Pre-season testing for the 2012 Formula 1 season begins on Tuesday. The location is Jerez, Spain. After a four-day test at Jerez, the teams move to Barcelona for two further four-day tests.
The maximum temperature forecast for Tuesday’s testing is 18°C, which is cold for racing. Getting tyres up to temperature will be difficult. Assessing effectiveness of cooling systems will be difficult. During the season the cars will be exposed to temperatures in the high 30’s and perhaps higher, when the F1 circus travels to Abu Dhabi, among other places.
This begs the question: why not test in the Southern Hemisphere? Right now, in Brazil, South Africa, Australia, etc. temperatures are in the 30’s. Conditions are similar to those expected at many of the races. It would be very useful for teams to have data from testing in warm environments. So why not?
Brazil already has a Formula 1 quality track. It’s a fantastic track to drive, the fans are passionate, and the teams are all familiar with the facilities. Should it not be considered as a location for testing?
South Africa has Kyalami, which has not hosted a Formula 1 race since 1993, but is still a world-class track. Lewis Hamilton has previously expressed his desire to race at Kyalami. Why not come to South Africa to test? It would also be a good way to gauge local interest regarding a possible Grand Prix in South Africa.
Australia hosts the opening round of the Formula 1 season. While the Albert Park track is not ideal for testing, as test tracks should have a good variety of corners, where most corners at Albert Park are fairly slow, it is partly a temporary circuit, which costs a lot of money to put together every year. It might make sense to have the track read a couple of weeks earlier and use it for testing.
The obvious reason why testing takes place in Europe is the proximity to the team factories. It is easy to fly parts in to the test track from other parts of Europe. It would not be so easy to get parts to Brazil, South Africa or Australia. Most of the drivers and team personnel also live in Europe, which means they are closer to their families when testing in Spain. They spend so much time away from home during the year that they would probably not be keen to fly around the world for testing purposes.
Nonetheless, there are reasons that Southern Hemisphere testing could work. It would be wonderful for the Southern Hemisphere Formula 1 fans, and good for technical reasons as well. Even if just one test were conducted outside Europe, it could be worthwhile.