Jean Todt wants to allow teams to test during the season for the first time since 2008.
But while there is a need to give young drivers more opportunities to drive Formula 1 cars, there are downsides to allowing too much testing.
That’s why I think a better alternative is to bring back non-championship Grand Prix races.
The problems of testing
Bringing back testing to give new drivers the opportunity to get mileage at the wheel of an F1 car makes sense.
Aside from that, why increase the amount of testing teams can do? It’s not as if there’s been a massive spate in car failures. The Chinese Grand Prix set a new record for the most drivers to finish an F1 race.
But a radical change in the technical rules is planned for 2013. So it’s not hard to see why teams might need more than the 15 days of pre-season running, plus a few other days during and after the season, which they get at the moment.
Still, there are many good reasons why testing was banned in the first place and F1 should take care not to forget those lessons.
Too much testing will reduce the teams’ need to run in practice on race weekends. And the more teams can test and understand their cars and the new tyres, the more predictable racing will become.
Then there’s the cost. The teams have already disbanded their separate testing teams to save money. Earlier this week Williams stressed the importance of the Resource Restriction Agreement in helping them reduce costs and remain in the sport.
This points towards several obvious things the FIA must restrict if in-season testing is to return.
How testing should be restricted
Teams should be required to test together, at the same tracks, on the same days to keep costs down.
They should not be allowed to test at Grand Prix venues, to ensure they still do set-up work and testing during race weekend practice sessions.
They should only be allowed to run drivers with no Grand Prix experience. And, of course, the total number of test days allowed should be kept to a strict minimum.
But what’s the point of going to the considerable expense of running F1 cars without taking advantage of the opportunity to draw a crowd and make some money? This is why bringing back non-championship races makes sense.
Make testing an event
A three-day, non-championship race weekend could include all the testing time teams need on Friday and Saturday, followed by qualifying and a race on Sunday.
There would be other benefits such as allowing them to test changes to racing rules outside of the championship: such as getting rid of the ‘use both tyres’ rule or changes to the Drag Reduction System.
Resurrecting non-championship race could allow teams to give testing opportunities for young drivers but also participate in a competitive event which will offer far more opportunities for promotion than a dreary eight-hour test.
It would be F1’s equivalent of a ‘friendly’ football match.
A ‘pie in the sky’ plan, perhaps. No doubt Grand Prix contracts include clauses that prevent F1 cars from participating in any other races in countries that hold world championship events. But that still leaves us with Portimao in Portugal and Magny-Cours in France.
But running F1 cars isn’t cheap and the teams should take advantage of any opportunity to promote themselves and the sport.
F1 races, 1950-2001
The rise of the world championship means there hasn’t been a non-championship race for F1 cars since Keke Rosberg took the chequered flag at Brands Hatch on April 10th, 1983.
This chart shows how many world championship and non-championship F1 races there have been in every year since the world championship began.
|World championship races||7||8||8||9||9||7||8||8||11||9||10||8||9||10||10||10||9||11||12||11||13||11||12||15||15||14||16||17||16||15||14||15||16||15||16||16||16||16||16||16||16||16||16||16||16||17||16||17||16||16||17||17||17||16||18||19||18||17||18||17||19||19|
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