Should Jerez Pre-Season Test Have Been Behind Closed Doors?

Fraser MasefieldContributor IFebruary 12, 2014

Renault faced a media bombardment after its Jerez failings
Renault faced a media bombardment after its Jerez failingsMark Thompson/Getty Images

Before the recent four-day test of the 2014 Formula One season, Jenson Button joked on Autosport that the radical new regulations would make it “hilarious.”

It will be cold, the tyres aren't going to work, the cars probably won't work either and when you do get a lap it is probably going to feel weird because you are running higher gears - you get into eighth gear before you get to seventh gear now.

It is going to be tricky because we do have a lot more torque with the engine. You want to be out on circuit at the tricky corners, even Turn 2/3 [at Jerez] will be tough to get the power down.

Button’s crystal ball worked well and true to his expectations, drivers struggled with the extra torque and there were a number of spinners over the four days for this reason alone.

What was probably easier to predict before the opening test, however, was that there would be reliability issues aplenty. The radical new engine regulations means that although the engine itself has been downsized from a 2.4-litre V8 to a 1.6-litre V6, the new ERS is able to hold 4MJ and pump out an extra 160bhp for 33 seconds per lap. The upshot is that it requires a lot of cooling, and this was a problem, notably for Renault.

Renault was not the only engine manufacturer to experience problems, but it suffered more than the others and the test therefore begged the question of whether or not the test should have been held in private, away from the prying eyes of the media to avoid negative publicity.

The radical new regulations were devised not only as a fuel-efficient, cost-cutting measure, but also to showcase revolutionary new technology that could also be applied to the general automotive sector. So surely such a public abject failure of technology, best demonstrated by Red Bull Renault, is a massive PR own goal for Renault?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Although the ultimate end goal of F1 for engine and tyre manufacturers is to promote their technology in the best possible light in the highest form of motorsport, how many fans of F1 watch the sport with the aim of buying a car?

And how many regular drivers now refuse Pirelli tyres to be bolted onto their automobiles when required after their latest service? When car companies test their latest designs and innovations, they do so on their private testing rigs behind closed doors for obvious reasons.

Despite the ability of the teams to test the new engines in private on their respective factory rigs, Jerez marked the first time that the new technology would be tested in practice and there were always going to be issues. And that is why the opening test was so eagerly anticipated by fans of the sport. We were all intrigued by how the new technology would pan out and it was no surprise to most, including team bosses and engineers, that there were teething troubles.

Had the opening test been held behind closed doors, a great many F1 fans looking forward to the start of the new season would have been cheated.

The radical regulation changes means that the 2014 season is one of the most eagerly anticipated in living memory mainly because reliability is set to play such an important part in shuffling up the grid.

I, for one, can’t wait. Bring on Bahrain!