With Formula One on a three week break at the moment, the teams have descended on Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to rack up some miles in their cars. This test session is often considered to be the season’s most important, as teams that didn’t start well in the first few races now have some time to improve their motors before the European leg begins. But what would happen if testing wasn’t allowed? Would Formula One be more or less exciting?
Testing is currently limited to 30,000 kilometres per year per team. One of the primary reasons behind this limitation is to offer a cost-saving to the teams. If they could, the big names would be constantly pounding their way around circuits and employing countless test drivers all in a bid to eek out that illusive tenth. If this were allowed though, as it was in the past, the void between the rich and less-rich teams would get even bigger than what it currently is. The poorer teams cannot afford to be continuously testing, thus improvements take longer to be realised.
If testing were completely outlawed during the season though, the cost-saving across all teams would be fairly substantial, but I wonder if would do the sport any good.
If testing were banned, then development would happen at the race track on race weekends. New parts would be bolted on to the cars on Friday and either be left on, or removed promptly. It would make Friday practice sessions a little more interesting, that’s for sure. To see the cars with all their weird and wonderful additions makes for interesting viewing, even if they don’t make through to Sunday.
There would likely be more retirements during races as parts and components fail. Is this a good thing? I can’t see how it could be, but it would add a little spice into the championship. In Michael Schumacher’s final year of racing in 2006, both he and Fernando Alonso suffered car failures at key points during their campaigns. It certainly added to the spectacle, especially given that Ferrari’s rarely fail, and Renault were also pretty reliable at the time. But to have cars retire for little more than a broken seal or something equally as inane, then that is not good. It takes drivers out of the race, which goes against the point of motor racing.
Another point to consider is the development of the teams during the season. In 2007 a couple of teams showed signs of strong improvement. Scuderia Toro Rosso ended their campaign on a relative high, and BMW have been steadily progressing since they took over the Sauber squad. Without testing I feel the improvements from these teams would have taken a lot longer. You could argue that everybody is in the same boat, but clearly STR and BMW both used their testing allowance to much better effect than say, Renault, or even Ferrari and McLaren when you compare the relative pace of each from last year to this.
Without testing, the season could very easily become a bore. The cars that turn up to the first race won’t change too much as the year unfolds, therefore it wouldn’t be silly to suggest the victors of race one will likely take the title. And I don’t think we really want a season with that much predictability to it.
Prohibiting testing could spice up the championship a bit. It would certainly make the teams think long and hard about adding new parts on their cars. It could add in a few surprises for the teams that are brave, but equally so, it could take a lot away form the spectacle. It could lead to a predictable season which would be a turn-off for so many fans. And besides, what would the teams do with all that money they would save? They’d only turn up to races with ever bigger motor homes, which Bernie would have to some how fit into the paddock.
It isn’t an issue at the moment, so please don’t think this post relates to some breaking news – it really doesn’t. But would you like to see further limitations on testing, or would you rather let the teams run wild and test from sunrise to sunset?
Image courtesy of Honda.