The controversial, new-for-2009 in-season ban on Formula 1 testing could already be set to change, it has been suggested, as teams continue to struggle to get to grips with the rule changes and develop the complicated KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology.
The reduction in testing mileage was introduced as part of governing body the FIA's radical cost-cutting drive in the top flight this year, but with teams having to simultaneously grapple with a whole raft of new technical and aerodynamic demands – making the cars look substantially different to previous seasons – as well as the energy-saving KERS devices, that may now be set for an overhaul.
Not only is KERS proving problematic in that the batteries are losing performance rapidly – leading to doubt over the technology's durability over a race distance – but Scuderia Toro Rosso and Force India F1 are not even sure of being ready for the early-March test session at Jerez, meaning they could arrive in Melbourne in just under two months' time with as little as four days' testing under their belts. Worse still, should Honda be purchased, the Brackley-based concern would likely have no pre-season track time at all.
“It's obviously very tight because of what we've had to do,” Force India technical director James Key is quoted as having said by UK newspaper The Sun
, referring to the Silverstone-based squad's new technical tie-up with McLaren for 2009, which will see the team switch engines from Ferrari to Mercedes-Benz.
“The plan is to hit the last two official team tests before the season. We've had late calls in the past and this is quite a late one, but it is for all the right reasons in terms of long-term stability for the team.”
It was originally agreed that testing would be capped at 15,000km over the year, with none at all between the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix at the end of March and the season-closing, inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix around the Yas Marina Circuit at the beginning of November. A knock-on effect of that would likely have been the scrapping of test teams, and according to grandprix.com
, this is a process Renault has already initiated.
However, during the recent, rain-hampered group test in Portugal's Algarve region, test team managers gathered to discuss the situation – and are said to have tabled a proposal for there to be three official test sessions allowed during the campaign. The ban was implemented not by the FIA, but was unanimously agreed to by all members of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA). Overturning the rule, it is noted, would require a similarly unanimous vote.
“KERS is new for everybody and no-one has achieved the level of reliability with it that we would like to have,” one leading team member is quoted as having said by grandprix.com
. “It makes sense to have a transitional year, with less testing than before, but with a few tests early on in the season to help everybody get on top of their problems.
“It's not on everybody's interest to see only five or six cars finish races, so we're trying to get an agreement on a change of the rules for 2009.”