While testing current cars was this year limited to two pre-season tests and one day of running on Tuesday after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, testing with last year’s cars seems to be the new craze.
With McLaren and Alpine doing so much private testing, one is tempted to think we’re back some 15 years, when teams would go from a Grand Prix to a test session to a Grand Prix throughout the European season.
Alpine, for example, had planned to do quite a lot of private testing with last year’s A521
for Oscar Piastri’s benefit. The Australian was being carefully prepared to enter Formula One next year, albeit most likely with another team, before getting his break with the Enstone-based team.
The collapse of the relationship put an end to a program that saw Piastri test in Silverstone, Paul Ricard, Barcelona and, the Red Bull Ring; but the team then decided to continue running the A521, giving a couple of runs to Jack Doohan and Formula 3 drivers Caio Collet, and champion Victor Martins.
At the same time, in desperate need to find a new team mate for Ocon, it has transpired that the team was due to hold a two-day test session at the Hungaroring (as AA went to press) with Doohan certain to run one, while IndyCar driver Colton Herta and Ferrari-contracted Antonio Giovinazzere also set to try last year’s A521.
Nyck de Vries was also a possible to join this group, but stories that Mick Schumacher would also take part in this test are wide of the mark as the German is contracted to Haas until the end of the year and was considered highly unlikely to get permission from the American team to test for a rival, even if with last year’s car.
McLaren, which has given track time to Herta, Red Bull Young driver Jehan Duravala and WEC front runner Will Stevens in Algarve, as well as running the Indian driver at Silverstone and Barcelona, has been back at the Circuit de Catalunya, giving IndyCar front-runner Alex Palou and their own IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, the chance to sample last year’s car.
For the Mexican this is a return to a car he tested for one day in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year, whilst for Palou, this was his first Formula One experience, which seemed to be part of a compensation package McLaren had to agree too after making a massive blunder with his contract for 2023, announcing it before the Spanish driver eventually accepted to stay with Ganassi for another year.
Given testing with last year’s cars is an expense that is not included in the budget cap, it’s clear the two teams fighting for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship have money to spare, so more tests could be scheduled before the end of the season with other names coming to the fore as well…
For the rest of Luis’ insider F1 articles, see the latest issue of AUTO ACTION, where you can read all about the discussions on Colton Herta’s next possible move in his bid to obtain an F1 Superlicense, the FIA’s call for a summit meeting following the controversial ending to the Monza GP, and the rumours of Nico Hülkenberg closing in on a shock HAAS deal.