Formula One has often been criticised for moving too slowly over the years. But with Liberty Media acquiring the commercial rights to the sport and the advent of a new FIA and F1 delegates under the presidency of Mohammed Ben Sulayem, change is certainly in the air.
F1 practice sessions has become the hot topic at the Australian GP following comments made by F1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali. His comments made at the season opener of MotoGP to th Portuguese broadcaster literally read he supports “the cancellation of free practice sessions” in F1.
Reducing F1 practice hot topic
The driver interviews in Melbourne appear to suggest there is broad support amongst them to reduce the amount of practice time with George Russell who speaks for the GPDA stating:
“I don’t think it’s right that Formula 1 has three times the amount of practice that you have in the F3 and F2 categories.
“They should be the ones to get more practice, also because they’re doing less races, they don’t get to test that often.”
Mercedes’ driver U-Turn
George attempted to modify any extreme interpretation of Domenicali’s comments in Portuguese by adding, “No practice would be too little.”
The Mercedes driver admitted to a surprising U-Turn in attitude when he revealed, “I wasn’t in favour of the sprint races initially…”
“… but I really enjoy the sprint races and having action on a Friday is vital for all of us and also for the entertainment factor.”
George Russell ‘on message’
To the experienced eye, Russell’s rhetoric including the term “vital” appears particularly ‘on message’ though he is backed by others including Lando Norris.
The McLaren star relates to his junior category racing where practice was just one session.
“FP1 into qualifying, that nature of it, I do love. It puts me under pressure, puts the engineers under a bit more pressure and we get straight into the action.”
Rising tensions between Mercedes’ team mates
Shock: Pirelli back less practice
Following the F1 team principal’s press conference on Friday, its clear the topic was discussed at length during the recent gathering of the F1 Commission.
Pirelli boss Mario Isola who attends the commission meetings revealed, “We collect useful data from the practice sessions, for the usage of the tyres, possible strategies.
Though surprisingly Isola was supportive of Domenicali’s efforts to encourage more sessions to be of “interest to the spectators.”
Verstappen Australian GP weekend handicap
FP2 ‘pointless’ during Sprint weekends
“I believe the discussion started from the role of FP2 during the Sprint events, with the cars that are in parc fermé – so, very limited possibility for the teams to react to any change.
“That was still interesting for us [Pirelli], for the tyre, but it’s not enough [to justify its existence].
From Haas boss Steiner’s contribution its clear F1 is considering a change for the upcoming race weekend in Baku.
Historic F1 first ‘so close’ for Aston
Haas boss backs extra qualifying
“Yeah, what I would like to add to this one is, in Baku, we are talking about having a second qualifying at the moment.
“So I think once we have done that, instead of FP2 on a Sprint event on Saturday morning, we do a qualifying and then we are in a situation to evaluate whether one FP, which would be FP1, is enough…”
As of now, the format for the Baku race weekend in a month’s time appears to still be up in the air, which is extra-ordinary.
Ferrari B-Spec car in progress
FIA may prove roadblock
That said, so is the almost universal support for change Domenicali has received for his proposed changes.
To bring this change of the programme about for the Azerbaijan GP weekend will require a unanimous majority agreement amongst the commission members.
As yet the FIA have not revealed their thoughts. It could be the opinion is the incremental requirements for another competitive track session from race control and the stewards cannot be met at such short notice.
Saudi F1 team decision ‘imminenet’
Big hitters yet to comment
Further, big hitters like Christian Horner and Toto Wolff’s views have not been publicised.
That said, Steiner’s comments appear to suggest it is yet undecided whether Saturday morning practice will be scrapped in favour of a second qualifying either for the GP or the afternoon Sprint event.
F1’s supremo appears to have the once monolithic beast of Formula One, now on its toes and poised to dance to a different tune.
READ MORE: Horner dismisses Perez’s opinion
FP1 in Melbourne, aka the most chaotic practice session ever?! 🤯😆#AusGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/IqG9O2o7cH
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 31, 2023