F1 Testing: Things to know before the lights go green

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F1 Test, Barcelona, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Formula One teams and the sport’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli are all busy with preparing their cars, equipment and tyres to kick off the preparation work in the best way at Barcelona.

After a long race-less lay-off, Formula One is back on track with the official testing and preparation for the 2019 World Championship season. Despite the diligence of some teams which have already completed a shakedown with their brand-new challenger, this week’s four-day-long test session will be the first official meeting for the teams in 2019.

Barcelona was happy to invite the teams for two four-day-long test sessions. The sport chose Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona once again, thanks to it relative proximity to the team's headquarters, enabling quick transport of items to the track, either by air of by road.

The first test session is held between 18 and 21 February, followed by another 4 days of testing from 26 February to 1 March. The circuit is open for running from 9:00 to 18:00.

Tyres

The sport’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli does not set any limits for how many tyre sets teams can use during a specific day of testing. However, every squad needs to adhere to a maximum number of 110 sets for the pre- and post-season testing. The latter one will take place in Abu Dhabi after the season finale.

Pirelli has also devised a new tyre marking scheme, leaving aside the colour-per-compound system, but instead sticking to red-yellow-white.

Additional decoration expected

The sport’s governing body, the FIA introduced a set of new technical rules to improve the car’s ability to follow each other. The changes include a simplified, wider front wing which has to be built of five elements, the ban of the winglets mounted on the brake ducts, lowering of the barge boards. Teams estimated the aerodynamic loss of approximately two seconds per lap.

The technical modifications will see teams working extremely hard on finding out how much of the loss they managed to regain over the winter. They will often circulate around with a wealth of aero rakes and the so called flow-vis paint daubed on to their cars. With the aero rakes, the pitot tube sensors, teams can measure dynamic pressure around specific areas of the car. The flow visualisation paint is a fluorescent powder mixed with light oil like paraffin which can highlight the flow patterns on the aerodynamic surfaces of the car.

The rookies’ first appearance

Despite to having tested and/or raced with F1 cars on previous occasions, made experiences with Formula 1 machines, some drivers will definitely be extremely motivated, but also nervous before climbing into their new office. The 2019 F1 Championship will see a crop of exciting talents testing their capabilites on the race track. George Russell will make his debut for Williams, Alexander Albon for Toro Rosso, Lando Norris for McLaren. Antonio Giovinazzi will make his return as a fully-minted driver after having already completed two race weekends at the early part of the 2017 season with Sauber.

Albeit not a rookie, Robert Kubica will also have a daunting task as he makes his comeback as a racing driver since he retired from the sport due to his horrific rally accident on 6 February 2011 in which he nearly lost an arm. Since then, the 34-year-old has flirted with different series, including Formula E, rallying, GT3, LMP1 and most recently with Formula 1 test outing with Renault and Williams, which proved that he is fit and fully determined to grasp a steering wheel.

Do times have any meaning?

As cars hit the track for the first time, everyone will stare hard at the healine times. However, they can be totally misleading. Everyone knows that golden rule, but it is easy to oversee that, falling into the trap of the headline times.

As a reminder, it is worth noting that McLaren’s Fernando Alonso set the second best time on the eighth day of the 2018 pre-season testing to qualify then only eleventh fastest by just under 2.5 s off the pole in the qualifying session for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The pole sitter of that session, Lewis Hamilton was over 1.2 seconds off the best pace dictated set by Sebastian Vettel during pre-season. The Briton then went on to dominate the qualfying session in a fortnight’s time.

The troubled absentee

The Williams Racing team confirmed on Sunday that they will have to skip the first day of winter testing because the car is not yet ready to run. The team is hopeful that it can join the action on Tuesday, losing only one day of the total of eight test days.

“Unfortunately, we have had to delay the start of our pre-season Barcelona test to Tuesday morning. We have had an incredibly busy winter at Grove getting the FW42 prepared for the season ahead and, despite everyone’s best efforts, we need some more time before it will be ready to run,” said Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal.

Weather

Barcelona has been the sport’s main testing location for many years. It is located relatively closely to the team’s headquarters and the weather usually presents itself in a good fashion. But only usually. Last year, teams were shocked when snow arrived during the first test week, forcing them to abandon their important work. Covering the entire track, the snow led to the cancellation of the last day of testing during the first week.

For 2019, the weather promises better outlooks: sunny days with almost no clouds are expected for the first week with the temperatures rising up to 15 degree. The rain-free days should stay for the second 4-day-long test session with the temperatures reaching even higher values.

Test schedule