Adam Cooper's Track forward

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Sympathy for Ferrari over its stand on test cuts is thin on the ground for good reason

The growing division between Ferrari and the other nine Formula One teams has been exacerbated by the Italian squad’s stubborn position on testing, which flies against attempts by its rivals to cut costs.

Having failed to agree to cutbacks for 2005 proposed at the end of last year, Ferrari showed that it regards all previous agreements as null and void by testing at Fiorano and Mugello in the days prior to the Australian and Malaysian grands prix, and even on the actual race weekends.

Cynics might suggest that the extra testing did little to help the team at Sepang, but most of the work back in Europe was not about tyres. It involved intensive reliability runs for the new F2005, and the team made so much progress that the car was rushed into service for the Bahrain GP.

A year earlier that couldn’t have happened so easily. Like everyone else Ferrari would have been (voluntarily) constrained to three days here or three days there during March. But with all bets off, the team was able to run at will. It thus spent an extra month on R&D, launched the new car late, tested throughout March and fronted up to the third race with a relatively sorted racer. Very handy.

Jean Todt and Ross Brawn share a missionary zeal when they defend their position, repeating that the team has invested heavily in its two home venues and arguing that others could have done the same. Ferrari can certainly test at less cost than its British rivals. But the sums are also helped by a massive testing subsidy from Bridgestone.

Where the argument really falls down is the team’s absurd assertion that testing should be equated between tyre companies rather than teams. Only Jordan and Minardi are still on Bridgestone, goes the argument, so therefore Ferrari should do enough running to negate the fact that seven teams run on Michelins.

That is a complete nonsense. Just two years ago the teams were split 50-50 between the tyre companies, but first BAR and then Sauber jumped ship. The reason? They couldn’t live with the cosy ‘special relationship’ between Ferrari and Bridgestone, which extends to Japanese tyre engineers working at Maranello. Both teams felt it better to be one of a larger group on Michelins than play second fiddle to Ferrari. So citing a lack of fellow customers to justify extra mileage seems churlish…

So much that is wrong with F1 could be resolved by having just one tyre supplier. Testing costs and lap speeds could be cut at a stroke. It could also improve competition, because smaller teams would spend less of their resources on adapting their cars to the latest compounds. Alas, as ever there are too many vested interests involved for it to happen any time soon.

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