Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2020

Shortened Eifel GP weekend shows F1 has “too much practice”

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers say they have too much time to practice during race weekends, after poor weather around the Nurburgring forced the cancellation of two sessions yesterday.

Drivers had just one hour of practice on Saturday morning before the qualifying session began. The two Friday sessions, totalling three hours of running, were cancelled as fog in the surrounding area meant the medical helicopter was not available for use.

However pole winner Valtteri Bottas said giving teams less chance to perfect the handling of their cars would be a positive change for Formula 1.

“Currently in a normal weekend I feel like there is too much practice,” he said. “Everyone finds their ways on set-ups and optimal things in terms of driving and the car set-up.

“But if there would be a bit less practise, maybe some teams can get it right, some drivers can get it right and some don’t. So I’d kind of like it with a bit less practice.”

His Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton echoed his view. Bottas believes the teams would only have been marginally quicker if they had been able to complete yesterday’s two practice sessions.

“It’s so difficult to say a number but no doubt the more you have practice, you’re getting all the fine details right. Especially Friday, you have the whole night between the sessions to look at things and learn about things from the car and driver. So I think with more practise we’d have been a tiny bit quicker.”

Verstappen also believes teams only make minor gains based on their Friday practice running.

“Especially when you have little issues or whatever, you can go over it through a whole night. You can look back at it in the factories as well, work in the simulator and stuff.

“But overall like Valtteri said, we have a lot of practice so you also take your time to settle in. Now, you know that it’s only one session, you’re straight away on it I think a bit more than what you would normally do in first practice or whatever. So it evens out a bit, but there are little things which can always be improved.”

Formula 1 is due to hold a two-day race weekend at Imola later this year. A single, 90-minute practice session will be held ahead of the usual qualifying procedure on Saturday, following by the race on Sunday.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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26 comments on “Shortened Eifel GP weekend shows F1 has “too much practice””

  1. I don’t know if I agree as for me reducing practice, Maybe doing away with Friday would detract from my overall enjoyment of the sport. I say that because as a fan I enjoy & want to watch the cars on any given circuit for as much time as possible because that is what i’m tuning in/paying to watch.

    I’m actually really disappointed that Imola will only be a 2 day weekend with just the 1 practice session as I love that circuit & could watch F1 cars lapping around that place all day & the same is true for most other venues (The classics like Imola especially).

    1. Well, it sure didnt have any effect on the starting grid line up, so I wouldnt trust this will bring more excitement.

  2. I don’t know … For years they had 2 on Friday, 2 on Saturday and a Sunday morning warm up. And racing was good, (sometimes)… Sure teams didn’t have as many computers back then, but maybe that’s the problem, not the number of practice sessions.

    I think the outrageous thing in modern Motorsport is having hundreds working at the factory during the weekend, testing on the simulator and working the long hours while the team at the track is resting. It should be more track focused, learning what you can running the car.

    1. All good points. But it is impossible to unlearn the current arguably more effective ways of using faster computers, harnessing internet and having parallel processing at factory as well as the track. Impossible to unlearn and impossible to enforce.

      1. Via a very strictly enforced and appropriately low cost cap they can enforce or achieve a lot of things.
        For example:
        – cheap innovations, (a engineering wit limited resources task is still an engineering task, and the output can be genuine as well)
        – if the cost cap is low enough that can prevent teams having everything that their competition has (ensures diverse designs, via engineering compromises to be made)
        – if the whole sport would be cheap enough, there would be much smaller resistance to change the specifications quite often, and that would be fair. Change is a good thing, as it supports fairness and equality, and no innovation is lost forever, eventually someone will make use of it, and history often repeats itself.

        (But how one prevents third parties developing for a team, outside of the umbrella of the cost cap? For example a fuel company looking for additional 10bhp and spending 80M$ at a theoretical yearly cost cap of 100M$/year? Probably not with these proportions, but I’m sure many fuel companies did a lot of works for thse F1 teams. Or similarly, how do one prevents outsourcing some R&D, or some very expensive R&D done by some sponsor? And there are many possible circumventings let those be financial or technical.)

