F1 Testing kicks off in Jerez: Some key things to look out for
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Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Feb 2013   |  10:20 am GMT  |  32 comments

There are three tests before the start of the season, the first starts this morning in Jerez. So what are we going to see this week and will these first four days have any relevance to the 2013 season as a whole?

This week’s initial four day test is where the basic launch cars circulate, doing the initial checks on cooling, brake systems and so on, as well as taking aerodynamic measurements that are essential with any new car and over the next few days working on understanding the new Pirelli tyres.

However the chase for performance will follow at the next two tests in Barcelona and the definitive aerodynamic packages that the teams have in mind for the season opener will start to come on stream at those two tests, especially the second one.

The lead times on some items like front wings are very long; it takes 1,000 hours to make a front wing, for example. So teams are in a frantic race to get them ready for Melbourne and they need them to work in the Barcelona tests and just as important, not get damaged before the first race.

Barcelona is the better test venue than Jerez to give a read on a car. In order to get the maximum aerodynamic benefit you need time to bring it to the car at the Barcelona test. That is why many of the cars we have seen launched this week have looked rather similar to the 2012 models. They key question is, do the teams have a progressive aerodynamic package up their sleeves for the later tests?

As Adrian Newey said at the Red Bull launch on Sunday – possibly the only thing he gave away the whole day – getting the tyres to work is of first order importance right from the start.

The first seven races won’t be as chaotic as the first half of last season because there aren’t significant rule changes combined with as tyre specification changes. However this year there is a new Pirelli tyre construction and new compounds and it will be crucial to get a feel for these during the tests.

Although the teams had a chance to sample the new Pirelli construction during free practice at the Brazilian Grand Prix last year and all commented that they were pretty similar to the 2012 tyres, Jerez will be the first time that they try out the new compounds, which are designed to warm up more quickly but also to degrade more quickly. THe new tyres should be around 0.5s a lap faster than last year’s tyres.

Each car will have a maximum of 35 sets of tyres in Jerez; made up of 1 set of soft, 6 of medium and 7 of the hard compound.


The game this year will still be getting the front and rear tyre temperatures in their respective windows as soon as possible (for Qualifying) and keeping them there as long as possible (for the race), without overheating.

Hence the various rim heating devices seen last year and very complex brake/rim cooling devices (which for some cars, especially Lotus were even handed, left to right). The front tyres typically need lots of cooling during a race and the rear tyres less so.

We have already seen quite bit of this on the launch cars.

The tyres are going to be a challenge; Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said at the company’s F1 launch that their objective was to “challenge” the teams and to avoid the predictable one stop races of the past.

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh welcomes it, “Pirelli have contributed to exciting dilemmas for teams,” he said last week. “In truth they probably got a bit conservative at the end of last year.

“I think it’s a good thing they’ve changed the construction and compounds. I think it will be good for the sport. We have two drivers who are good at conserving the tyres.”

One thing which has not been mentioned much in the launch season is that the tyre profile change has a big influence on the aero development programme and most teams did not want any profile change; with any major construction change the loaded tyre will clearly have a different profile than the previous tyre, thus necessitating a new set of aero components to be optimised to the new tyre shape.

The Teams get 50 and 60% sized win tunnel tyres (dependent on their model size) which reflect the changes to the full scale tyre as early as possible in the design phase.

They will all have been working with them through the winter to try to get the best package around the new profile.

* As the testing kicks off we have introduced a new widget on the page to help fans move quickly and easily from team to team to catch the latest Tweets or Facebook postings as they increasingly post lots of content on these social media platforms during testing.

Have a play with it; we hope it will help to bring you closer to the sport and closer to the testing action.

A steady stream of live Tweets from journos at the test can be found at http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/f1-on-twitter/

[Additional technical input: Mark Gillan]

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32 Comments
  1. Anne says:

    What was McLaren´s problem? Any info on that? Mercedes Rosberg with problems too, smoke in the back of the car.

  2. JustABloke says:

    Liking that Marussia, looks elegant, apart from that stripe on lower half.

    1. Random 79 says:

      I think the stripe looks okay, but – being a Russian team – I’m surprised they don’t use more blue instead of all the black.

  3. Rich says:

    The new Marussia looks scarily short of sponsorship this season.

  4. Ben says:

    Why do the teams run scale models in the windtunnel and not a full size car?

    1. James Allen says:

      Rules say a maximum of 60% scale model. To save cost

      1. Ben says:

        Thanks James, I wasn’t aware of that.

        I’m surprised they save money by having to build a whole seperate car with smaller parts. With Pirelli also having to build smaller spec tyres as well.

