We recently received news about the dates for F1 pre-season testing at Barcelona and Sakhir, though we also learnt that while the Bahrain test would be broadcast live, the Barcelona test would be conducted in a much more private fashion and that limited content would be shown to the outside world. Every F1 fan has the same question regarding this decision, and that is “why on earth would you do that!?!”
Barcelona testing will be the first time the new F1 cars take to the track and are tested in proper conditions, This will be a monumental moment, so why on earth is F1 stopping us fans from viewing it? There are many theories, but two stand out, which we will be discussing right now.
A question which is raised is regarding the reliability of the cars- be it the engines, structural integrity of the cars or even the new 18″ wheels from Pirelli. Pre-season is one of the prime places where things can go wrong – McLaren had a supremely disastrous 2015 pre-season test while Williams missed the first test entirely in 2019. To give you a better perspective, McLaren could cover only 5 laps in the first 2 days of testing in 2015!
The issues for both Mclaren and Williams were down to certain parts failing and not being manufactured respectively, showing that even at the highest level in motorsport, there are shortfalls that can arise at any time. Moreover, it could even be possible that the teams themselves don’t want it as open because if there are reliability issues, the sponsors won’t be happy, they won’t find more sponsors and just the overall image of the team would suffer.
However, the more plausible theory is the same one that F1 has been going down the path of recently, money! There’s a reason the “official” unveiling will be in Bahrain, they’ve paid for it! The TV and broadcast rights, the unveiling glory, the glamour and the fame will all be centered around Sakhir, so as to promote the country via F1. It is not an ideal circumstance, but unfortunately, money speaks louder than everything else in the world of F1 currently. No wonder Kimi had such views in his latest interview post his retirement. You can read about it here.
As sad as this might make F1 fans, the FIA and F1 themselves are soon showing what the future could end up being. Iconic tracks like Nurburgring and Hockenheim are missing from the calendar to make way for countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to host races, which just solidifies the fact that as time passes, F1 will prioritise money over retaining heritage. It’s quite possible that the reason pre-season testing will not be broadcast from Barcelona is for this very reason, and all we can hope for is that F1 has a change of heart over time, and regains control before it’s too late.