Winter testing is a weird time for Formula 1 but it can often throw up some wacky, unusual storylines that we won’t be forgetting for a while.
Pre-season testing is a strange time for F1. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the car launches and first time hitting the track.
Testing can also create some weird and surprising headlines, as well as a few shocks and unusual moments.
Whether it’s a unique livery, surprise lap time or incident, there are always some interesting moments to emerge from pre-season testing.
Let’s take a look at some of the best recent moments to hit the headlines from winter testing:
Alonso’s Barcelona crash
Fernando Alonso had to miss the first round of the 2015 F1 season in Australia after a mysterious testing crash in Barcelona before the start of the new campaign. The Spaniard hit the wall hard at the exit of Turn 3, but the cause was not clear.
Initially, details on the crash were few and far between. McLaren declined to speak about the accident, other than to say Alonso was fine. Of course, that sparked a whole host of rumours and theories about what had actually happened.
Later on McLaren claimed it was a sudden gust of wind, but Alonso said it was a steering problem. So, there were mixed reports. Very strange. Alonso was taken to hospital after the crash and spent a few nights there before being released. But he wasn’t well enough to start the Australian GP, on his return to McLaren.
Brawn GP SURPRISE
Honda’s withdrawal from F1 at the end of the 2008 season was a huge hit for the sport and for the Brackley-based factory, with a huge amount of uncertainty surrounding their jobs and the future of the team and car (which Honda had put a lot of effort into developing).
Thankfully Brawn GP rose from the ashes of Honda after a last-minute takeover, but there was a rush to get the car to the first Barcelona test. It blew everyone else out of the water immediately, but there was the usual gossip of low fuel and glory runs to attract sponsors to the blank car.
However, as testing wrapped up, no one was able to get close to Brawn GP and it finally dawned on the rival teams – they were very, very quick. Jenson Button ended up winning six of the first seven races and took the title, with Brawn GP securing the constructors’ crown too. You really can’t make up stories like that.
Snow at Silverstone
Another pre-season story involving Alonso, this time due to the weird weather conditions during a test for Renault in 2005 at Silverstone. Typically for winter time in the UK, it was cold and wet. Testing was hampered by snow in the morning, meaning Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella had to settle for pit stop practice. Fun.
Franck Montagny completed a shakedown of the car but more snow showers returned during the day, which basically cut short Renault’s running. Because F1 and snow is not a good mix. Maybe Silverstone in February isn’t a good idea either…
Red Bull goes camouflage
This was one of those weird situations where a winter testing livery was actually cooler than the final livery used during the season. Red Bull went camouflage for F1 2015 pre-season testing and the car looked brilliant. It proved to be a huge hit with fans (unsurprisingly) but the badass livery was just for the tests, the normal blue, red and yellow colours returned for the season opener. Boo.
Prost the team to beat?
The Prost F1 team’s tricky financial situation was well known ahead of the 2001 season, so it was pretty surprising to see the French outfit at the top of the timesheets during testing. Having gone second fastest at Barcelona, Jean Alesi then went one second quicker than anyone else during the next test in Portugal.
Of course, that sparked lots of discussions about running underweight to attract sponsors. Of course, it did find the Prost team financial backing. But, unlike Brawn, it didn’t yield good results because the car was not the one to beat. Far from it. Prost scored four points all season.
Phallic nose shocker
We all got a nasty surprise when the F1 2014 car launches got going, with weird nose after weird nose. It started up a whole load of memes and photoshops about the phallic-shaped noses, especially the Force India and Toro Rosso designs. Not pretty. Fortunately, the rules were changed for 2015 to get rid of these awkward and odd-looking noses.
Pick of two
BAR entered F1 in 1999 with a huge budget, a world champion driver and bullish expectations. So, of course, the launch of its first car was a lavish affair and showed off two separate liveries for drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta.
One was blue and yellow, while the other was white and red. BAR didn’t see a problem with this but the FIA did and told the team it could only have one livery. Eventually, it decided to combine the two with a zip down the middle. Sure it looked ugly as hell but it was a hilarious response to the FIA.