      2. James Allen says:

        It’s only a model, so the shape of the F1 car, but the suspension parts etc have to be accurate, of course. The wind tunnel tyres are very important to accurately represent the air flow coming off them and swirling around the car

      3. thepowerofnone says:

        A full size wind tunnel is exceedingly expensive to build and operate (Ferrari’s 65% scale model wind tunnel draws >2000kW, which to put in perspective is enough power to boil a full kettle of water in 1/4 of a second), so you can imagine that the energy bills are astonishingly high given these tunnels run 24/7. Doubling the size of the scale will approximately quadruple the power required to run it, so the costs become even higher. Not to mention there are very few wind tunnels currently in existence capable of taking a full sized F1 car and testing it through roll, dive and cornering, so the teams who don’t have access to one of these tunnels, or can’t afford it, are at a MASSIVE disadvantage.

        In comparison, the cost of running a separate wind tunnel car (e.g just keeping 60% versions of everything) is lower than a full sized one, and it is faster to produce smaller parts, so new parts can make it into the wind tunnel faster. In short, most teams would probably quite like a full sized wind tunnel, but if all teams are limited to 60% scale then nobody is really at a disadvantage. It is also worth noting that the tunnels are limited to very modest speeds, significantly lower than the average speed of an F1 car, again, to keep cost down.

      4. Gate 21 says:

        Pat Symonds writing in December’s F1 Racing magazine had an article on the finer points of wind tunnels.

        Basically, the issue with full sized wind tunnels is the massive sizes required. 50% to 100% isn’t just a case of doubling everything or sticking a full sized car into a 60% tunnel.

        If the vortices created by the aerodynamic pieces of the car deflect off the walls/roof of the wind tunnel it can give inaccurate results and lead to issues that Ferrari had last year of wind tunnel results not correlating to track results.

        So using a full sized model will require a MUCH larger wind tunnel than using a 50% or 60%. The cross section (frontal area) of a 60% tunnel is around 15m2. For a 100% wind tunnel that increases to over 40m2.

      5. Ben says:

        Thanks to all of you for commenting and expanding my knowledge on this aspect of F1, I love the community spirit on this site.

        I’ve just been building a new datacenter for my company so have a good grasp on how much 1kw costs to run day in day out, 2000kw is a massive amount of energy and I can now appreciate why it is seen as a cost save to run scale models.

  5. Random 79 says:

    You said that it takes teams 1000 hours to make a front wing.

    Is that everything from the initial design to final construction? Six weeks seems like a long time, especially in F1.

    If that seems like a silly question, keep in mind that it was just on the tip of my tongue to ask you if F1 teams work on the weekend.

    You can shoot me now. :)

    1. Simmo says:

      The first question was a good one, but seeing as the race is on a weekend…

      1. Random 79 says:

        Lol yeah I know I know…I was very tired when I wrote that, but I still haven’t got an answer to my original question.

        Right now I’m assuming that my first thought is correct. No way it takes six weeks to actually construct a wing…does it?

      2. Baktru says:

        Well it didn’t say how much of those 1000 hours can be done in parallel either…

  6. Matt W says:

    Tests still seem like a massive wasted commercial opportunity for F1. In the new pay TV era, televising tests on free to air TV seems like a missed opportunity. Not to mention that it could provide a cheap opportunity (if properly advertised) to get fans in attendance for much cheaper rates that a GP weekend would cost.

    With a bit of imagination you could tag on a non-championship race, or a fastest lap-Golden Helmet award (to be worn on a full GP weekend)to make it more appealing to a TV audience.

    1. Scuderia McLaren says:

      +1

      I have always thought as you do Matt. Opportunity is there!

  7. Ciro says:

    Hi James…Loving your work. Is there a way I can contact you privately please? I have an interesting F1 proposition for you. Please email me if you can, Many thanks, Ciro

  8. Seán Craddock says:

    Will you be at any of the tests James? What are the other 21 sets of tyres if not soft medium or hard? A lot of wet/inters? Surely they could be given more than just one set of softs

    1. James Allen says:

      Hoping to. I usually go for a couple of days before the end.

  9. Quade says:

    I mentioned on another thread that the radical packing of the rear ends of McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari could lead to the sort of heating issues that plagued the 2012 Red Bull. I hope thats not what we are seeing with the Mercedes having to pull the entire test today due to flames.

