Why I never comment on Winter testing

sauber jerez testingPeople who have been reading this blog for a long period of time might be curious about why I never comment on winter or pre-season testing in Formula Ones. This blog has a dedicated F1 section and I do report, on occasion, on even relatively minor news topics. The lack of coverage for pre-season testing is no coincidence but indeed a conscious choice on my part.

What the lack of winter testing coverage really is about can be summed up in one sentence: “Pre-season testing doesn’t mean anything.” Now, by that I don’t mean that pre-season testing has no value for anyone. Quite the contrary, it’s the first time many teams will get their cars out on a real track and  drivers get their first feeling for the car. In that, it would seem like an interesting opportunity for a sneak peek of what the power relations between teams is going to be like in the on-coming season.

Except not. Now yes, the teams that are going to have a good season will probably have good pre-season tests and those teams who are going to have a bad season are probably going to have bad pre-season test times. However, that probably is the big issue here. There’s nothing in FIA regulations that forces teams to drive cars with race settings or a full tank of gas. In 2010, when the Sauber team was forced to shed its BMW skin and become an independent team again, their pre-season test times were great. The same was not true when the season actually started. In other words, the team had been blowing smoke by racing with a car that wasn’t fully fueled in order to seem impressive and attract new sponsors.

Also, most teams don’t have a reason to drive their cars at 100% during testing since they are more concerned with making sure everything works. While it might sound exciting that Sebastian Vettel put up a good time having moved from Red Bull to Ferrari, it doesn’t really mean much when there’s still nothing to tell us where the other teams actually stand in relation. In the interest of not getting too hyped up and then becoming hugely disappointed in a team, I only look at F1 headlines with the briefest of glances when winter tests are concerned.

That’s not to say I don’t follow what’s going on in Jerez. I have taken peeks at Vettel in his spiffy red overalls and the new colouration of Sauber’s car (which gets a thumbs up from me). However, as far as determining the outcome of the season, you really have to wait until the first Grand Prix weekend and even then, things may still turn about dramatically in the first few races of the season. And by then, who even remembers what happened at winter testing.