So we're running an in-season Young Driver Test at Silverstone, and half the teams
think it's a stupid idea
Oh, wait a minute. Now we're not running a YDT at Silverstone
after the British Grand Prix because the circuit's contract with FOM means it won't actually be available when the teams want to run there.
So we're all off to Abu Dhabi for the traditional (near the) end of season Young Driver Test instead.
Oh, wait a minute. That one might be off too.
Instead, why not take all the young drivers, put them in a box, and poke them with sticks for a week? Because that's about as productive as whatever it is we're doing at the moment. Especially from a cost-benefit analysis perspective. After all, who doesn't have a poking stick?
According to Autosport
, we might end up running in Jerez instead. Because lord knows F1 doesn't spend enough time in Spain.
Between the Bahrain and Barcelona grands prix we saw a return to in-season tests with an FIA-sanctioned outing to Mugello.During the Friday press conference in Barcelona, featuring a number of senior team personnel, the majority of those present were critical of the in-season test, saying that it was an added cost that failed to deliver much of a benefit.
"I think the test itself, personally, I think you could do without it," said McLaren's Sam Michael. "I think it’s a lot of energy and expense during the season that we probably don’t need. Of course McLaren will gain a lot out of that test but Formula One is all relative, so all we really did was spend a load of money. And did we really shift relative to Red Bull or Ferrari or Mercedes and the people who we’re competing against? I don’t think so."Over at Red Bull, Adrian Newey agreed:
"I’d agree with what Sam says. To me, yes you go to the test because it’s available. We didn’t learn anything… relatively speaking. I think Sam’s point is valid. We all spent money but the value of in-season testing has to be questionable."Speaking to Autosport today, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said he was opposed to in-season testing, but said that an increase in testing should be given careful consideration.
"I think we need to rethink the format of testing," Boullier said. "We are not in favour of in-season testing because we are not equipped for this and the calendar does not fit very well and we have to use the same crew, and we cannot afford to have another testing crew.
"Today we need a better format that is using everything, and maybe we can rethink about the format of testing later. [Maybe] split the tests. If you have a calendar with a big slot in June then maybe you can have a test in June."
Boullier also pointed to the lack of testing as a key factor in the unpredictability that has come to define the 2012 season thus far.
"Part of the unpredictability is coming from the fact that we have no more testing," he said. "You have to come with new parts and new ideas in Friday testing. You cannot do it one week [earlier] somewhere in Spain; you have to do it on a race weekend."
The Young Driver Test at Silverstone this summer has been accepted as a matter of fact for quite some time.
But speaking to team personnel in the Barcelona paddock on Friday, it emerged that the test is far from the foregone conclusion it has been presumed to be.
Asked how he felt about the added costs of running two separate tests - the Silverstone YDT and the 'traditional' year-end YDT at Abu Dhabi - Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery revealed that while he had been in discussions over a test in Silverstone, nothing official had been agreed.
"To be honest, officially, we’ve only had indications from the teams testing in Abu Dhabi," Hembery said. "Formally, we haven’t had any indication about Silverstone yet, although verbally we did have a conversation, so we would be keen to know if Silverstone is going to happen or not."
But the teams themselves seemed confident the Silverstone test would go ahead, with both Sauber and Caterham saying that they intended to run at the British track, a decision formed on the basis of reduced costs and the ease of logistics.
"We have budgeted our resources to support 15 days of testing and we were counting on the fact that eventually the young driver test would occur at the end of the year," Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli explained. "We could sustain it with the engine mileage which was left over from the races, so a second test in the middle of the season which wasn’t planned, for us, is half a million? We don’t have it."
"For us it’s quite different," said Sauber's Pierre Wache. "The better compromise in terms of cost would be to test at Silverstone for plenty of reasons: for logistics and costs. It would be better to test at Silverstone."
There are some good arguments for not running the YDT in-season, and while many of them are well-rehearsed of particular note was the effect an in-season test will have on teams' engine allocations.
Speaking on behalf of McLaren, Sam Michael confirmed that the team would not be running at Silverstone, partly due to engines.
"Our plan at McLaren at the moment is to test in Abu Dhabi," Michael said. "Engines is a significant factor, as Giorgio said. If you want to test at the end of the year, you have so many part-mileage engines with the race team that all have a little bit of mileage on them so you can effectively do it for free, in terms of your race engines. If you try and do that in the middle of the year, you can’t use your race engines so you have to prepare a special test engine."
