Should F1 cancel practice?

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving (16) the Ferrari F1-75 and the rest of the field into turn one at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 27, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202203270391 // Usage for editorial use only //

This weekend saw F1 boss, Stefano Domenicali, at the MotoGP opening race in Portugal. At that race, he waved a flag as well as his tongue about F1’s possible consideration—namely canceling all practice sessions.

This didn’t go over well with many fans on social media and nor should it. These kinds of ideas seem to be verbal dross leaking out of brainstorming or ideation sessions where the owners of F1 try to divine the future of the sport in terms of keeping the new F1 fans engaged and entertained.

In 2013/14, I argued that F1 had taken too much direction from teams—in particular Mercedes’ Ross Brawn—and was swinging too far to the engineering side of the pendulum leaving very little for the entertainment value. With DRS, Sprint races and no testing, the series risks seeing the pendulum swing too far toward the entertainment side.

Clearly Liberty Media are looking to maximize revenue and exploit areas of F1 to monetize or entertain. On one hand, why wouldn’t they when their new fanbase was created via Drive to Survive where reality was altered in favor of excitement? It’s hard to re-create that level of excitement and drama in real life but perhaps canceling Friday practice would make it more exciting?

The idea of no practice assumes that the teams would be on the back foot during the race Weeknd and perhaps that’s true but I think it’s also dangerous and antithetical to the reality of racing. Tracks are all different and cars have to be set up for safety reasons as well as performance.

I’m no fan of DRS, never have been, as I view it as a construct that artificially impacts F1 in an unfair manner. Ideas like canceling practice in order to make things more random is really trying to overcome the series regulations that have resulted in cars that cannot race close together and produce exciting racing.

What is interesting is that Domenicali shared this idea while attending a MotoGP race where the bikes are capable of running close, fighting hard and producing close, exciting racing. MotoGP’s Sprint race is a lot better than F1’s in terms of excitement and riders going for it from lap one. That’s because they don’t have to worry about tire degradation and wear rates. Something F1 should consider with their Sprint race—give the teams a super soft, very durable tire in which they can push it from flag-to flag.

Perhaps the weekend, with new Sprint tires, could look like this if they would go back to 90-minute practice sessions:

FP1- is practice for Sunday’s Grand Prix with all tire compounds
FP2- is practice for Sprint race with Sprint tire compound
FP3 (Saturday)- is qualifying for Sprint race
Sprint- is qualifying for Grand Prix on Sunday
Grans Prix- Sunday is normal race with grid set by Sprint race

Ideas like reversed grids, no practice sessions, and other novelties are just ways to put the fastest cars in traffic to generate passing. These are artificial constructs and o be honest, I feel they are patronizing.

I understand that F1 wants to enthrall their new fanbase but if the new fans can’t appreciate FP1, FP2 and FP3 for what the sessions are and what they mean to the teams and drivers, I’m not sure eliminating running on Friday’s will help them be more excited or by simply giving out more points for just about everything. What F1 should be more focused on is not entertaining the casual fan but making their series more competitive.

If new F1 fans aren’t enthralled by the disparity between DTS and F1’s reality, I would recommend they tune in to MotoGP because it’s much closer to the DTS-type experience in real life.

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Xean Drury

Ranks right up there with sprinklers on track. For me, my concern would be safety (which is also why I doubt they’d ever do away with practice). Sure they have a bunch of data, but new teams do not, as tracks are reconfigured or resurfaced, the numbers change, and changes to cars one year to the next also makes the data obsolete (not to mention weather conditions). Pretending like these cars are Toyota Carolas, that can just go out on any tire on any day and perform reasonably well is foolish. I can see maybe reducing the number of practices… Read more »

Myles

Could you imagine going around Jeddah or Monaco first time on a burner without any practice?

Glen Mhor

I’d limit the practice sessions at race weekends but maybe introduce some form of tactical play where teams could twice a season pick an extended session. In saying that, I’d also bring back refuelling and we need to get away from the tyre domination of the sport.

charlie w

I think too much is being made on Domenicali’s words. It almost sounds like the quote was misinterpreted. I don’t believe he really wants to eliminate free practice completely. But he wants introduce another method to mix up grids and throw some discourse at the teams. His point is correct: the teams arrive at most tracks fully prepared for race weekend. Many hours have been done in CFD software, wind tunnels and driver simulations to offset almost every variable they may encounter at the track except weather. And for those of you wanting a return of refueling(I’m looking at you… Read more »