Ferrari: Simulators are a ‘joke’

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Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo seems to be increasingly frustrated with the current state of Formula 1 these days. With criticisms  over the Double-Points concept to this week’s rant about simulators, Di Montezemolo is really putting pressure on the series.

The Italian team’s head honcho has called for a summit at Maranello to discuss the future direction of the sport and this week he lashed out at the current practice of simulator use instead of actual testing.

“It is a joke,” said di Montezemolo. “We have been forced to invest a huge amount of money in these terrible machines, artificial, instead of testing here [at Fiorano] and Mugello.

“If somebody has no money to do tests, it is better to race in GP2, in go karts or go and play basketball. I want to do testing to first of all give new drivers the possibility to drive cars and get experience.

“But I also want to give more opportunities to the public because from one race weekend to another it is silent in F1. There is nothing, nothing.

“Testing is also a good opportunity for the sponsors, to call the public. And tests are less expensive than building and developing every month the terrible simulator. This is something we have to discuss for the future.”

The simulator became popular a few years ago when the FIA banned extensive testing in the sport because, rightfully, it had reached ludicrous proportions with entire testing teams and cars working around the clock. The intent was to reduce this expense as the small teams couldn’t afford this rigorous testing schedule.

In return, the large teams simply took the testing money they would normally spend and sunk it into multi-million dollar simulators to compensate for the lack of testing. It was a move to help continued development of the car through Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and simulator work to fill the gap of actual testing.

I’ve been in Ferrari’s simulator and it is an incredible piece of machinery but I’ll be honest, I found it difficult to really come to grips with the ability to brake correctly as I couldn’t accurately feel the sensation of scrubbing speed off approaching a corner and therefore wasn’t sure how much speed I have scrubbed off.

I’m sure over time I would have gotten the hang of it but it isn’t the same as actual testing. There is no replacement for putting a chassis on the road and running it in anger.

Additionally, Luca’s comment implicating small teams and their ability to afford testing is the strongest public statement about the minnows of F1 I’ve read in some time. He is basically suggesting that if they can’t afford to participate in F1, then they should be go karting or a feeder series.

There is some merit in that as some teams are struggling to find their footing in F1 but in these economic times, even large teams are struggling. Lotus F1, Williams, Sauber and Force India are all running a knife-edge on team economics so the big question might be, is it too soon to go back to more testing and less simulator work? Not the crazy extremes that were present before the testing ban but considerably more actual testing.

 

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