        If the cost cap would be appropriately low, they likely would choose to let some reliability requirements go, instead of having much slower cars. Then the free practices sessions partially would be there to test the machinery as it would be less reliable and less consistent (so harder to set up), so they would need the free practices more, instead of dropping them. But many would not mind that at all, because the whole sport would be much cheaper, so there would be not much to save on dropping free practice sessions.

        But still they would spend much less, and that would be more environment friendly in a way, and factories could spend those hundreds of millions (yearly) on their greener projects, and they could support diversity in education and so on.

        But of course a cost cap would be very hard to enforce, and would require very high level of dedication, transparency almost everywhere (therefore there are a lot of problems to solve in the field of privacy), strict decision making, huge, strong and reliable staff.

        As it seems, I likely would not mind if the manufacturer teams would be converted back to engine suppliers, and F1 would give room for more privateer or indie-like entrants. Although Ferrari always made their own cars, and they are so much part of the F1 we know, that this never was the case. Probably then the cost cap should be all inclusive (all kind of R&D included, even from loosely related works of sponsors in some way), very transparent, and multi tiered to cover the case of factory teams, half-works teams and indie teams. But that would be quite complex, and this is a bit against what rules should be, as they are already very specific, and they are leading to contrived circumventings. For example I would not mind DAS-like devices at all, but instead of contriving how to plug it in to comply with the set of rules, teams just could have it because rules could be more premissive. Especially because as I read, DAS alters the toe angle while the car is on the move, and that is not invented by Mercedes, that is in existence for a while, they just found out how to have it within the boundaries of the current set of rules. The rules should be more lenient on the tech side to allow innovation, but they should always state the spirit of the rule as well, to give a firmer reference to the decision makers and scrutineers, instead of being very specificated and encourage hacky innovations instead of pure ones.

        1. great I was agile again:
          … an engineering task with limited resources task is still an engineering task …

        2. Ok, as I even failed to correct one row, I guess I will go back to my oil wells, especially because they are nodding so nicely when I share my ideas with them :)

  3. i couldn’t disagree with them any more. i think reducing practice would just make f1 far less value & far less worth paying to attend.

    whenever i go to an f1 race weekend i am there to see the f1 drivers in f1 cars and want to see as much of that as possible. if we only have say 4 hours of that over a weekend then whats the point of paying a small fortune to travel to attend?

    not to mention how as i have said in the past the 3 hours of practice on the friday are by far the best, most valuable part of a race weekend given how you are able & have time to walk the circuit & spend some time watching from different places.

    there are already hardly any opportunities for fans to go and watch the cars thanks to the testing ban so reducing those opportunities further by cutting practice would simply not be a positive step imo. i already feel more distant from the sport than ever thanks to having so much fewer opportunities to watch the cars than i once did when i used to be at a circuit at least once a month to watch the testing.

    1. +1

      I suspect it would have an impact on the financial viability of the weekends from a promoters and concession holders point of view as well.

      Limiting the first Friday session to using “young drivers” and testing may have merit but involves adding expense to the teams, but I really don’t want to see weekends shortened.

  4. Lewisham Milton
    10th October 2020, 17:16

    What did Nico Hulkenberg think about the amount of practice he had? Too much? About right? Or, just possibly, not enough?

  5. I’m torn on this one. My life philosophy is about finding the ultimate truth. You can always go deeper. F1, back in the heyday of unlimited testing, was like that. You wanted to understand your car, your driving, better? Just go do another test day. There was no limit.
    This, obviously, exaggerated one issue, namely that of external limitations. Those who could pour massive resources into testing had a massive advantage. The rest was stuck with little testing time they could afford. That is obviously not the most practical solution if you’re trying to be affordable and sustainable.
    The polar opposite in no practice, on the other hand, isn’t optimal either. It emphasises adaptability and shuns everything else. And, yeah, you get less track running, so fans don’t get to enjoy formulas going nyoom.
    My life experience says that the optimal solution is somewhere in the middle between the two extremes, and also that the centre of balance shifts over time.
    My heart says unlimited testing, but my reason tells me a reasonable amount would be more reasonable.
    A judgement? I don’t think the current weekend format needs any changes.

    1. @johnbeak

      You can always go deeper

      … until you hit the bottom.

  6. Use the Friday for Pre-Qualifying Q1a and Qualifying (reverse grid) sprint race Q1b.
    This determines the order they can leave the pitlane for Saturday Q2a and then Q2 parts a, b and c. (Part b being reversed with yesterday’s tyres of course). Keep it simple.

