The F1 teams are setting up in the garages of Mugello, near Florence, Italy today ahead of a three day test, which could prove something of a life saver for some of the teams who are in trouble at the moment.
When it was announced that there would be an in-season test, for the first time since the Resource Restriction Agreement came into force at the end of 2008, it looked like it would be a very significant three days as it was the teams’ only chance outside of a race weekend; a chance to try development parts and to iron out problems with set up.
However since then it has been agreed that the Young Drivers’ Test has been moved forward from November to July at Silverstone. This offers teams a second chance before the summer to get some heavy work done and takes some of the pressure off the Mugello test.
It’s interesting to see that McLaren are planning to use Paffett and Turvey for the Mugello test, as they will also both be eligible for the Silverstone test, so the team can get some useful comparison work done across the two tests.
The reality is that all the F1 teams are developing furiously these days, bringing new parts aplenty to races and these tests will give them a chance to do some work on future directions.
So Mugello, while still important, as it will give a direction for the European season ahead, will not be season-defining.
Nevertheless, some teams have a lot of work to do. Ferrari is clearly chief among them as it has struggled so far this season with an uncompetitive car. It has a major set of upgrades coming for the Spanish GP, although how many of them will appear on the car this week at the test is open to doubt. Much has been said about the need to pass crash tests on the sidepods of the car, an area where quite a lot of freedom is given to the designers, the reality is that many teams have had to retake crash tests as new parts require them, such as noses. So it’s not that significant for Ferrari to go through that. It is certainly not expected to be virtually a new car.
Ferrari lobbied hard for the test to be at Mugello. Today they have a pre-event called “Ferrari Passion Day”, which is open to fans and where they can drive karts, try out pit stops, drive a simulator and engage with the Ferrari drivers.
They will be encouraged to stay to watch the three day test, with entry at 20 Euros and a grandstand seat ranging from 30-40 Euros.
Force India has also not started the season as strongly as hoped, despite Paul Di Resta’s strong result in Bahrain. They have pinned their hopes on a major upgrade package due out in Barcelona, which should see the light of day in Mugello first.
It’s very hard for the mechanics: most of them were away for almost three weeks at the start of the season, have just done another two week stint in China and Bahrain and were given half a day off on the Monday following Bahrain, before going back into work to prepare the cars for Mugello. With no test teams in current F1, the race mechanics are being pushed to the absolute limit at the moment with 20 races, 12 of them long-haul and two tests.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport today, the starting line-ups for the test are as follows:
Webber, Red Bull
Rosberg/Schumacher, AMG Mercedes
Vergne, Toro Rosso
HRT are not taking part in the test.
Meanwhile Pirelli will begin the first of its tyre tests at the start of next week in Jerez, Spain. Jaime Alguersuari and Lucas di Grassi will drive a 2010 Renault operated by the Lotus team, starting work on the 2013 F1 tyre compounds and constructions.