Four races into the Formula One season, and it’s time to take a little break. Or is it? Although there are three weeks between the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix, the teams will certainly not be relaxing. Instead, they will be testing from 1-3 May at Mugello in Italy.
In-season testing was banned to save costs in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008. All subsequent testing has been conducted in the pre-season, with some limited in-season straight-line running permitted. Teams have also been able to run on track with demonstration tyres for filming purposes. Now, for the first time since the testing ban was instituted, Formula One teams will participate in a full track test during the season.
Amazingly, HRT have elected not to run at the Mugello test. The team claims this is to allow time to focus on an upgrade to the car, and to get settled into their new headquarters in Madrid. Their reasoning doesn’t seem particularly sound, as there is no substitute for track time when evaluating an upgrade. Unless HRT are significantly quicker at the Spanish Grand Prix, this will almost certainly turn out to be the wrong decision.
This is the time for a team like Ferrari to catch up to the front-runners. The factory in Maranello will have been working round the clock since the start of the season, developing upgrades and testing them in the wind tunnel. Now that the Scuderia is back in Europe, the new parts can be track-tested. We can expect Ferrari to be much more competitive after the Mugello test.
For those not taking part in the test, like Jenson Button (McLaren are running their test drivers and possibly Lewis Hamilton), it’s a good opportunity to spend some time at the factory, in the simulator, training or just generally recovering from the stress of the first four races. All of the teams will arrive in Barcelona for the next race at full strength, after operating on somewhat limited resources at the flyaway races, so it’s crucial for each of the team members and drivers to be as well-prepared as possible.
I will be posting after each day’s testing, looking at the time-sheets and upgrades. In the meantime, take a look at my summary of the season so far, published by f1plus.com: