The Formula 1 world has moved to Spain, and the famous Jerez Circuit. This venue has always been a favourite for testing, it’s a difficult and challenging circuit, the perfect place to put a brand new Formula 1 car through its first paces.
Jerez is the first venue for winter testing, here the cars will be introduced to the track. Any issues with the car will be picked up here and worked on back at the team’s headquarters. The first stage of testing is purely to understand the cars out on track, that’s why Jerez is a popular first venue. This track throws up many different challenges. The camber of certain corners, plus the tight and twisty sections helps the drivers to understand the balance and feel of the car. But the faster sections of the circuit, including some very quick corners can reveal any weak details. The engines and gearboxes are under pressure with the G-force, and the pressure on the suspension is immense. Opening the car up to speeds in excess of 170mph, this is like an X-ray, exposing every tiny detail. Pirelli have confirmed that each car will receive 35 sets of tyres during the Jerez tests, but only the Hard, Medium and Soft compounds will be provided.
What to look for: Testing can reveal a lot about the car, this is where it is fully exposed to the opposition, and the journalists who look for every detail. The first thing to watch for is the driver’s hands and the steering wheel. This is a big giveaway in how the car handles. If the driver is constantly or aggressively turning the wheel through the corners, this is a big sign of oversteer or understeer, suggesting the car is not well balanced.
The second giveaway is by listening to the throttle. If the engine note is changing through the corner, this is a sign of the driver unsure or perhaps not confident in the car’s balance through the corner. Ideally there should only be one application of throttle on the exit of a corner, increasing gradually as the car reaches the apex.
Testing is an ideal opportunity for teams to work with highly technical equipment attached to the cars, giving them critical information. Sometimes there can be devices fitted to the rear of the car, these may have lasers collecting vital and precise data for the team. There can also be other devices fitted to the side of the car detecting airflow through corners. To see this is actually rather fascinating if you’re interested in the scientific technology in the sport. Although its sometime difficult to understand exactly what they are measuring, this is not something seen too often during the race season.