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Todt calls for end to test ban; Ecclestone counters
8 May 2011
FIA president Jean Todt has said that he will seek to end the ban on in-season testing for F1 teams, despite the current rules having both cut costs and, in the opinion of many, produced better racing.
The ban was introduced three seasons ago, primarily as part of a package of cost-saving measures at a time when the top teams thought nothing of running for 50-60 days a season. Instead, teams were given a set number of days which they could use for testing prior to the first race of the year, eventually resulting in a series of structured group tests. Todt, however, believes that it is fundamentally wrong not to allow testing once racing has started, and has said that he will try to convene a meeting of team owners when F1 returns to Europe after its brief sojourn to Canada next month.
"For me, it is a stupid decision to have no testing during the season," he told a media briefing ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, "In the past, it was crazy to have unlimited testing during the year, but to go from unlimited to completely banned, it is not the right measure."
FOM head Bernie Ecclestone, when asked for his view on the move, told the BBC that he was in favour of keeping the current situation, unless it was to benefit young drivers on the fringes of the top flight. Since the ban was imposed, rookies such as Jaime Alguersuari have been thrown into F1 with very little experience, and teams are now using Friday's practice sessions to give their protégés track time.
"I don't see why we need more testing," he insisted, "although I think we should have some testing for new drivers, because we'd never find any. As for the current guys, I don't think it's necessary. As for Jean, I think his feelings are the same as mine - he'd like to see it come back to encourage more guys to come into F1."
Todt, indeed, acknowledged that the situation would be more beneficial for the development of young talent.
"[The current ban] doesn't allow young drivers to test, it doesn't give the opportunity for young drivers to learn some experience in F1, and I will make sure that this situation will change for the future," he claimed, suggesting that he would be pushing for three two-day sessions during the season from 2012.
McLaren team principal, and FOTA chairman, Martin Whitmarsh told Reuters that, while the top teams would always jump at the chance of extra development opportunities, the sport's smaller teams had to be considered when talking about increasing testing.
"We've got to contain costs," he stressed, "If the larger teams start testing, and it's seen as to the disadvantage of the small teams, then that isn't good for the sport. Like all things in this sport, you've got to make a bit of a compromise and we will do some young driver testing. We are looking at other ways in which we can perhaps test more cost-effectively.
"I appreciate that, even if we at McLaren or Ferrari or Red Bull want to do it, then you are only disadvantaging the small teams that really can't afford to do that. I think the testing that we do has to be focused on trying to develop young drivers, not a spending exercise."