Teams have trouble getting useful data from testing

2013 F1 season

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Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013F1 teams begin their final four-day test in preparation for the new season on Thursday.

But for several reasons some have had difficulty making the most of the running they’ve had so far.

At the first test at Jerez the abrasive track and cool conditions made gaining useful information difficult. Williams chose not to bring their new car to the test as technical director Mike Coughlan explained:

“To begin with we didn’t plan to do Jerez at all,” he said. “We only did Jerez because Pirelli were bringing their new tyres and we felt it would even be better with the old car so we had a known platform.

“I’m sure a lot of people who went to Jerez with a new car, new driver and new tyres got lost. We didn’t.”

Coughlan listed Jerez’s shortcomings as a testing venue: “It’s very unique, very high degradation, really aggressive, very rear [tyre]-limited”. “We don’t even go to a track that’s similar,” he added.

Williams ran their 2012 car at the test and focussed on learning as much as they can about the new generation Pirelli tyres: “We came away with a very good understanding of the tyres, what we can do on pressures and cambers.”

“With the current breed of rear suspension it’s very difficult to do damper changes and bar changes and spring changes. So it gives you an opportunity to prepare lots of things. Different types of damper, things like this. Things you can’t do in a [practice] session because it takes too long, when you’re trying to understand the tyres.”

However Coughlan says he would have preferred to test the new car at a more representative circuit: “If it’d been three Barcelonas, we’d have done them all with the new car.”

“I think we’re happy with Barcelona,” he continued. “Barcelona is very good, we all have lots of simulations of the Barcelona track. I think Barcelona is fine, it’s very easy to get to, cheap flights, good hotels, nice city. I’d like to see three at Barcelona.”

But after the teams moved on to Barcelona low temperatures and high tyre degradation remained an issue.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Jenson Button explained the problems McLaren had encountered during their test: “It’s very difficult, you’re doing qualifying runs to understand the car.”

“We all know that qualifying isn’t everything in Formula One so it’s very difficult. And also you have the complicated task of trying to understand what fuel load you should run.

“It’s very easy to go out of the pit lane with low fuel because you’ll go quick, it’ll look nice and the tyres will be great. But you’re not always going to be running low fuel on these tyres.

“So we have to do high fuel runs and we then have to do very high fuel runs. So sometimes you see laps stand out and I think it’s because people have just thought ‘there’s so much degradation, maybe if we take more fuel out we can get more laps out of it’. But you still lose the tyres very quickly. It doesn’t seem to matter what fuel you run.”

Button lost a chance for further running on the last day of the test due to rain. And the weather forecast for the final pre-season test this week offers little encouragement. Rain is expected on Thursday and Friday, with conditions improving for the final two days.

“It’s the same for all of us,” Button admitted. “Putting mileage on the car is very important, something we have to work on a little bit more before we get to the first race.”

When testing concludes at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday the first race of the season will be less than two weeks away. Time is running out and those who’ve made the best of the limited testing opportunity they’ve had may carry an advantage into the beginning of the season.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 49 comments on “Teams have trouble getting useful data from testing”

    1. Personally I’d like to see Jerez back.

    2. Had they put the Jerez test before Barcelona, I think it’d have been very different. I mean, to arrive with completely new cars at a very weird location (compared to other races in the calendar) probably isn’t the best start. But Mugello is very unique too, and Ferrari made gains with it, maybe because they knew where they were lacking development and concentrated on it regardless of the track.

      1. I think it’s exactly what you said. Ferrari knew they had to find boatloads of downforce. And that you can test at almost any track with a different array of corners. On the other hand, if for instance they had severe problems with tyre wear, or problems getting the tyres up to temperature, Jerez would not be much of a help, though regardless of knowing the problem or not!

      2. I wanted to say “Had they put the Jerez test after Barcelona”

        You get the picture anyway :)

    3. The track selection, the tires, the weather conditions and problems with the new ECU prevent teams from gathering useful data. So respectively the blame goes to God, Pirelli, God and McLaren Electronic Systems.

      1. yeah, I just called Mr. E/FIA “god” and didn’t even realize it before posting.

        1. Well, he seems much more decisive and real that most gods! We should start an F1fanatic religion with Bernie Ecclestone as the almighty! ;)

      2. The fault is not from the ECU. I you remember in Germany last season Jo Bauer told RBR to remap their engine but the stewards ruled against him. So the FIA wrote all teams to chose from the engine mappings they did in the first quarter of last season and stick to it. (2012 tech reg.)
        Renault thought it would be a new beginning for 2013 but others think it will be a continuation of the Tech reg. 2012. So, the McLaren Electronic Systems (MES) was given a parameter to produce new ECU to affect the changes. That is why Renault engine customers are now complaining they are speaking to their cars but was not responding. That was also the problem with Kimi as they were busy trying to make their engine communicate with the ECU.

