With such dramatic chassis and engine changes for 2014, F1 should have run the Jerez test in secrecy to avoid bad press, reckons DIETER RENCKEN
CVC Capital Partners, the venture fund that controls Formula 1's commercial rights, manages a diverse portfolio of global entities, including blue-chip companies operating in postal/communications, transport, hospitality, chemical and utilities sectors.
One of the companies it acquired and restructured before listing in Asia - much as CVC (twice) intended for F1, using a virtually identical model - is Samsonite, the luggage manufacturer.
Imagine that during CVC's watch a variety of regulatory, commercial and environmental concerns, plus plummeting market acceptance, forced not only the company but also the entire baggage industry to totally revamp its products through the introduction of environmentally friendly hi-tech materials and processes. Four years' notice is granted, albeit with an already extended deadline of March 15, 2014.
Now imagine the unimaginable: rather than enthusiastically embrace the future, the CEO of CVC's subsidiary publicly slams the best efforts of hundreds of highly qualified, totally committed engineers and blue-chip suppliers who have developed a full spectrum of market-relevant products under tightly controlled conditions and stringent budgetary constraints, mainly imposed from the very top.
Worse, said CEO brands the product 'a total farce' in a national English newspaper, having previously highlighted any disadvantages to the media.
That after a year ago having actively encouraged suppliers, luggage outlets and retail chains to denounce the change and associated price increases, thereby effectively killing the market before product hit the streets...
Consider another scenario: car manufacturer develops revolutionary technology, and before going to market subjects its new-fangled product to intensive testing in southern Spain and the Middle East.
Despite extensive rig testing, the engineers have no practical experience of the technology, nor have they been able to test their new car's substantially beefed-up tyres.
Does the car maker invite TV broadcasters, open proceedings to an already sceptical media, sell tickets to prospective customers to defray costs or invite VIPs despite the risk of inevitable failures becoming global knowledge in this age of instant information?
Does the company appoint pro snappers to capture every moment of humiliation?
Yet, far from being fantasy, these scenarios are precisely those endured by F1 at Jerez as the sport made initial preparations for its essential switch from the 2400cc 'old-iron' V8s, which have roots in the last millennium, to 1600cc hybrid-drive cars with similar outputs (750bhp), yet are 35 per cent more efficient.
True, they are more costly, but that's the inevitable price of progress - and in overall terms the budgetary increase is but 15 per cent.
Crucially, though, they are the future, with markedly lower pollution levels – whether CO2 or noise – courtesy of mandated hi-tech kinetic and heat energy recovery units, which in turn complement the V6 turbo units whose efficiency rivals that of diesel engines – the most efficient internal combustion design – and surely signpost the path all car makers will in future follow.
Radical, yes, but then F1 was about extreme engineering before certain factions within the sport went on cost kicks as a means of reducing the fiscal demands made by the manufacturer teams.
It can surely not be purely coincidental that specification tyres, engine downsizing and freezes and parc ferme rules were all introduced by the Max Mosley-led FIA at the very time manufacturer teams were pushing his close friend Bernie Ecclestone for greater slices of F1's revenues and threatening a breakaway series.
While the sport is annually - or even more regularly where safety is concerned - subject to rule amendments, changes deemed 'major' invariably encompassed little more than neatly trimmed, moveable front or rear wings, larger fuel tanks, or, horror of horrors, slicing off two cylinders to covert 90-degree V10s into right-angle V8s.
Indeed, the most recent 'major' change was the addition of 80bhp for six seconds via a battery pack charged by kinetic energy - technology Toyota's Prius had been using for 10 years...
Imagine then the impact of totally revised, high (fuel) pressure turbocharged power units operating in tandem with 160bhp heat and kinetic recovery installations, revamped eight-speed transmissions and reduced aerodynamics on F1's psyche.
Clearly, given this history, F1 has little experience in handling wholesale change, for the last major power unit switch occurred in 1966, when the sport moved to 3000cc from 1500cc. And even here the sport hedged its bets by permitting 1500cc forced-induction engines, an option eventually taken up by Renault 11 years later in turbocharged form.
That inexperience surely reared its head at Jerez.
Crucially, in the '60s there were no demands that engine suppliers service a number of teams nor were restrictions imposed on private testing, enabling Ferrari, BRM and (later) Cosworth to run to their hearts' content behind closed gates, away from TV's unrelenting glare.
Chassis regulations, too, were crude, with restrictions on weight and the need for open wheels and open cockpits being the only major constraints.
Fast-forward to 2014, and the technical regulations demand not only massive chassis changes, but that engine suppliers treat all teams equally.
For example, Renault provides parity for four teams, one of which (Toro Rosso) is new to its fold; Mercedes, too, has a new customer in Williams. Ferrari has no previous experience of working with Marussia.
Any wonder control units and procedures went wonky at the very first time of asking. Here were, after all, arguably the highest tech engines in the history of motorsport being controlled by electronic/hydraulics systems developed through simulation by teams working in far-off countries.
Tests are just that – convened to test components, if not to destruction, then certainly to their limits – not pageants organised for public entertainment at a fee.
A little over a century ago Rudolf Diesel started his eponymous engine for the first time - and it exploded.
But the German had the good sense to run it in private, not invite thousands of paying punters to share in his initial failure. Road test facilities used by motor manufacturers are mostly located in desolate territories for a reason, and subject to strict security, with cameras - rolling or still - being totally verboten.
F1's test and windtunnel agreements were framed by the teams during a period of 'mature' (for V8s with known parameters) simulator expertise, and demand that all teams track test at the same time, yet they had no opportunity of calibrating their simulators to the new technology, nor of running on Pirelli's beefed-up, harder rubber.
Thus Jerez was very much a stab in the dark for all, whether Red Bull, Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes or Marussia, with cars circulating lap after lap simply to amass calibration data.
Hot laps were off the agenda, as were, with the exception of Mercedes, full race simulations. One engineer told AUTOSPORT that his to-do list totalled over 300 items; after three days he had dented that by 50...
That 2014's markedly different cars proved (only) 10 seconds slower than the fastest car in F1 history (Ferrari's F2004) at first time of lapping bears testimony to the skill and commitment of thousands of engineers, yet Ecclestone publicly branded their efforts 'farcical'...
Rather than run in public, F1 should have ordered a total lock-down of Jerez – or better, rented Paul Ricard, where security is stringent – and invited only media members with histories of responsible reporting to the first running of the most crucial cars in F1 history.
Live TV? Forget it, despite the possible effect on CVC's coffers.
The two tests in Bahrain are expected to be equally challenging, for the desert island was chosen specifically for its harsh environment and high ambient temperatures.
When car companies wish to test new product under extreme conditions they hit the Namib Desert or take on Snake Valley, not invite Sky Sports.
Equally, when luggage manufacturers test new suitcases through airline check-ins they don't paste 'Prototype' stickers all over them.
Yes, F1's first week of testing its new technology was a farce – but only because of the manner in which the sport conducted itself, from the very top down.