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Testing the limit

NEWS STORY
17/03/2010

It didn't take long for F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone to wade into the row about spicing up the sport in the wake of Sunday's processional Bahrain Grand Prix. "I think there is nothing we can do immediately and we should not just knee-jerk into changes," he said on Monday. Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt agrees but adds that this doesn't have to mean that nothing is done.

The start to this year's F1 season has been one of the most farcical for years. For nearly a year all we heard was how the introduction of new teams would bring huge benefits to F1. Then, just weeks before the first race one went under and the other had to be taken over. As if this wasn't enough, the four teams which did make the grade hardly got a vote of endorsement from the powers that be when their performance failed to live up to expectations.

Virgin Racing's car was billed as heralding a low-cost era in F1 since it was principally designed by computer simulations rather than costly windtunnel testing. Its reward for failing to get either of its cars to the end of the season-opener was surprising to say the least.

Not only has FIA president Jean Todt indicated he will push for the reintroduction of the rule which would see cars excluded for failing to get within 107% of the pole time, but Ecclestone added that he wants the 107% tightened to 105% for 2011. It is a move which would probably prevent most of the new teams from racing so it is no surprise that Lotus has already said it would vote against it. One wonders what on earth was the point in introducing the new teams only to also bring in a rule which would prevent them from competing in Grands Prix. Indeed it certainly casts a big question mark over the logic of the FIA letting yet another new outfit into this absurd situation next year.

One person who presumably wouldn't be in favour of the 107% rule is BBC pundit Eddie Jordan who sang the praises of F1's four new teams during the broadcast last weekend. Sylt is not so easily swayed and is left wondering how exactly the sport has befitted given that only two of the eight new cars officially finished the race in Bahrain. The BBC told viewers repeatedly how triumphant it is to have Lotus and the Senna names back in F1 but is this really the case?

By languishing at the back of the grid, Lotus is arguably tarnishing the historic reputation of success which the name has achieved in F1. It raises the question of whether waiting longer to enter the sport with a stronger package would have been more beneficial and the same could also apply to Senna. Try as he might, Sylt cannot see how the Senna name, or that of F1, has been given a boost by Bruno limping along for 17 laps before his car became fatally crippled.

Worryingly, Senna may not have much of a chance to improve given F1's ban on in-season testing. Likewise, Michael Schumacher, a man who could clearly spice up the show once he gets used to the car, also seems like he needs more miles behind the wheel. That's something we never thought we would be writing.

Surely it would make more sense not to ban in-season testing but to give the teams a limit on the number of test laps they can do per calendar year. This way, Senna would still be able to use his allocation to improve between races since his HRT team has not done even one lap of testing. Indeed it could be crucial to the future of the team since if it is continues to pull off only a handful of laps in the races it becomes increasingly unlikely that it will secure the necessary sponsorship to remain in F1.

Despite having done some testing the same could be said of Sauber, Lotus and even Schumacher at Mercedes but whether these teams would be allowed to test between races would depend on how much of an allocation they have already used.

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