“There’s hardly any testing these days and you have to make the most of every opportunity.” That’s a sentiment always shared by Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and the entire Ferrari F1 team. Ever since 2009, when in-season testing was drastically reduced and strictly controlled, every session is extremely precious, because it’s the best way to bring together all the work carried out in the factory, in the simulator and on computer.
The difference between the tests just completed and the two winter sessions is pretty marked: in February and March, Barcelona serves as a test-bed for a car that has yet to tackle the rigours of the race track. One is mainly looking for reliability, while learning about the car and establishing a baseline set-up.
On the other hand, at the in-season tests, one is dealing with a known quantity and its strengths and weaknesses can be understood. The work therefore focuses on improving on what one already has. But where can that improvement come from? At the Hungaroring test and also at the session in Bahrain in April, many journalists asked: how can a team prepare for an upcoming race on the calendar, on a track which might have very different characteristics?
Consider for example that the Hungarian test will be followed by races at Spa and Monza. The reality is much more complex, because a test programme involves validating new solutions that might be of use throughout the rest of the season, aside from the fact that one might use a high or low downforce wing. When a car emerges from the garage, it is not necessarily fitted with all the new components available.
Lap times do not count for that much in testing, but one can say that the SF70H worked well in Hungary, both with the race drivers and with Charles Leclerc at the wheel. The regulations insist that part of the test is given over to ‘young drivers’ – those who have taken part in a maximum of three F1 races. Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi then split the work load at the Pirelli test in Barcelona. In this instance, the SF70H was kept in standard trim, because, during tyre testing, teams are not allowed to make any significant changes to the car.
One final point: the two tests this season – in Sakhir and at the Hungaroring- were followed on from a Ferrari victory. And it’s therefore worth noting that the final test takes place in Abu Dhabi, just after the final round of the championship.