        1. Ferrari and McLaren had problems too and they are not Renault customers.

    4. I find it difficult to understand that in the world of F1, a world that seems so professional, someone decided that it would be a good idea to test the new Pirelli-tyres in Jerez for the first time, knowing the unusual abrasive nature of the track.

      1. On top of that: I also don’t understand that all the teams except for Williams started off with the new car in Jerez. For instance, if the car is not in balance, it is difficult to find out whether this is due to the new tyres or the new chassis. In karting I have always learnt: change one thing at the time, otherwise you don’t know what caused the difference.

        1. True in karting, but you have not nearly enough time in F1 to only change a single thing (in case the car is all over the place) and test each change individually.
          I think most teams used Jerez simply to check reliability and how new components worked, regardless of how the balance of the car was. Point in case Ferrari’s overheatin issues, or even better, Mercedes’ brake problems. If they had taken the old car, the problem might have appeared in Barcelona, which would have rendered a day at a much, much better test venue entirely useless.

          Williams was lucky (and/or did a good job) that their car was so reliable all through the Barcelona tests.

    5. @keithcollantine I don’t know if you’re trying to build hype for the coming season here, but it’s working! all this confusion and frustration from the teams makes Melbourne even more of an exciting prospect.

    6. They should have a test in Britain, Silverstone for example. There would be more fans and the teams would get a better understanding of the tyres. Only problem would be the weather.

      1. I think we all would like it to be held in Silverstone.

        Only problem would be the weather

        There you go, therefore it’s not in England…

      2. @rgbargie – The weather is the main issue there! I’m not entirely sure about the South of England, but these last few weeks Scotland has been biterlly cold (regularly dipping into the minuses) and England I don’t think has been much warmer, so they’d be best to stay at Barcelona or go further south to the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, for the reasons I have discussed there.

        1. Or perhaps, if people must insist on building uninspiring circuits in the middle of the desert, we could put them to a practical use and free up some race slots for the proper tracks!


          1. But on a serious note. I agree with your comments on Portimão .

          2. @gongtong – good point: I’d be happy to see that happening just to free up the calendar for some good racetracks!

      3. No chance, it would be a complete waist of everyone’s time.

        What they really need is a test in the Middle East where the temperatures will stick consistently in the low 20’s. That would be a dream for Ferrari, Mclaren, Mercedes and RBR, maybe Lotus. I think most of the other teams, and maybe the FIA, would complain about the cost of sending all the kit and crew over there for a pre-season test though.

    7. Im struggling to understand why Rain Data is Useless data. The car has to race in the rain, rain setup is important, rain tire information is important. So often we see back-markers get big results on rainy races. Is this because top teams are not optimized for those conditions? All the points count, even the wet ones…

      1. Because dry is dry (basically). Wet is not wet. It can be damp, wet or soaking. And it can change within minutes. So you don’t know whether the change in balance is caused by your setup or by the changing weather conditions.

        1. So, if the car acts different on a wet/damp/soaking/drying/wetting track, is it not more important to gain that data.

          In a world where every advantage is exploited, I still dont understand why teams dont try to explore this more, especially on a Wet Test day, when they have no choice. Learn what you can, and build build the wet setup, confirm the simulator, whatever.

          Why is the Status Quo of performance and standings so shaken in wet conditions, where back-markers start competeing. Please dont bore me with the usual “max speed differential cannot be used in the wet” argument. The wet track is the same for all. The engines are standardized for the most part, and many lower teams are using engines from Top teams. In light of this, it is TRACTION that is the difference. I would say it is not the Bottom teams gaining, but rather, the top teams slipping, probably because they dont have enough data to optimize wet running

      2. Adding to that: in dry conditions, the pace is 90% determined by the car and 10% by the driver – that’s why HRTs don’t get pole and Red Bulls don’t (normally) qualify last. In the rain, I’d say it’s more fifty-fifty. Therefore, it’s not interesting for the teams to test the car in wet conditions, as there is not a lot of room for improvement in the wet. And with conditions changing every lap, there is no point in trying to find the perfect set-up.

        1. Maybe a bit exaggerating with 50-50, the car’s still the greatest factor even in wet/damp conditions. Cars can work differently depending on weather (e.g. last year: Ferrari’s and Lotus’ pace in very hot/cold track temperatures)

    8. All of this makes it sound like Melbourne is going to be a wild card race especially if it rains! Oh wee I can’t wait already – just 3 weeks! I can already picture the horror on drivers’ faces when Grosjean/Maldonado attempt an overtake down the start/finish straight – the hustle Hamilton/ Vettel/ Alonso will be moving with and the absolute pandemonium that awaits everyone all at turn 1!

