Hankook have ruled out becoming F1’s tire supplier in 2014 if Pirelli does not agree to a contract renewal.
This headline would seem like another run-of-the-mill rumor being denied at any other time in this sport, but the events surrounding the now infamous ‘Testgate’ have done a lot to reveal what we already know is wrong with F1, but seem unable to act upon. Hankook, who supply tires to both DTM and European Formula 3 along with others, have ruled out the possibility of making an F1 appearance due to the single fact that there is not enough testing. Even if there was unlimited testing, coming into the sport next season would be nigh on impossible, so there is no surprise there. But Hankook have even ruled out coming to F1 in the next four or five years due to the lack of available track time allowed by the FIA.
The problem Formula One faces is very serious. The Hankook example is just one of many we’ve seen in the past, and are sure to see in the future, regarding testing. The sheer amount of information needed just to be competitive in Formula One, be you a driver, team, engine supplier and yes, tire supplier, is so immense that the allotted 12 days of preseason testing is just not enough. Hankook, with all its resources and respected reputation would, like Pirelli have found out the hard way, come to realize that taking on Formula One with the current testing restrictions is an impossible task.
This example speaks to the larger issue of anyone trying to become a technical feature in the sport. What will Honda have to do to become immediately competitive when they return to the sport? There is only so much a dyno test can tell you. They have already been denied the opportunity to test their engines in 2014 with a 2013 car, so what do they have left? Not much, when you really look at it.
Formula One runs the risk of losing its technological credibility if it remains dormant throughout the winter and during the breaks between races. If entities aiming to be the leader in technical field in Formula One are denied the opportunity to test their innovations, the sport runs the risk of becoming outdated. The sport is still one of the leaders in technological innovation; there is no denying that at all. But what will happen in 20 years when the lack of testing has piled up over time? Will the sport’s technology be considered antiquated? Most likely not. But the sport runs this risk each and every day that there is not inseason testing.
The line between scarcity and excess is very fine, indeed, and the sport needs to find a balance soon. I don’t want the sport to return to 2006, the height of in-season testing, as the money and energy involved in doing so was too much to be considered beneficial. But I am getting fed up with the levels of testing we endure today. The days allotted to the teams to prepare for the long and grueling season really is not enough, and the sport’s attempts at remedying the situation have either not worked or been met with some sort of opposition.
The sport will never be perfect, but testing must be fixed, or else Hankook will be just the first of many more to rule out F1 entry.