The FIA president Jean Todt is looking to change the format of the Formula 1 Friday practice schedule and change the rules around in-season testing. Currently on Friday there are two sessions of an hour and a half each. Todt’s proposal is that they break up the three hours of Friday into three session of 60 minutes each. The first session on Friday morning would be reserved just for test drivers.
The second change Todt is to the current ban on in-season testing. He is looking to add a multi-day program at Mugello in May before the start of the European season. The teams are thought to have agreed with this proposal already.
Formula One like every other sport/business needs to adapt to the times it is in. At the time of ban something needed to be done to bring cost under control, whether that was the correct place to cut is a topic for another time. These proposals have come about after a few years, they have had time to see the results and can now make a judgement on what has happened.
Testing as the teams return to Europe from the first fly away races make sense. Traditionally this is when the teams will bring a major upgrade to the cars. This will give them an opportunity to test in a controlled environment and they will be able to get a better assessment of the new parts, rather than doing it on a Friday morning at a Grand Prix. You can see why the teams would all agree on this without the usual fighting.
The change to a Grand Prix race weekend is a much bigger change, but it will be even more valuable. Having a session that is dedicated to test drivers with be a benefit on two fronts. First it will give the teams a chance to use a the first hour to test out new parts in a session during which there is sometimes very little running.
Second it will give young drivers a chance to get in a F1 car up to 20 times in a year. Most of the teams have at least a reserve driver and some have a test driver as well. Formula One has always been very difficult to break into, but over the last few years it has become even tougher if that’s possible.
With no testing and only a couple of test days for young drivers, it is very difficult for a new driver to get use to the complexities of driving a modern F1 car. The days of hearing about an F3 driver getting into an F1 car for the first time and going quicker than the two regular drivers appear to be over. This wasn’t a common occurrence before, but I can’t remember the last time it happened recently.
Alguersuari who won the F3 championship in 2008 then moved up to F1 in mid-season 2009 and has been there ever since. He struggled until the middle of 2011 and is now showing the form that was expected of him. This is a long time for a team to wait for someone to come good. Red Bull invested a lot of time and money in him before he ever set foot into a F1 car. If they weren’t patient with him, his career could have been over before the age most F1 drivers ever get started.
Not many drivers have this kind of opportunity with the structure of Red Bull ladder system. With the additional session for a third driver they can use this opportunity to be in the car and get settled before they have the pressure of being one of the two race drivers. The teams also benefit. If there is a problem with one of the regular drivers like this year with Perez. The team then has a driver who is ready to step in and is used to the team procedures and car. Sauber for example could have had two cars in Monaco rather than just the one.
For more from John Bailey, check out his blog http://www.f1sight.com/
The views in This Fan Blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation