Pat Symonds, Renault's executive director of engineering, explains what the winter testing times really mean -- and how reliable they are... The 'winter world championship' is the affectionate name given to the ranking of the pre-season...
Pat Symonds, Renault's executive director of engineering, explains what the winter testing times really mean -- and how reliable they are...
The 'winter world championship' is the affectionate name given to the ranking of the pre-season favourites in Formula 1. Each winter, teams and fans pore over testing times -- short runs, long runs, qualifying simulations -- to try and understand who's quick and who's not.
Q: Pat, within an F1 team, how much effort goes into trying to work out the speed of your competitors?
Pat Symonds: A reasonable amount, but it's a very difficult job. Even for the teams, who have a little more information and 'intelligence' about what's going on, it is a very tricky exercise.
Q: What measures do you use?
PS: Certainly, the headline times produced at the end of every day probably have less relevance than anything else. We tend to concentrate more on the long distance running people do, rather than the short runs.
Q: So what have you learned so far this winter?
PS: So far this winter, I think it appears ourselves and Honda may have slightly the upper hand, but McLaren are certainly getting there too. Last week in Valencia, they produced some very good long run times and started looking competitive. And Ferrari are not far behind.
Q: Do you expect that assessment to remain fixed until the first race?
PS: Everybody will have new packages at the first race -- ourselves included -- and that may slightly alter the balance. So we cannot be sure of the final standings, but we know we are somewhere near the front.
Q: So a team spends the winter assessing their relative competitiveness, but how useful is the knowledge?
PS: Well, we like to know where we stand, because it affects some of our strategic choices in how we approach the race weekends. But in a way, it is slightly irrelevant too...
PS: Well, an F1 team never thinks: "oh, we're quick enough, let's back off". And equally, we don't say to ourselves "we're not quick enough, let's try harder". We are always at 100%, and even if we knew exactly where things would shake out, it would not affect our philosophy of how we are going to improve the car. We will make it better race by race, and continue doing that come what may.