Testing Agreement 'Breaking Down'
|By Will Gray||Monday, April 25th 2005, 10:19 GMT|
The gentlemen's agreement to limit in-season testing to 30 days per year could be on the verge of a breakdown after Ferrari stunned their rivals with their pace in Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix.
Ferrari refused to sign up to the 30-day limit because they believed it gave their rivals unfair advantage but they have now benefited enormously from their decision to continue to test relentlessly this season.
They have turned their performance around thanks to almost 20 days of testing since the start of the season and Toyota president John Howett has admitted the situation cannot go on any longer.
"I think the agreement has already (started to break down) because I don't think Ferrari's competitors can just sit there and accept them driving into the distance," Howett told Autosport-Atlas.
"Either Ferrari must join the remaining teams or we need to find some sort of compromise where there is an equivalence. Otherwise people will start to test remorselessly.
"I think everyone is saying that we feel everything we are doing is correct and right but Ferrari's (testing schedule) will force others to do the same. It is a question of common sense."
Ferrari were a massive two seconds per lap quicker than top rivals Renault in parts of the San Marino race and much of that performance has come from improvements to tyre performance achieved through methodical testing.
Howett admitted Toyota, who are currently second in the Constructors' Championship behind leaders Renault, had suffered from limited testing between the last race in Bahrain and Sunday's race at Imola.
He also said that with their Formula One programme costing millions of pounds per year to run, Toyota simply cannot afford to cut back the cash while another rival continues to spend.
The German-based team are already considering their options and Howett admitted: "If one competitor continues to test at a level that is significantly more we have to consider what we need to do to ensure that we remain competitive."
Ferrari's defiance against the testing limits of 30 days has been clear in recent weeks and they have already tested for 20 days in the first one-and-a-half months of the Grand Prix season.
If they continue at the same rate to the end of the season they will clock up more than three times the limit agreed by the other teams.
But Howett admitted Ferrari's comeback had been good for the sport after Schumacher and Renault driver Fernando Alonso's fight for victory created one of the most thrilling Formula One races in recent years.
Howett said: "I hope the fans enjoyed it. To me it was good for Formula One, it has been a good season for Formula One, a whole mixture of drivers on the podium so far and it augurs well for the rest of the season."