Come rain or shine

Sunglasses and umbrellas
Many people wonder why the British are so obsessed with talking about the weather. One of the key reasons is because there is so much of it. The British Grand Prix was a perfect example: 15 minutes before the start there was the sort of torrential monsoon that would not have looked out of place in Malaysia. Yet by the end of the race, the sun was shining.
This schizophrenic climate continued for the in-season test after the grand prix, although to a much less dramatic extent. On the whole, teams hate changeable weather during testing. The whole point of testing is to try out new things and see if they work, normally by comparing them to what was there before. But in order to have a valid comparison, you need a level playing field – otherwise the data tends to be unreliable.
So given that the entirety of Tuesday afternoon was umbrella-up weather, along with intermittent rain on Wednesday, it was perhaps surprising that the teams actually managed to complete 1805 laps (or more than 34 British Grand Prix distances) over the course of the two days at Silverstone. This brings the total number of testing kilometres covered so far this year up to 61,772 kilometres (compare and contrast with 2006, when the year’s cumulative testing total was 411,102 kilometres!)

The stars of the testing show 
Ironically, even though the rain wasn’t especially heavy during the two days at Silverstone, these mixed conditions were the ones that many teams struggled with most. As Alex Lynn, who drove for Williams on the opening day, put it: “You have to love British rain: at first it wasn’t quite wet enough for full wet tyres – and then it was a bit too dry for intermediates…”
With F1® rules stating that teams have to devote at least two of their four days of in-season testing to running young drivers, Lynn was one of a number of development drivers having their moment behind contemporary Formula 1® machinery.
Some of them were making their absolute debuts, such as Nikita Mazepin for Force India, Santino Ferrucci for Haas (becoming the first American to drive an American F1® car since 1977) and Sergio Sette Camara for Toro Rosso. The fact that none of them dropped it in the marginal conditions is a massive credit to them.
Testing is also an opportunity for teams to try things that they wouldn’t normally over a race weekend: Red Bull fitted a ‘halo’ on Tuesday while Williams trialled an unusual rear wing on Wednesday.

Seeing double
During testing, each team normally fields one car, but observant visitors to the Silverstone test will have noticed two Mercedes. The even more observant will have noted that the two cars were somewhat different, as Pascal Wehrlein was driving a 2014 Mercedes W05, from the first year of the new hybrid era.
Rather than indulging in a bit of recent nostalgia, Wehrlein was using the car to test 2017 tyre structure and compound concepts for Pirelli within a 2016 (13-inch) size. This is part of the first phase of Pirelli testing for next year, when the tyres become 25% wider, before testing of full-size 2017 tyres starts shortly in August, using modified cars (of an approximately similar vintage to Wehrlein’s Mercedes at Silverstone).
The test was a ‘blind’ one – which meant that neither the driver nor the team were aware of what exactly Pirelli was testing, ensuring that nobody gains a competitive advantage and that the driver has no particular preconceptions when it comes to giving feedback.
The work focused on the slick tyre: not ideal when there was so much rain. Nonetheless, when it was dry plenty of ground was covered: on Wednesday morning, Wehrlein completed more laps than anyone else.
Now the results will be taken back to Milan and analysed by the dedicated team of engineers working on this latest generation of tyres. Essentially, their task is to tailor-make these tyres for a design of car that doesn’t yet actually exist, which certainly isn't easy. But if it were easy, then everyone would do it.

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