How Much Did Mercedes Really Learn Testing for Pirelli?
How much could Mercedes really have learned from their day testing with Pirelli at the Circuit de Catalunya? Nico Rosberg today reiterated that Mercedes learned nothing from the test and that Pirelli had complete control of the running. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, on the other hand, insist that the test will have been a “big help.” So what’s the truth?
The argument would seem to revolve on the conditions of the test. Under normal testing conditions, Mercedes would be free to try whatever components they wished, changing the set-up to optimise performance and run whatever sensors they deemed necessary to maximise what they learn from the test – vis-flow paint, air rakes, the works. However, at the opposite end of the scale is a situation akin to a race – the car can only undergo minimal changes from how it lines up on the grid, the sensors are stripped back to the bear minimum. Accordingly, the data that can be derived is minimised.
However, Pirelli and Mercedes insist that the test went even further than that, namely that Pirelli dictated how the test was run and what tyres were fitted at any time, tyres which Mercedes could not identify. 1000 km of testing sounds a lot, especially when expressed in terms of “just over three race distances” but with two cars running, Mercedes had already done a similar distance over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. If, and it is an if, the conditions had been controlled by Pirelli as they suggest, would Mercedes have actually learned far more in the three days prior to the test?
Of course, Red Bull’s drivers may be right. It’ll probably be hard for the FIA investigation to prove but Mercedes could have been running a full test programme within Pirelli’s. In which case, it may have been a much more productive day. They might have tested aerodynamic updates, they might have tried set-up changes in order to try to iron out their tyre wear issues – and victory in Monaco of all places is far from a sign that they have done just that – and they might have been able to test new mechanical components. They might even have been able to test ideas focussed entirely on their 2014 car and moreover, Pirelli could have been oblivious to it happening.
However, after last year’s in-season test at Mugello, Red Bull’s Christian Horner said of the three days, “It’s very beautiful and the food is very good, but we are spending a lot of money and honestly we didn’t feel the need to come here.” Lotus boss Eric Boullier described the test at which the 11 teams covered a distance equivalent to 43 races distances as “money spent needlessly” while a senior Mercedes engineer told Gazzetta dello Sport, “I wonder about the sense of having just one test session during the season. Either we do more tests or we forget it.” Jenson Button even dismissed the value of the test before it took place with McLaren sending their test drivers.
Admittedly, the Mugello circuit was not entirely representative of the calendar. However, consider that the teams, able to run whatever testing programme they wished, deemed the benefits to be so minimal that they decided not to have an in-season test this year. A year which has been shorted by a race, freeing up space for just such a test. So how much would Mercedes really have learned from a test out of their control, using tyres that may, or may not, be used next year? Based on Horner’s assessment of last year’s test, the answer would seem to be a lot less than Red Bull would now like to suggest.
Whether Mercedes and Pirelli should have been using a current car for testing is likely to come down to a battle of semantics between themselves and the FIA but as for the question of whether Mercedes benefited, it would seem that the International Tribunal could have its work cut out in proving guilt.
Image: Mercedes AMG