By Mark Gledhill Formula One Test Session Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, Northamptonshire, England Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th April, 2001 Variable weather conditions at Silverstone gave the teams the opportunity to test their traction ...
By Mark Gledhill
Formula One Test Session
Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, Northamptonshire, England
Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th April, 2001
Variable weather conditions at Silverstone gave the teams the opportunity to test their traction control systems in preparation for the Spanish Grand Prix. Alexander Wurz tested on both days for McLaren and was joined on Wednesday by Mika Hakkinen and on Thursday by David Coulthard. Jarno Trulli and Riccardo Zonta tested both days for Jordan, and Olivier Panis tested both days and Jacques Villeneuve just Wednesday for BAR.
The conditions at the start of the session on Wednesday were treacherous, and stayed like this for most of the opening two hours. Alexander Wurz showed just how bad the conditions were by spinning backwards into the gravel at Luffield on an out-lap while using traction control, bringing the session to a halt. Mika Hakkinen then brought out the red flags again for doing a practice start actually on the grid. Hakkinen went on to set the first timed lap of the day as he started a 7 lap run. At the end of his fourth lap he turned the traction control system on and immediately went 4.2 seconds faster on a dampening track, and then improved that time by 2.5 seconds.
The McLaren traction control system, although effective, made a horrendous noise as it cut out the cylinders. The system had an effect when the wheels touched the white lines and kerbs causing the drivers to lose valuable acceleration. The handling worked well though and Hakkinen was able to enter a corner at any angle and maintain this throughout the corner with virtually no correction. In damp conditions Wurz struggled with the car. However in dry conditions both Hakkinen and Wurz struggled to take the optimum lines around the corners.
Olivier Panis was the first driver out after lunch, steadily improving on most laps to eventually set a 1m 31.67. Jacques Villeneuve soon followed and improved on every lap to set a 1m 31.30, despite a heavy shower in the early laps. Then Zonta posted four very consistent times, the fastest of which was 1m 29.65. After a brief hailstorm Panis returned to the track and set some varied lap times before improving to 1m 25.55. He was joined by Mika Hakkinen who looked very fast and smooth, and lapped at a similar pace.
It was at this point that one of the most significant events of the session took place. Jacques Villeneuve started a fifteen lap run, and ran as quickly as 1m 23.62. He then backed off, switched on traction control, and two laps later set a 1m 22.93. The previous unofficial lap record was 1m 23.82, and so Villeneuve had already beaten this time without traction control, but the system helped him to improve this time by 0.7 seconds, in dry and hot conditions.
Hakkinen was unable to lap below 1m 25.31, although Wurz and Panis came out together and set 1m 24.39 and 1m 23.91 respectively. Wurz's laps improved constantly and consistently, whereas Panis's laps were erratic and often alternated between very fast and very slow. Hakkinen then responded with 8 very fast laps and the fastest was 1m 24.45. Trulli made his first run of the day and set a fastest time of 1m 26.84 on his opening lap. The session was brought to a halt a few minutes premature by torrential rain.
The conditions on Thursday morning were drier, although the track was still damp in places and the air was bitterly cold. Jarno Trulli started an installation lap but his car started chugging at Bridge and the Italian returned to the pits. Ricardo Zonta gave the first indication of the state of the track by doing four flying laps and setting a fastest time of 1m 36.08. Alexander Wurz soon followed and improved the fastest time to 1m 33.70 but was quickly beaten by Jarno Trulli with a 1m 32.62. Wurz needed to correct the car several times despite using traction control, whereas Trulli looked very smooth. Wurz then went back out as the conditions worsened, and set a 1m 31.93 despite twitching wildly on several occations. It was now very wet and Trulli could only manage a 1m 40.03.
David Coutlard started his only series of laps just after 11am, and at the end of the second lap spun at the exit of Luffield and ended up pointing the wrong way, before spinning the car round and continuing. His fastest time was 1m 44.76. There were just two laps during the next four hours, where Coulthard and Panis both did installation laps.
Shortly after 3pm Ricardo Zonta tried some flying laps but spun at Abbey on his first lap. He continued to set a 1m 51.01, and Trulli soon followed with an identical time. Zonta did another installation lap one hour later, and almost an hour after that Alexander Wurz did an installation lap with traction control on maximum sensitivity, as the engine was cutting out at every point around the circuit, even along the Hanger Straight.
The test provided the teams and drivers to try out their almost complete traction controls systems. There was very little cylinder cutting from Jordan and BAR, but a significant amount of noise from the McLaren. Also Hakkinen was not able to match Villeneuve's pace in the driest conditions, and Wurz and Hakkinen both had their moments using traction control particularly in drier conditions. Riccardo Zonta shows that his pace is still there and was able to lap on the pace whenever required. Panis set times which were erratic, similar to what he did during testing for McLaren last season, but on occasions he was able to set very fast times. It seems that the teams are able to adjust not only when the traction control is on, but how sensitive it is and how hard it works, and this will separate the good drivers from the great drivers.