    1. Ironically your suggestion is complicated

  7. petebaldwin (@)
    10th October 2020, 17:43

    How about shifting the weekend around -Saturday FP1 and Quali, Sunday Race, Monday Test Day.

    This means the teams get the same track time, the fans get the same amount of time to watch the cars but we get the benefits of making things harder for the teams/drivers to get things right for the race?

    1. I think that is about the best compromise, maybe with some limiting on which drivers can test, depending on location and if there was an F2 race at that meeting.

  8. Some tracks could have Friday running and others not. Maybe only Saturday and Sunday for the 2nd and 3rd leg of a potential occasional triple-header, as well as all the others except for new tracks (whenever they’re either a standalone, the first leg of a triple-header or double-header, or the second leg of a double-header.)

  9. I am not sure that reducing the amount of weekend action is the way to go. The financial impact of lost revenue will squeeze already tight promoter finances and teams would have even more limited time to test more parts to validate concepts. We would just end up with higher ticket prices and teams being more conservative with their designs.

    However if the drivers think they do too much practice they can always volunteer to give the time to up-and-coming drivers instead. I am sure they will be grateful for the opportunity, there will no shortage of takers.

  10. In the drive to go “Green”, there will be a push to cut practice and tidy up a few other details.
    So you cut out Friday, why show up at the track on Thursday, cut that one out too. Nothing productive there.
    If there is only limited running on Saturday prior to qualifying, why bring the motor homes, fleets of trucks and all the temporary buildings that the teams “need”. Now you are looking as saving big $$$.
    Since the cars are already, effectively, in parc-ferme from Saturday morning on-wards, easy to extend that to any time at the track.
    Now you are down to the drivers, a small cadre of mechanics managers and a couple or transporters for the cars and trucks. Done.
    Heck, next step is show up on Sunday morning and get on with it. Back home for dinner at 6:00.
    With a little careful planning and some judicious trimming of fluff from the schedule, you could get the whole show over and done with in about 5 hours. Nice fit into a 90 minute TV window.
    I can see the sponsors heading to the doors already.
    It isn’t up to the drivers to run or schedule the show. If they don’t like the driving and practice part of the program, maybe an alternative career choice is worth considering.

    1. Nothing green about running a simulator 24/7.
      It is all just an illusion. Like calling an ICE running on methanol or ethanol green…

  11. I don’t get that sentiment at all. I’d want to spend all day every day driving an F1 car for free.

  12. Fri 9am Young Drivers test 1 or 2 Hours. Only drivers not currently on the grid or stand ins like Hulk can enter
    11-3 GP2/3 Practice & Qualifying
    3pm F1 and or former driver/celebrity/f1 personnel race. 20 road/sports cars, surely a sponsor would put up the cars for a quick fun race 5 lap race.

    Sat & Sunday remain the same except F1 practice can be 2 hours.

  13. Quite right, it would change the ultimate setting up of cars to a circuit.
    It could also be quite dangerous for testing developments needed due to the cuts of official testing sessions.

    Where’s the opinions of all the other stakeholders in the team, engineers, strategists etc.
    Then the TV rights holders and fans. Circuit owners & ANS and concession holders.

  14. Funny…
    “F1 has too much practice time.”
    “No it doesn’t. I like dull, over-controlled and predictable F1 races.”

    A reasonable solution is quite apparent to me.
    Less practice – more racing.
    Same track time, but more entertaining and productive. Better value for viewers as more of that track time is spent in competition rather than in a boring test session.

    Let’s not forget that 4 hours practice time was more necessary in the pre-computer/pre-data eras as nothing could be learned by the team until the driver returned to pit lane. Now everything is done in real-time by hundreds of people. Cars arrive at the track at 95% perfect setup instead of 50%.
    Times have changed, so the events need to change too.

  15. Yeah. Why not one day practice, one day reversed grid qualifying and one day race?

    Oh wait, altering F1 DNA is not ethical.

  16. No. It shows F1 is too reliant on simulator and computer time. Spending the entire day and night in the simulator setting up the car.

    Another performance differentiator the fans don’t get to see. And therefore according to the argument of F1 itsself should therefore be limited.
    Less computer time, more track time.

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