Guest Author - Christine Blachford
The recent addition of Portugal to the roster of testing tracks available to teams seemed like a wonderful idea. The surrounding area is beautiful, the weather is generally good, and it's helpful for teams to try out new circuits.
However, the recent four day test has been marred by bad weather. The first two days were particularly bad, with conditions drying out somewhat on the third. Teams still turned up to run their cars, but obviously their progress was hampered.
It's a difficult situation for teams. There are limited testing miles available throughout the year, so they need to be careful how much is used and in what circumstances. Drivers, especially new ones, want to have as much time in the car as they can before the season starts, but teams will be wary of wet weather data. Sebastien Buemi, newly signed for Toro Rosso, says he is happy to be spending time in the car, especially in the wet, as it's good experience. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli, who has driven in wet conditions plenty of times throughout his career, finds a damp track frustrating.
With many teams running their new 2009 cars, they'll want to get as much information and data about the aerodynamics and tyres as possible. Slicks have returned for 2009, but in wet weather, they can't be tested out.
Ferrari decided to stay in Italy rather than travel to Portugal, because they didn't like the look of the weather forecasts. Unfortunately, it is just as bad at their own track, Mugello. The team haven't managed to bolt slicks onto the car yet, over all three days.
Considering how wet last year's season was, it might be worth the teams running for a few days in adverse conditions. Gathering data will be useful, and it can be converted to relate to dry setups. However, this isn't a reliable method, and teams would much prefer to concentrate on dry running - as this is what the majority of the year will be like. It's certainly put a dampener on the start of the year for them, but it makes things even more fascinating and unknown for when we get to Australia.