Formula One teams have pretty much always been allowed to run anyone they wish to during free practice sessions. Obviously there are some limits to that, they need to hold a Super License, for instance. Theo Pourchaire (above) sat in on a private test with Alfa Romeo earlier this season, but teams rarely use their weekend track time to test new talent. F1 wants that to change, permanently.
Starting in 2022 teams will be forced by the series to run young drivers in Friday’s FP1 session. There isn’t an indication yet as to how exactly this system will work, and how many race weekends young drivers will need to run by team. Obviously this wouldn’t work during weekends where Sprint events are held, because FP1 is the only on-track session before Friday’s qualifying session. The current idea sees at least three Friday sessions be used to test young drivers next season per team, with that number growing every year from there on.
“Friday running is coming in,” said F1 managing director Ross Brawn. “On Friday, each team will have to run FP1 with a rookie. And we’re being very careful about how we define a rookie. Let’s wait and see how we define it. I think it’s next year they’ll need to run a young driver on a Friday, every team a certain number of occasions.”
A few of the teams on the grid don’t already have young driver programs in place, notably McLaren and Aston Martin. There is plenty of talent to pull from the various ladder series. Personally, I’d like to see McLaren haul Patricio O’ward over from IndyCar to do a bit of running.
For years teams have hired designated test and practice drivers only to make them sit at the back of the garage session after session. This is a good move to get more drivers acclimated to on-track action in a full-boat F1 car. Furthermore, it might give teams the kick in the hind end that they need to kick out old-guard drivers like Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel and bring in some hot new potential championship contender. Then again, it might give those older drivers incentive to go even faster. As long as this doesn’t end up like the churn-and-burn technique that Red Bull has used to bulldoze through drivers for a decade.
Let’s see who is really fast.