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F1: Mugello Tests – Observations And Conclusions

by on May 3, 2012

Three days of in-season tests, so what’s the verdict? 

I have discussed the merits of this test with a few F1 journalists and two of the teams participating. The generally accepted opinion has been that these tests are useful, perhaps more for some than others.  As one journalist simply put it, “a free test is always beneficial though, even if the result is only a minor upgrade/change”.  Although the test wasn’t actually “free” in monetary terms, it was a free in terms of opportunity.  The way this season is shaping up, with no clear leader, this test has been crucial for teams to test some components and configurations before the start of the Euro rounds.

I had heard of some comments allegedly made by some team members that these tests were a waste of time and money. Other comments that this circuit was not ideal for this test due to its lack of slower corners also wafted about.  The sources however, were not very reliable and third hand, so short of dismissing them entirely, I’m going to say that this may be the minority opinion.

So down to the “Nitty Gritty”;

This test offered both wet and dry conditions. Tuesday was a bit of a waste, in that the conditions were not really conducive to testing.  That said, however, F1 does race in the wet, so perhaps not a total waste.  Unaware of fuel loads and what exactly was being tested, we must take all lap times with a pinch or two salt.  Many sensors were mounted, most notable were those on the front wing of the McLaren.  This indicates that teams are still trying to learn the airflow and “aero” dynamics of various parts fitted, including the many new front wings and veins.

Teams brought trunkful’s of updates to test in their quest to gain that extra tenth to either keep up, stay ahead or get closer to their rivals.  Teams like Ferrari, who were expected to challenge but have been less then competitive, had the most to gain from this test. Frustratingly however, they only tested their biggest update, (a new exhaust layout) on the final day. To add to that frustration, Alonso binned his F2012 during the morning session after taking it off-roading (over kerbs, through gravel and into a barrier), forcing him to miss most of it as the team put humpty dumpty back together again.  It would seem that their package has improved with the changes made, but it is impossible to really quantify anyone’s progress for a myriad of reasons. 

Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren flew relatively low and under the radar. No blistering laps or visibly shocking developments. There was a certain level of theatre at one point when McLaren erected a little wall to block prying eyes while the MP4-27 was being pushed back into the garage.

Not that it should come as a surprise, but Lotus ended two of the days at the top of the time sheets.  A remarkable achievement was actually on day two when Grosjean lapped the Mugello circuit in his Lotus as did Kobayashi in his Sauber with the exact same time of 1:21.603. Both pilots were tied for the day’s fastest lap.  Perez had a rough spell on the final day with limited running in his Sauber before retiring it into the garage as it smoked like a cheap Cuban cigar.

At the end of it all, many miles were run by many teams. Some of which ended two of the three days with well over 100 laps each.  It all serves them well in their quest to learn more about the behaviour of their cars.  It means more time with the Pirelli tyres and learning about their optimum operating temperatures and wear patterns. It means the ability to see the effect of their upgrades before they are brought to a circuit on a GP weekend.  This can make the biggest difference to a team looking to get into the championship race or staying in it.  What the participating teams learned in these three days will make a hug difference from this point in time going forward.  A simple change of a few degrees in any direction can make the difference between standing on the podium, taking a champagne shower or heading to the hotel to shower before taking an early flight out.


There really isn’t one.  I suppose we shall see who made the most of their time, money and resources after the Spanish GP.  Luckily, with the title this closely contested, there is still plenty of time for anyone to find that sweet-spot and really put some distance between themselves and their rivals.  Many of us hope it goes right down to the wire between many pilots for the championship – all or nothing with a roll of the F1 dice.


Author: Ernie Black

Twitter: @Goggs_on_F1






From → Formula One

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