It’s that time of the week again! Everyone’s favourite Grand Prix question time, The Scrutineering Bay, is back for another round of hard hitting-debate between Badger’s writers.

This week, with the season being put back due to the Bahrain cancellation (which we discussed last week), the main focus is on what every team (bar plucky Hispania) has been focused on in recent weeks: pre-season testing. With restrictions in place on how much running a team can do, it begs the question:

“Does limited testing mean limited F1?”

The brave men answering this week are resident Welshman Jimmy Von Weeks, the returning Adam Millenueve and myself, the ever present Craig Normansell. As a change to regular proceedings, I shall be starting:

“When the testing ban came into effect, I would’ve said yes, but since it’s inception I’ve actually seen the upside. In terms of driver development though, I’m now a firm no.

Test drivers were used unsparingly to develop cars in each and every area by pounding round tracks over the course of a year, sometimes completing hundreds of laps at a time. When the opportunity of a race seat came along though, they were merely considered, before an established driver took the role. So, what was the point?

Now, drivers get a small window to prove themselves in other ways. CAD and simulators now mean a car can be ran into the ground without a tyre touching the track, so a driver has to be fast when he gets the chance as well as provide accurate technical feedback almost instantly.

Ultimately, no testing means when a driver sits in a car he has to be firmly on top of his game, or that’s it. It sorts the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys and means anyone who sits in an F1 car for a whole season is exactly what they need to be; the best.”

Stepping up to the plate next is Jimmy:

Rather than approach this from my own point of view I’ll let someone who is actually effected by it speak. GP2 race-winner Sam Bird is currently towards the top of a very long list of young drivers trying to break in to F1, and when I spoke with him last season he was in no doubt that limited testing his a negative effect on the prospects of aspiring Grand Prix racers.

“As a young driver I would love to see more test days. It’s extremely hard as a young racer to get recognised in the first place, and then the fact that there are hardly any test days greatly restricts running for rookies like myself.

“It would be fantastic if we were open to more test days. Of course I understand what the reasoning is behind it but it is extremely tough for a young driver trying to break through in to Formula One anyway and when there are no test days available it’s even more difficult.”

Of course, he’s a racing driver – he wants to drive as much as is humanly possible. But he does highlight the problem of allowing young racers the seat time needed for an F1 team to give them a pop. Unless you come with Pastor Maldonado levels of cash the lack of testing can be hugely damaging.

And just like that, we have a clash of writers! While I think the testing ban brings the better driver to the fore, Jimmy disagrees whole-heartedly. The fact that he had to bring in a ringer did put him perilously close to disqualification though…

Last, but by no means least, are Adam‘s thoughts:

In short, yes – limited testing is massively limiting for F1, not in just the sense of limited car development for teams or limited driving development for the rookies, the other factor, which is often overlooked, is that it’s massively limiting the sport in terms of accessibility.

Many fans cannot afford to go to an actual grand prix. To see a race will cost over a £100 minimum, and that’s just for general admission. Any form of seat and you’re looking at £200 at least. I’m not here to complain about ticket prices (it did used to be much cheaper mind) – the costs of hosting a grand prix is massive nowadays, and yes the ‘fan’ could point blame at Bernie, but to be frank, without good* ol’ Bernard F1 wouldn’t be the global spectacle that it is today, put your hands back in your pockets.

To get onto my main point in this week’s debate – testing is one of the few remaining ways that fans can get to see and enjoy the thrill that is an F1 car in real life at full speed, with all the noise and nearly as much atmosphere as at a grand prix… for the bargainous 10 euro. Just read our submission from F1 fan, @lookingspiffy, on her time at Barcelona or read my own report on how testing is great for fans and you’ll see how F1 really is limiting itself by becoming obsessed with rules, bans and limitations. Bring back proper testing… end of.

(*okay, so it’s not all ‘good’)

Adam‘s points are all well founded and have great evidence, all of which he provides for us to explore. With the ban on testing in place for some positive reasons, it’s obvious that other ramifications were overlooked. Not only do some drivers suffer with the lack of track time, but also the fans suffer with the lack of cheap and affordable opportunities to view the spectacle.

So, there we have it. Three of Badger’s finest have put their thoughts across about the FIA’s decision to limit testing mileage, all varied in content but as usual eloquently put. As with all rule changes when they come into force it seems to be either a good idea or a waste of time, dependant on your views, and with the testing ban it’s clear to see that the jury is still out.

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