Testing the Bridgestone Tires
Many of the teams have been testing at the Barcelona circuit, with Felipe Massa predictably fastest in the Ferrari and the other drivers getting used to the Bridgestone tires. Although the times are meaningless at this early stage, they are listed in an article in Autosport magazine if you’re interested.
Autosport also has a very revealing interview after the first day’s runs with Super Aguri’s new driver, Anthony Davidson. He confirms that the Bridgestones are very different from the Michelins he was used to and that it will take time to adjust the car to get the best from them. Apparently the tires slide more and, although he found this quite entertaining, it is difficult to post good times as a result.
Which would seem to confirm all the talk of last year’s Bridgestone customers having an early season advantage until we remember that these are not the 2006 tires but an older compound that all the teams are going to have to get used to. By the time the season kicks off in Australia next year, I think that everyone will know pretty well what to expect from their tires; it will, in fact, be the proverbial level playing field that was impossible as long as two tire manufacturers were involved in F1.
In spite of Davidson’s troubles with the tires at the test, he was still respectable in the Super Aguri, posting 11th fastest time, ahead of the Toro Rossos and Red Bulls. The news on Aguri is that they will be racing a development of this year’s Honda chassis, the RA106, and will slip through the loophole in the regulations identified by Red Bull with the Toro Rosso car of 2006. As long as components are manufactured by a third party, it seems, it does not matter who assembles them and Aguri has made sure that their car for next year will qualify accordingly.
Clearly the regulations are not stringent enough to ensure that each team builds its own car from scratch and it is probably impossible to achieve this anyway. All teams use parts designed and built by other companies. We now have two teams effectively running second squads under thin disguises, Red Bull with Toro Rosso and Honda with Super Aguri. Why they should want to spread their effort so thinly, I have no idea, but they have made me doubt the wisdom of the regulation in the first place.
Presumably the intent of the rule is to prevent places in F1 being collared by existing competitors when there are other teams waiting for a gap to open up so that they can become involved. This has not happened so why bother with regulating it at all? Running two teams will soon prove too expensive and wasteful for most companies (I doubt that Red Bull and Honda will keep it going for long) and the gaps will appear in the long run.
In the fifties there were no restrictions on how many cars a team could enter and it was quite common for there to be three or four cars run by a single entrant. At the time, there was no pressure on the numbers of cars racing and the arrangement worked well enough, even though it gave larger teams a greater chance of having a car finish the race. But nothing has changed in that respect; the larger teams still enjoy certain benefits over the smaller ones, not the least of which is money.
It all makes me think that there needs to be less regulation in F1, not more. At the moment the rules are so complicated that lawyers are sometimes needed to decide on finer points that arise. That can hardly be good for the sport.