Honda website
Honda website

MAY 3, 2005

How can this be right?

Ferrari continues to test whenever it chooses to do so. The Italian team says that the testing is justified because it is the only major team using Bridgestone rubber and that the other teams rejected all of its proposals regarding testing. The other teams say that Ferrari's proposals were simply not acceptable as they favoured the Italian team and that Ferrari is the only Bridgestone runner because it has a special deal with the Japanese tyre maker which makes it illogical for other teams to stay.

And so it goes on.

The fact remains that Ferrari has a huge advantage over the other teams - as was seen by the progress made between the Bahrain and San Marino Grands Prix - and it will not be a surprise to see the team getting ahead of the opposition as the season progresses. This will undermine the credibility of any such success but Ferrari does not seem to care if wins are tainted. Victories are victories. The current situation is unsporting and unhealthy for the sport.

Ferrari fans across the world seem unable to understand that criticism about this unfair advantage is not anti-Ferrari propaganda related to the current political struggles but simply pointing out that thee current situation is not correct.

It is very clear that Ferrari's incessant testing is designed not only to improve the car but also to break up the alliance of the teams opposed to Ferrari in the fight over the the future financial arrangements of F1. Ferrari wants an unfair financial advantage for the future. This goes against the entire history of the sport where competition has always been a question of the survival of the fittest.

There was a time when the FIA regulated testing, beginning in 1992 when the federation announced a ban on testing at tracks before races. In 1996 the federation followed up with plans to limit testing further, including a ban on testing anywhere in the week before a Grand Prix - except for a 50km shakedown run. There was also a ban on testing between the last event of the year and December 1.

By the end of 2001, however, the FIA decided that it could not be bothered to police testing and told teams to agree restrictions between themselves. This rejection of responsibility is at the root of the current problems. The FIA's argument that it would need an army of officials to keep up is not really valid and if a team tests anywhere these days, word quickly filters out. It is rare that a test goes unnoticed, even at a private facility, particularly in the world where the Internet means that information moves incredibly fast. This, for example, has led to reports that teams have been testing illegally in recent days at Elvington in Yorkshire, although our sources say that these tests were simply shakedowns which were agreed between the teams.

In February 2002 the teams established testing restrictions for 2002 which maintained the ban on running in the week of a race and included a sensible ban on testing in August and rearranged winter testing to give crews the chance to spend some of the Christmas period with their families. This basic agreement held fast until this year when Ferrari decided to go it alone and began testing whenever it wanted to.

This unhealthy situation may result in the other teams caving in but that is not a great solution for the sport given that this would push up F1 budgets, something which the federation says it is trying to keep down. It may be in the FIA's interest to see the teams split again (it is, after all, a signatory to the Concorde Agreement extension between 2008-2012 with Ferrari) but ultimately it must also be seen to shouldering the responsibility of being the regulator of the sport, rather than being one of the parties involved in the fight for commercial control.

Stepping up to the plate and ruling on testing would be a good way to send a signal to the teams that the FIA is willing to compromise. Doing nothing will simply add to the problems.