Romain Grosjean was the quickest man around Mugello this week, with an early afternoon lap of 1m21.035s that was the fastest of the in-season test.
The Lotus driver’s lap dethroned Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who had been on top of the timesheets with a 1m21.267s as the teams broke for lunch.
But the big story of the day came thanks to Fernando Alonso, who put his F2012 into the barriers at Turn 12 and gave the Ferrari mechanics plenty of work to do. The Scuderia are using the Mugello tests as an opportunity to redevelop their struggling car, with the focus a new exhaust package.
The Italian racers will be bringing a package of aerodynamic updates to next week’s Spanish Grand Prix, but the front wing and diffuser were not ready for the Mugello tests.
Alonso’s accident saw the Spanish driver side-lined for two hours of the morning session while repairs were made to his car.
Over at Williams, Pastor Maldonado laid claim to the unenviable boast of having completed the least running, thanks to an electrical fault that left the Venezuelan able to do only four laps in the morning session. Following hot on the heels of an unsuccessful run for Bruno Senna, this has been a challenging week for the British team.
The most dramatic event of the day came about thanks to Sauber, who experienced a small fire in the morning session. After only a few short laps, Sergio Perez pulled into the pitlane with his car billowing smoke. The Mexican racer then spent the next two hours in the garage while his car was repaired.
Late afternoon saw improvements from a number of drivers, with Maldonado, Nico Rosberg, and Oliver Turvey all setting fast times as the session drew to a close. Day 3 times (unofficial)
1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1.21.035s
2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1.21.267s
3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.21.363s
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1.21.604s
5. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 1.22.229s
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1.22.325s
7. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1.22.497s
8. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1.22.579s
9. Oliver Turvey (McLaren) 1.22.662s
10. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1.23.002s
11. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) 1.23.169s
12. Timo Glock (Marussia) 1.23.466s
HRT elected not to take part in the Mugello tests.Times via Sky Sports.
The second day of in-season testing at Mugello was far more successful than Tuesday’s rained-out attempt at running.
Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear, and teams were able to get back to their planned test programmes after a day largely spent in motorhomes and garages, hiding from the torrential rains.
With much to catch up on, drivers were sent out with their cars covered in sensors, gauges, and flow-vis paint, so that teams could make the most of the data-gathering opportunity.
Instead of chasing outright pace, teams sought to make up for yesterday’s missed opportunity, and the focus was on slower-paced long runs.
Romain Grosjean spent most of the day at the top of the timesheets, and was fastest man on track with a 1.21.603s as the teams broke for lunch after an incident-free morning. But the Frenchman ended the day alongside Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi when the chequered flag brought an end to the session; both men lapped the Mugello Circuit in 1m23.603s.
One man who didn’t get much running in was Paul di Resta. The Force India driver spent the morning sidelined by a rumoured hydraulics problem, and was unable to set a timed lap before trouble struck. The afternoon saw a slight improvement, but the Scot had only 14 laps under his belt by the end of the day.
The only red flag of the day was brought out by co-pace-setter Kobayashi, who stopped on track in his Sauber. Day 2 times (unofficial)
1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1.21.603s [97 laps]
2. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 1.21.603s [87 laps]
3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1.21.825s [64 laps]
4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1.21.997s [54 laps]
5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.22.257s [106 laps]
6. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1.22.424s [65 laps]
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1.22.759s [22 laps]
8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) 1.23.404s [144 laps]
9. Charles Pic (Marussia) 1.23.982s [46 laps]
10. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) 1.24.312s [112 laps]
11. Gary Paffett (McLaren) 1.24.480s [59 laps]
12. Timo Glock (Marussia) 1.24.499s [37 laps]
13. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1.24.749s [14 laps]
14. Bruno Senna (Williams) 1.24.842s [100 laps]
HRT elected not to take part in the Mugello tests.Times via GPUpdate
I am not in Mugello this week. This report was based on a combination of Twitter and team press releases, while times come from Autosport.
Thanks to a day of largely wet weather in Mugello, in-season testing returned to Formula 1 with something of a whimper.
