The fragmented approach of the F1 teams to the traditional Young Guns F1 test was highlighted today when it was announced that three teams, Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India would hold their test at former French GP venue Magny Cours in the week after the Italian Grand Prix.
This follows the decision by Williams, Marussia and HRT to do their Young Guns test at Silverstone last month to save money. In previous years the test has taken place at Abu Dhabi, following the Grand Prix.
The Young Guns test is an opportunity to give young drivers a chance to taste F1 machinery. Some teams, like McLaren, always use the opportunity to use test drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey and get some serious work done, while other less well funded teams use it as an opportunity to get a few hundred thousand pounds from well-funded youngsters for some seat time.
Coming in mid-September, it will give teams a valuable opportunity to track test developments ahead of Singapore, a race for which most competitive teams bring a major upgrade package, and for the remaining races.
It has been an important test for Red Bull and Toro Rosso in the past as it gave them a good chance to have a look at Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne, both of whom got race seats at Toro Rosso on the strength of good performances in the Young Guns test.
Other teams may yet decide to join the three teams in France on September 11-13. Red Bull, McLaren and Toro Rosso are believed to be planning to stick with the Abu Dhabi test in November, but the Magny Cours test could develop into something bigger with other teams yet to declare their plans. It makes life more complicated for tyre supplier Pirelli, which has to ship tyres to three different venues, rather than simply to Abu Dhabi.
Magny Cours hosted the French GP until 2008, when it lost the race. There has not been a French Grand Prix since then. Although there were moves prior to the French presidential election this year to get a deal together to reinstate the race, with Paul Ricard looking likely, the trail went quiet when the Socialist Francois Hollande was elected.
Magny Cours was used for testing occasionally in the past, especially by the Ligier team, but many teams found that its character and smooth track surface was not particularly representative of the other circuits on the calendar.