New orders for testing

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Like athletes in the starting blocks, like race horses in the gates, the Red Bull Racing test team members are all keyed up to spring into action and start testing again as soon as the new RB3 car is cleared for take off. This will be on 26 January.

But in the meantime, the rules of engagement for testing have changed for this year and to sum up the differences in a couple of words, it’s a case of less testing. Most of the changes to the testing regulations are based on the fact we are now competing in a championship where one tyre company has a supply monopoly and Chief Test Engineer Ian Morgan explains what the test team has to contend with now. “There is a limit on the number of kilometres which can be covered from 1st January to 31st December this year. You can do 30,000 kilometres per team, including shake-downs, aero testing, basically any situation where a car turns a wheel, with the exception of filming and promotional events. In the case of these exemptions, the car must run on a tyre that is not representative of anything the team might actually want to race on. So the key numbers are 30,000 for the kilometres and 300 sets of tyres.”

If that tyre allowance sounds relatively generous, then consider that in the past, a test team might have run up to fifteen sets of tyre per car per day! “So now we are going to be down to about four sets per day,” reckons Morgan. “This limits the ability to do proper comparative testing, but we will save a lot of time that we used to spend purely testing the tyres and now the focus is back on the chassis side of things. Tyre work used to be quite interesting and it was a challenge to get the car to match the characteristics of different compounds and constructions.”

The new for 2007 rules have been drawn up by the newly formed F1 Testing Committee and this means the majority of the tests will see all the teams running together at venues and dates agreed by the committee. “So most of our test calendar for the year is already mapped out,” says Morgan. “Before the start of the season, all the teams will probably attend the same four or five tests, although there is a clause allowing a team to opt out and go to a nominated private test venue. From what we understand the majority will go to the agreed tests that are all of three day duration. That helps from the planning and logistics point of view.”

Before the first race of the season, each team is allowed to run two cars per day at every. “We have the five pre-season tests and on top of that there is one three day private test teams can carry out at their discretion,” continues Morgan. “Once the season is underway, the big change comes in that, in between the first and last races of the season, there are eight one-car tests. This will be a new experience for all of us, with the potential to be quite tricky as all the race drivers will want to get maximum mileage under their belts and at best, they will have a day and a half each. Those eight tests have also been agreed and planned to fit between Australia and Brazil. I think once we get used to this new more structured system, it will be better in some ways,but the one car format puts the teams under pressure to keep that car running. When you test with two and there is a problem with one car, you can shuffle your programme around and adapt, but with the new rule there will be added pressure to have the one car on-track all the time. But the lack of tyre testing should help in that respect.”

Tossing around glib figures like 30,000 kilometres and 300 sets of tyres is all well and good, but it would be meaningless if there was no way of checking that everyone was playing by the rules. The first step is for all teams to actually agree on the real length of the circuits used and it has been decided that every lap a car starts is deemed to be a full lap. There will be an element of trust, but the FIA is free to send observers to any test and can also ask to see a car’s data logging. On top of these moves, it is hoped that a common timing system will be used at every test.

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