for the last two years teams have been working on making their simulation work more accurate to counteract the in-season testing ban – all teams were using vis-flow paint last year. More of a concern would be ironing out any mechanical bugs – which was Red Bull’s real problem last year.

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