Heavy rains interspersed with a drying track saw teams revise their planned test programmes, as with a number of young and reserve drivers behind the wheel the inclement weather increased the chances of expensive trips across the gravel and into the tyre barriers.
Jules Bianchi, who crashed early on in pre-season testing, was cautious behind the wheel of the VJM05 in the morning session, completing only 18 laps as he waited for the track to dry out.
The morning session saw two red flags. The first was brought out by Jean-Eric Vergne, who stopped his Toro Rosso on track roughly an hour into the running time. Before lunch it was Nico Rosberg’s turn to bring the session to a halt as part of a two-for-one deal, stopping his car at Turn 4 just as Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari parked up at Turn 8.
When the official lunch break came about, it was Alonso who topped the timesheets at Ferrari’s iconic circuit.
The afternoon saw more bad weather, and teams elected to work on pit stop practice and practice starts rather than spend time harvesting wet-weather data in slippery conditions.
Michael Schumacher left the pits for Mercedes, but returned to the garage without completing a timed lap and then stayed there for the remainder of the session.
The weather got so bad at one point in the afternoon that it brought out the red flags without any driver intervention. It was too dark for the medical helicopter to take off safely, and when that occurs a session is automatically red-flagged.
Thanks in part to the weather, Alonso’s pace-setting time from the morning session proved to be unbeatable as the day wore on. Day 1 times (unofficial)
1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.22.444s
2. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1.23.648s
3. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1.23.891s
4. Jerome D’Ambrosio (Lotus) 1.24.048s
5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1.24.100s
6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 1.24.736s
7. Oliver Turvey (McLaren) 1.25.303s
8. Jules Bianchi (Force India) 1.25.475s
9. Rodolfo Gonzalez (Caterham) 1.27.197s
10. Charles Pic (Marussia) 1.27.359s
11. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1.29.179s
12. Gary Paffett (McLaren) 1.50.898s
13. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) NO TIME SET
HRT elected not to take part in the Mugello tests.
[Disclaimer]: I'm actually in Melbourne; this coverage has been supplied via live updates, team releases, and the like.
And so it ends. Three partial weeks of track time, sandbagging, grandstanding, and assumptions made based on limited amounts of public data.
The next time we see F1 cars line up in the pitlane it will be for FP1 in Melbourne’s Albert Park, with the 2012 Formula 1 season officially underway.
And how did it end? With Lotus at the top of a list of essentially meaningless times.
The final days of testing are all about long runs and race simulations, provided that the team in question have a car that’s reliable enough to go full distance. Any team without at least one race distance under their belt by the time pre-season testing ended with Sunday afternoon’s chequered flag could well be in trouble come Australia.
Marussia and HRT are almost certainly going to be in trouble in Melbourne, as neither team was able to take part in any pre-season testing with their 2012 car. HRT will be completing a day’s filming at the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday, while Marussia have yet to announce whether they’ll be able to complete a filming run before flying off to the southern hemisphere.
As for those teams that did manage to test, the overall impression is that Red Bull are as strong as ever (despite a number of problems on Sunday that meant Sebastian Vettel was only able to complete 23 laps behind the wheel of the team’s redesigned RB8), while Ferrari are in trouble.
McLaren look to be right behind Red Bull in the performance stakes, with Mercedes, Lotus, and possibly Force India ahead of the Scuderia.
Where last year we spoke of the ‘Big Four’ incessantly, this year it looks as though the pack is going to be broken down into several groups. No more front runners, mid-field, and backmarkers: instead we’ve got Red Bull and McLaren as one group; the chasers and podium finishers as Mercedes, Lotus, and Ferrari (if they can get their act together in time); Force India, Toro Rosso, and Sauber all look strong but not victorious; Caterham and Williams appear to be on a par and should be in the fight for the points, while HRT and Marussia will be mucking around together at the back of the pack.
The fact that Ferrari are in trouble should be viewed in context, of course. If Marussia or HRT rocked up with the F2012, we’d be singing their praises. But the Scuderia are supposed to be race winners, challenging for the championship from the first race. Technical director Pat Fry admitted this weekend that he didn’t see Ferrari challenging for a podium in Melbourne, let alone a win. And if you’re wearing a red uniform? That’s trouble.
