Tag Archives: analysis

Abu Dhabi Testing Review

20 Nov

There is no doubt that testing is frustrating for motorsport fans. It holds out the promise of a glimpse of how the coming season is likely to go, but the lack of directly comparable lap times renders it useless in that respect.  The same problem applies even when trying to assess drivers in the same car, because only the team knows the circumstances each driver was running under.  The most obvious possible difference is the fuel load, but it is also necessary to bear in mind differing amounts of revs, any development work that is being carried out, and the state of the track. Obviously the track rubbers in over the course of a test, but there can also be climatic conditions that slow it down.

The trouble is that, even when we know all this, it is hard to avoid trying to find stories in testing times. Often, too, people might make a comment and it gets picked up by others and passed on until the view becomes widespread, yet the idea might not have any basis in the facts.

During the first two days of testing in Abu Dhabi, during the young driver test, I’ve seen people comment that Paul’s times were disappointing.  I don’t think there’s any real basis for saying this however. I’m going to discuss both tests that have happened this week – the young driver test and the Pirelli tyre test – but before I do, I’m going to include Paul’s fastest time from each day, along with the fastest time of the other driver who was in the Force India on each day.

Tuesday, day 1 of the young driver test:

Paul: 1:42.736 (8th overall)

Antonio Felix da Costa: 1:41.381 (3rd overall)

Wednesday, day 2 of the young driver test:

Paul: 1:40.901 (7th overall)

Yelmer Buurman: 1:41.178 (10th overall)

Friday, day 1 of the Pirelli tyre test:

Paul: 1:41.615 (7th overall)

Adrian Sutil: 1:42.859 (10th overall)

Saturday, day 2 of the Pirelli tyre test:

Paul: 1:41.869 (8th overall)

Tonio Liuzzi: 1:42.416 (10th overall)

First off, let’s deal with the young driver test.  It is important to note that Paul only drove for 90 minutes on both days, and in his own words, from his column on his website on Wednesday:

On both occasions it was simply about evaluating set-ups and setting baseline levels with the Bridgestone tyres. Then, when we drive the car with the Pirelli tyres fitted on Friday and Saturday, we’ll have specifics to make comparisons.

The difference in times between the two days has a lot to do with the track rubbering in – some times went down by even more.  This process was continuous throughout the test, so when you take in to account that: 1) the track rubbered in as the day went on 2) Antonio had 77 laps to Paul’s 28 and 3) it’s likely that Antonio was running on lower fuel when he set his fastest time; it’s not surprising that Antonio managed to set a faster time, despite it being his first time in an F1 car. To be fair to Yelmer, he had a mechanical problem before he had chance to go for a qualifying-style run.  We also need to bear in mind that for all that Paul has more experience in the car, he had never driven at Abu Dhabi before Tuesday morning.

So with that in mind, we move on to the Pirelli test.  We need to bear in mind that the tyres have now changed to ones that are not completely developed yet, so the times were pegged back again.  On paper, it seems that Paul did better in this test, as he was faster than both Adrian and Tonio. In order to be fair, we need to acknowledge that the vagaries of testing apply just as much to this test.  Adrian had a mechanical problem with the exhaust.  This affected Paul too, as it took a long time to fix and he got onto the track later than planned.

If you look at the latest article on Paul’s website, posted on Friday night, he says that he and Adrian were running different programs in order to evaluate the tyres and therefore we shouldn’t read too much into the time difference.  So it’s important that while Paul shouldn’t be criticised unfairly for his times on Tuesday and Wednesday, we have to be even handed and not slam Adrian unfairly for Friday.

Today is a bit more difficult to read, as there is not as much information available, as neither Paul nor Force India have yet got anything on their websites concerning today.  It is likely that there were different programs being run again, so we cannot know whether that would account for Paul being faster than Tonio by 0.547s. It is quite possible that it is – but only the team know the answer to that.

To conclude – while we would love for testing to tell us more than it does, we simply cannot draw conclusions from it.  That means, that while it is unfair for Paul to be criticised for his times on Tuesday and Wednesday, we cannot be hypocritical and condemn either Adrian or Tonio for their times on Friday morning (Adrian) or Saturday afternoon (Tonio).  However, the team will be able to adjust the times for all the different factors and they will know how the times really compared.  It comes down to more than simple lap times, too. We may have our own opinion of what decision they should make, but at the end of the day, however frustrating it is, we just have to wait and see.