The thorny question of testing

At this time of year the Formula 1 teams are already turning their attention to next year and the major negotiation now going on is what form the race weekends will take in 2004. The urge to cut costs has meant that most of the teams (but not Ferrari) have agreed that they want to limit testing still further with all the teams being on an even footing at race meetings. Thus there is a drive towards a deal which will allow teams to run for four or more hours on Fridays before any unofficial practice begins. In addition they will be allowed around 30 car-days of testing away from the races. This will cut costs without really affecting the level of tests that take place, except for Ferrari, which continues to test far more than the opposition because it can do so cheaply at its facilities in Fiorano and Mugello. This advantage is one that the Italian team does not want to give away, particularly as it is going to have to make cuts elsewhere in its budget in the months ahead.

The problem facing F1, as always, is that a compromise must be found which all 10 teams are willing to accept, although the FIA may well step in and do as it did last year and offer teams a voluntary arrangement if all the teams do not agree. If that happens Ferrari could, in theory at least, be forced to sit out most of Friday although there comes a point at which it is illogical to continue to hold out.

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