  10. Quade says:

    I know times have no meaning at this stage but…

    1. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1min 20.343secs
    2. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1min 20.401secs
    3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes-Mercedes 1min 20.846secs***
    4. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault* 1min 20.864secs
    5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1min 21.175secs
    6. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1min 21.553secs
    7. Felipe Massa Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 21.598secs
    8. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1min 22.959secs
    9. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1min 24.994secs
    10. Max Chilton Marussia -Cosworth 1min 25.176secs***
    11. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes No time***

  11. Anne says:

    Jenson ended the test on top.At least they have some good news. But they couldn´t complete the testing program for today. So I guess they will that tomorrow

    1. Random 79 says:

      Sooo…after an incomplete session Jensen – who remember kids is no match for Hamilton – finished…on top? That can’t be right…hang on a tick…

      Yep, just double-checked and you did say on top.

      Imagine that.

      Not a dig at you Anne, but after some of the posts I’ve read recently I’d say some others might be eating their words, at least for today :)

      1. Elie says:

        Just because a guy is in the best team with arguably the fastest car doesn’t make him the best driver- that applies to everyone including Button. It’s too soon to start becoming a fan on the first day of testing. Mclaren probably have a better chance than most teams to win Jenson a title this year. But even if he won another WDC I will never mention him amongst the Alonsos, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Schumachers of the world. No doubting he is good but just not that good.

      2. Random 79 says:

        It’s usually the fastest guy in the fastest car that wins; it’s just how it works.

        I’m not a Button fan, but I’m definitely not a fan of people bagging someone just because another guy left the team.

        Read the last line again, especially the last bit.

        Just out of curiosity, how many WDCs would Button or any other driver have to win to make your list? Three? Five?

        Alonso has two, Raikkonen & Hamilton each only have one, and yet you seem to left out one or two.

        No mention of Vettel (3), Hakkinen (2), Prost (4)…and there was this one guy called Senna. Apparently he wasn’t too bad either, not to mention all the other greats who have won multiple championships over the years.

        Seems to me that no matter who else wins you have your favourites and that’s that.

      3. Elie says:

        There are many great drivers who weren’t even champions Gilles Villeneuve springs to mind. I only mentioned the more recent ones . I am a huge fan of Prost ,Senna, Mansell. Shall we start another post on favourite drivers somewhere else to make you happy. I could mention the names you like too, including Vettel -it don’t really matter in the context of this post.

        Just saying not worth getting excited about 1st days testing and not to make judgements so soon. With words about other posters ” eating their words ” after 1 day testing lets me think you were born in around 1999 not 79?

      4. Random 79 says:

        First off well done for picking the 79; a lot of people have to ask me what it means.

        Second, I probably came on a bit strong: I apologise.

        It is way too early in the year to make judgments, but that includes judgements on Button after Hamilton.

        I wasn’t meaning to have a go at you specifically; I was just tired of reading all the slamming he’s been copping lately. Mentioning the test times was just a way to say that maybe – *maybe* – Button might have what it takes to proves his naysayers wrong.
        I really hope he does, but if not then it’s not the end of the world.

        I agree that there were many championship worthy drivers who never managed to win a title for one reason or another, but I do believe that any driver that wins a WDC is worthy of the title champion. In 2011 Vettel had a relative cakewalk, but if you asked him I think he’d tell you that it still wasn’t easy.

        It’s funny that you mentioned ’99. With your mentions of Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen & Schumacher I was thinking the same about you, but I’m glad to see that I was wrong.

        One last thing: I am unashamedly a fan of Webber, and I am a little biased, so even though I respect the fact that Vettel is a triple world champion and is faster than Webber, I can’t really say that I like him.

        Before a get a protest I do realise that it’s unfair to not like one driver because of another – especially because by most accounts he’s a likable guy – but there it is…

        Once again, apologies.

    2. Anne says:

      I only mentioned the final result for Button today. But today we didn´t have a race, just a test. I don´t read too much into it, not yet. I´m not very happy with McLaren, reliability problems from day one.This is a warning sign for them I hope they pay attention to it before it´s too late.

      For some reason a lot of people hate Button. I don´t. However I don´t think he is Senna and it would be a mistake to think that

      1. Random 79 says:

        Hopefully they get the problems sorted quickly. Hate to see them go back ten years when it seemed like the car was breaking down every second race.

        I don’t think Button is the fastest guy out there – and he’s certainly not Senna – but I was getting tired of listening to other people saying how he was no match for Hamilton and would drag McLaren down, so it was just nice to see him on top (even if doesn’t actually count for anything today).

      2. Yak says:

        Well it’s apparently a problem with a new fuel pump, and they had fuel pump problems last year. So I imagine they’re trying to sort out the problems so they don’t have failures like in 2012, but there just happens to have been a hiccup in the plan. If the worst they suffer is a dodgy pump in the very first test of the year, and they can sort that out, they’re not looking too bad.

  12. ed24f1 says:

    Why not allow the teams to test two cars at once – this surely could not raise the costs too much, and could give more opportunities to younger drivers.

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