To test or not to test, that is the question. I was reading an article about McLaren boss Ron Dennis’s distaste for the lack of testing in Formula 1 and how this may also be Fernando Alonso’s frustration as well.
The thoughts, as posited by the folks at motorsport.com, is that Fernando’s insinuation that he may be interested in other forms of racing could be a the first sign of a life outside of F1 given his current struggles to which Dennis suggests this is born from an inability to improve their car via the ban on testing.
The testing ban is either a critical cost-saving element or a red herring depending on how you look at it. You won’t find Mercedes clamoring for more testing and you won’t find Sauber, Marussia, Force India or Lotus demanding more tests. You will find the “thereabout” teams asking for a lift in the ban and with good reason.
These teams—McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull—have much to play for and the resources to win it. They can allocate the right tools and talent on the right topics in order to make gains mid-season and match or surpass Mercedes. If allowed, they can take the resource, innovation and fabrication fight to Mercedes and possibly win. None of that happens when there is no testing. Dennis said:
“That isn’t what F1 is about. F1 is about competition, not about handicapping. And perversely the biggest handicap in F1 is no testing.”
Dennis feels it is not saving money as it is more expensive to bring a host of changes to the cars that haven’t been proven or vetted. They are just fabricating lots of changes and seeing what works. He suggests it’s an expensive way to run a railroad.
Dennis also states that the testing ban only saves the small teams money and the big teams are wasting money on un-proven upgrades. Perhaps the comments from McLaren race director Eric Boullier, shared by James Allen, shed light on this theory:
“I hope that Honda is aware of the situation and has a plan to make up for lost time,” said Boullier. “You cannot buy time of course, but you can add resources. So where 450 people is sufficient now for Mercedes, Honda needs 700 so that we can catch up.”
So at this point it is just about throwing heads at problems? If you have a construction project that was estimated to have 100 hours of electrician time to complete, you would get nowhere by sending 100 electricians to the jobsite on the first day or even the 30th day. There is a GANTT chart and construction process and a series of things that have to happen prior to landing 480 to the building. It’s a phased project not unlike designing, building and running a F1 car.
You can place me in the camp of Ron Dennis and Ferrari and Red Bull. If you want a series where competition is king, then you have to let the teams who run at the front have a go at each other. F1 has never been a multi-class racing series but it has never had such a disparity between the Have’s and the Have Yacht’s from a resource and technology standpoint. The systems Mercedes bring to their operation are galactic in scope compared to Marussia, Force India or Sauber.
As it is, Mercedes has done a far superior job of getting on top of the current regulations and all hail the achievement but the regulations themselves prevent any real challenge during the season for any team to have a good chance of making up ground.
In many ways, no one wants to go back to the rampant testing days of the late 90’s with dedicated testing teams at work 24/7 but affording the top teams to test more during the season is terrific 411 and that can manifest in more meaningful upgrades that could tighten up a season. Is it fair to those teams who cannot afford to test regularly? Probably not but then F1 is expensive and the top teams have little interest in Marussia being able to be competitive.