What can we learn from F1 testing?



I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this; after all it is a perfectly valid question. Throughout testing for both Formula 1 and Formula Renault 3.5 I have had to remind myself that times should be taken with a pinch of salt as the cars will evolve in a matter of weeks.

Today signals the final day of pre-season testing. The next stop is Australia in two weeks time when the cars line up; engines fired, and ready to compete for the championship.

But can we really learn anything from testing?

By this I don’t just mean that Marussia are indecisive or that Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will have to become fire fighters if Jerez is anything to go by.

Times may be easily discarded (as teams will update and modify their cars during the next two weeks) but testing can enable us to assess the drivers and their possible chances for success.

For example, the temperament of a driver could be considered here. One has to give credit to both Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil; both drivers remained calm and kept to impeccable levels of sportsmanship despite engaging in an enthralling battle – in the end they were both awarded with two coveted seats in Formula 1.

Was I also the only one who noticed a new Felipe Massa? Cast aside the drama of the tyre incident on Saturday and instead remember that the Brazilian’s future was looking bleak just months ago.  It seems that Massa is continuing the momentum of 2012’s epic season finale by producing quick times on par with his well respected team mate. For the first time since his horrific crash in Hungary in 2009, we are seeing the driver that originally signed for the legendary Ferrari.

The car launches are one of my favourite parts of a pre season build up. All unveilings were covered in detail here on ‘stoodonthepodium’. It’s interesting to see which team has adopted which strategy; some including Lotus, Force India and Red Bull have chosen the stepped nose with varied success. The Sauber appears reliable, though perhaps not the quickest at this stage. It has virtually non-existent side pods and a strange combination of stepped nose and vanity cover.

What this proves is that the car launches and testing period provide us with an insight into the lives of the mechanics and race personnel throughout the winter month because, despite the season coming to a climatic halt in November, Formula 1 just doesn’t stop.

Another technical point worthy of note – the tyres. This year, Pirelli have introduced a new formulation of tyres. With the help of ever changing weather conditions, the drivers and teams were able to fully analyse tyre wear and degradation.

However the most fundamentally overwhelming point to consider here would be nostalgia; testing supplies us all with that much needed engine roar and adrenaline. Nothing beats the moment that the cars line up, ready for lights out, but testing brings us as close as we’ve been for the past few months.

So bask in celebration as we rejoice at the sound the engine, the smell of burning rubber and the emotionless faces of drivers who attempt to maintain a poker face whilst too celebrating their return to a role that is to them and us so deeply poignant.

To quote Mark Webber, “we’ve learnt a lot but now it’s time to go racing.”

This blog post is the first in this year’s pre season build up. For the next thirteen days, ‘stoodonthepodium’ will be bringing you exclusive interviews, stories, analysis and more from the world of Motorsport.

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One thought on “What can we learn from F1 testing?

  1. Good blog! It’s a great time of year for speculation and guesswork but everyone’s standard comment is “you’ll have to wait until Melbourne!”. Reason is it’s completely true. My team have absolutely no clue as to where we stand, we don’t really even know if our new car is substantially quicker than the old one, nevermind whether we are quicker than the others… The new tyres are the biggest issue, if it’s warm in Melbourne things could be so very, very different. Winners will be the teams who can guess and adapt the best over that particular weekend.

    It looks as if the first few races will be even harder to predict than last year and so truly I don’t think we’ll know the pecking order even after the first race…

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