    9. Bring on Melbourne.

    10. I Love the Pope
      26th February 2013, 17:22

      I loved that Mugello test last year – the pics are still on my computer and one is my desktop screen.

      Great stuff! Beautiful track and pictures.

    11. I know that Pirelli have been pushing for the pre-seaon test in Jerez to be moved to Bahrain in order to get some proper tyre data.

      Reason been that the weather in Bahrain in terms of temperature & also track surface is more representative of much of the actual season so they get more useful data.

      For anyone wondering the reason testing has historically taken place in Spain & prior to that at Estoril is because those places always tend to be dry this time of year & its dry weather that gives the engineer’s the best data to ensure wind tunnel/CFD data is matching real world data.
      Testing in the wet is good practice for drivers but the data teams get back isn’t that useful as you can’t really test aero stuff in the wet & the track/weather conditions tend to be quite changeable depending on how many cars are running, how much rain is falling & how hard etc…

      1. The only problem I see with Bahrain is that the teams would realistically need to fly over their supplies, which is creating an increased cost that isn’t exactly necessary. There are tracks further south in Europe which could do the job, which just begs the question why they continue to test in the unrepersantive conditions in Barcelona?

        1. It’s not Barcelona that is the problem, it’s Jerez. I haven’t heard any teams complaining about the track conditions in Catalunya, as it’s always been a great venue for testing a Formula 1 car.

          1. @jamiefranklinf1 – absolutely Jerez is the main concern, but we have also had teams complaining about degradation which is largely due to the temperatures in Barcelona at this time of year. So it is a good venue, but there are better.

            1. Barcelona is great for aero data as its a very aero-reliant circuit (Which is why overtaking has always been extra hard there), It also used to be a good circuit for tyre data as Bridgestone, Michelin & GoodYear all had a range of tyres designed to work well in low temperatures allowing teams to get good data.

              The biggest problem now is that because of the way the Pirelli’s are designed, They simply grain in low temperatures, If you go back to when teams 1st ran them in early 2011 they had the same complaints & we have seen a few times during race weekends in Friday morning practice teams have the same problems.

              Barcelona would still be fine for testing at this time of year if Pirelli had a more suitable tyre for low temperatures as all previous suppliers did.

      2. Barcelona would still be fine for testing at this time of year if Pirelli had a more suitable tyre for low temperatures as all previous suppliers did

        …but they don’t, so an alternative track – which would still be useful for aerodynamic testing – and is in a warmer climate would help the teams gather more useful data.

    12. This pretty much confirms my thoughts that they should go to the Algarve circuit, a track which was built with the intention of being used for F1 testing. It is further south that Barcelona, has a good mix of corners and is more representative of a modern F1 circuit than Jerez. The only disadvantage really is that the team’s trickiest will have further to drive, but that should be offset by the more useful data they would gather due to the higher temperatures (at the time of writing, the temperature is 15°C in Portimão [link]).

      As long as the track is in a usable state, and all the teams agreed to test there I don’t see why they wouldn’t take advantage of the better data that would be gathered.

      1. *trickiest truckies, damn autocorrect!

    13. February Winter testing should take place in Canada. I’m all for it.

      1. @kingshark – it’s just a tad impractical ;) I’d be all for Scottish winter testing but that’s just as far-fetched as far as the weather is concerned!

        1. It’s 70 degrees F (21c) in Austin right now….

          1. @obi-spa-kenobi – temperature isn’t the overriding concern though; the teams aren’t exactly going to fly all their testing equipment and new parts to Australia just because it’s warm: the costs would be immense! The whole idea is to reduce costs, so staying in Europe is the most sensible option currently.

            1. He said Austin, not Australia, but it’s the same thing, cost.

          2. @rally-man – yes I do realise this, I was just making a point over how impractical having to fly equipment anywhere would be! Australia was just merely a more extreme example of the severe flaw in logic that location should be based on temperature ;)

            1. BUT Austin isn’t as far, and it would be a boon for the US crowd, a market F1 needs.

    14. It really is a non issue and I think its being beaten up for the lack of anything better to talk about. Mileage is all important during pre-season testing. Remember the 1st 5 races last year, no team had a handle on tyres either, its shaping up that way again this year too.

    15. Sepang! MotoGP tests there, why not F1? *ducks*

    16. Teams may be having troubles now, but after the next four days of testing, and come the practice sessions in Melbourne, I expect that teams will have a better handle on the tyres. Perhaps Williams do have the upper hand in terms of tyre data though, which could help them in the opening races at least.

    17. Excellent. That means the teams will still be learning for longer than usual and the first quarter/third of the season will still be a test, where the results will be all over the place.

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