On to the action on track at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday, then. Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov each brought out red flags in the afternoon; the Sauber driver stopped on track following engine problems, while the Caterham decided it would rather play on gravel than on tarmac.
The rest of the session was largely free from incident, although Vettel damaged his front wing in the morning after a trip through the gravel, and spent much of the afternoon sidelined with a gearbox problem.
Day 4 times (unofficial)
1. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1.22.030s [121 laps]
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.22.250s [115 laps]
3. Bruno Senna (Williams) 1.22.296s [53 laps]
4. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1.22.312s [101 laps]
5. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 1.22.386s [72 laps]
6. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 1.22.430s [115 laps]
7. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) 1.22.795s [101 laps]
8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) 1.22.939s [100 laps]
9. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1.23.347s [48 laps]
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1.23.393s [100 laps]
11. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1.23.608s [23 laps]
It's been a rollercoaster few weeks for HRT.
First they failed the final FIA crash tests for their 2012 car, and it looked like the Spanish team wouldn't be able to run in pre-season testing.
Then there was a small glimmer of hope that they would be able to make the final day of the second Barcelona test. A small crumb of comfort, maybe, but it's something.
But HRT have now confirmed that they were unable to get the car built in time to have it shipped to the Circuit de Catalunya to run on Sunday. As a result, the first time we will see their 2012 car running is in FP1 in Melbourne in just under two weeks' time.
HRT are not alone in their struggles, however - Marussia have also failed their final crash tests, and will join the Spanish team in making their 2012 debut at Albert Park.
[Disclaimer]: I'm not actually in Barcelona; this coverage has been supplied via live updates, team releases, and the like.
With Marussia stuck at home thanks to a failed crash test, and HRT not running until Sunday (if at all), it was a reduced field of ten cars that took to the track for the final week of pre-season testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya today.
Romain Grosjean topped the timesheets for Lotus at the end of the afternoon, pushing McLaren driver Jenson Button down into P2 after the Briton had spent the bulk of the day leading the pack.
This is a critical week for the Enstone team, who lost out on a significant amount of running time when a chassis failure forced them to withdraw from last week’s Barcelona test. With pre-season testing restricted to twelve short days, any loss of track time could have a serious effect on Lotus’ championship campaign.
The E20 completed 73 laps of the Spanish circuit today without any problems, which will have been a boost to the team’s confidence. But Lotus will have to keep their fingers crossed that they don’t suffer any reliability problems this week that prevent them from getting a few race distances under their belt before the season gets underway.
It was an incident-free session in Barcelona, with teams largely concentrating on longer runs once track conditions stablised around lunchtime. The first of two red flags came out courtesy of Sergio Perez, who stopped at Turn 6 when his car ran out of fuel, a common sight in pre-season testing. The second came thanks to Vitaly Petrov, who stopped shortly before the end of the afternoon session.
Petrov had been swapped into the car on short notice. Teammate Heikki Kovalainen was originally scheduled to put the Caterham through its paces today, but the Finnish driver was struck down with food poisoning and forced to take a day off.
A lot of work was done testing out various wing configurations, with Pastor Maldonado completing a lot of aerodynamic work for Williams, while Red Bull are continuing to be very protective about their rear wing.
Nico Rosberg completed the most laps of any man on track today; the Mercedes driver had crossed the start/finish line 128 times when the chequered flag fell and brought an end to the session.
Day 1 times (unofficial)
1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1.23.252s [73 laps]
2. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1.23.510s [64 laps]
3. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 1.23.820s [118 laps]
4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1.23.830s [102 laps]
5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1.23.992s [128 laps]
6. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1.24.216s [113 laps]
7. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1.24.305s [98 laps]
8. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.24.318s [105 laps]
9. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) 1.24.876s [123 laps]
10. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1.25.587s [58 laps]
Sometimes it's best to let the press release speak for itself.
The Marussia F1 Team is disappointed to confirm that the planned first test of its 2012 race car - the MR01 - has been delayed as a consequence of not passing the final FIA crash test.
All cars are required to pass 18 FIA-observed tests for homologation to be granted. Despite the fact that the MR01 has passed all 17 of the preceding tests, the regulations require the car to have completed all of the tests before running commences.
The team will now not take part in the final pre-season test in Barcelona later this week (1-4 March) and will instead focus its efforts on repeating the crash test at the end of the week.