Ferrari boss raises concerns over Red Bull’s test with Verstappen in Imola

Ferrari boss raises concerns over Red Bull's test with Verstappen in Imola

Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur has raised concerns over Red Bull’s new strategy to use F1’s testing of previous cars (TPC).

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur has questioned Red Bull’s recent testing of test cars (TPC) ahead of last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen ran the Red Bull RB18 at Imola ahead of the Barcelona round in a test conducted by the team to address the kerb and bouncing issues which have plagued all of its cars over the current regulations era including this season.

The test was not conducted behind closed doors as it was required to be reported to the FIA and all competing teams in accordance with the regulations for “Testing of Previous Cars” (often abbreviated TPC in F1).

The regulations allow in-season testing for cars older than two years, covering a three-year cycle running on a specification used at a Grand Prix during that season. Therefore, cars from 2020, 2021, and 2022 are eligible for testing which also involves usage of tyres specifically designed by Pirelli for such outings.

Teams commonly use TPC to give junior drivers an opportunity to experience a contemporary F1 car without giving up any official testing time, however, it doesn’t meet the requirement that mandates all teams to allocate FP1 sessions to junior drivers.

For example, Kimi Antonelli recently tested the Mercedes W13 while Alpine announced on Monday that Mick Schumacher and Jack Doohan will each test the A522 at Paul Ricard next month. Although it’s common for teams to give a current driver a refresher test every now and then, especially after a long break, a test for a driver mid-season is a little odd.

The regulations permit all current drivers to run a two-year-old car anytime, but Red Bull didn’t publicize their TPC outing like others do for their runs, which led many to describe it as a “secret” test. As stated earlier, the FIA is fully aware of every detail regarding the test but the regulations do not require the teams to make the runs public.

However, Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur described Red Bull’s TPC outing as “clearly about development,” despite the fact that the test cannot be used to conduct any development work.

“Over the season, I think we will do probably a bit less than 10,” he said. “But you can’t differentiate on these, there’s TPC that you could do with your racing drivers and these, for me, it’s more development than something else when you do a TPC one week before.

“I’m not complaining about them and they are in the regulations and it’s completely okay – it’s more development than something else. It’s not to give mileage to Max between Barcelona and Austria that, Tuesday, you do nothing but go along to Imola.”

Vasseur recommended more enforcement of TPC regulations so as to clarify the difference between a test that involves a current driver and one that is offered to junior driver.

“It’s clearly development and what you could do with the young drivers that this permits another approach, it’s giving them the opportunity to sometimes to do mileage for the simulator and so to develop them – it’s another approach,” he said.

“I think, if we have to police it, we will have to split the two aspects – the day we are doing with our drivers and the days that we are doing with the non-racing drivers.”

According to Red Bull’s chief engineer Paul Monaghan, Verstappen used the test to get a feel for how a car with which he dominated, handled and felt around Imola shortly after eking out a victory with the 2024 RB20.

Red Bull’s struggles on kerbs have become more apparent as their rivals close in on their lead and Monaghan said the TPC provided an idea of how the issue has escalated over the years.

“We really tried to give Max a reference from a previous car,” he explained on Friday morning at Imola. “When you’re trying to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a current car, his reference is the current car, and it’s ‘in previous years, we’ve had this, we’ve had that’.

“But have we really? Because we haven’t run them at the same time. So in taking that car out, we tried to give Max a reference to judge it from and he’s been able to give us feedback from that.”

Giving a transparent review of the advantages Red Bull derived from conducting the test in a venue accessible to all teams, Monaghan explained that the data acquired will enable the Milton Keynes-based outfit to better understand the magnitude current problem relative to previous years.

“That feedback won’t change as such, we just give him a different reference,” said Monaghan. “The strengths and weaknesses of the cars or how we perceive it, we can obviously judge relative to our opposition.

“But we blend that with his comments, check those comments, and we say, ‘OK, are we good? Are we bad?’ look in the data, see if it’s valid to say we’re better or worse than some people, what’s his perception, why is he saying it? And then what on earth do we do about it?”

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