Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly, Nurburgring, 2020

F1 drivers keen for less practice after two-day Eifel Grand Prix weekend

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 drivers believe cutting practice could lead to better races by increasing the potential for unpredictability.

Poor weather conditions at the Nurburgring last week meant the three-day Eifel Grand Prix became a two-day event. The championship will trial a two-day race weekend format at Imola next week.

Lando Norris was among those who relished the difficulty of setting his car up for qualifying in just one hour after low-lying cloud caused the cancellation of Friday’s running at the Nurburgring.

“It was a good challenge for everyone – for the engineers and for us drivers – to try and nail everything so quickly, within one hour, into qualifying. It was hectic but, from my side, I think it was it was also quite fun at the same time.”

His team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr agreed, despite having struggled with a new aerodynamic package on his car which McLaren had little time to set up. “It is fun to change now then and go into quali without so much experience,” he said.

Williams driver George Russell also appreciated the break from the norm and the potential for greater variability it offered.

“I think if we ditch Friday altogether it will be a little bit more chaotic because we don’t get that practice to get the right cooling on the car, to get the right brake nozzles, to feed the right temperature into into the tyres,” he said.

“But from my personal side, I enjoyed it. It brings opportunity because everyone’s into the unknown. I guess it depends how much of a risk you, as a team, would like to take with these things, because you don’t have the time really to test to know for sure.

“I do believe the level is so, so high in Formula 1 that people don’t often make mistakes but a lot of the reason for that is because we do so much practice.”

“I don’t think we should drop Friday altogether but I do believe four hours of practice is too much,” he added. “Two sessions would be nice.”

However Kevin Magnussen said he would prefer the schedule to feature less practice because it creates opportunities for drivers to make more of a difference.

“I think is really good fun,” said the Haas driver. “It puts a lot more pressure on third practice, so I’d much prefer to have it like this.

“It gives you an opportunity, if you hit the ground running on Saturday morning, then you could really make a difference if you if you just really nail it from the beginning.”

Magnussen doubted smaller teams like Haas particularly stood to benefit from such a change. “The bigger teams have better opportunities to prepare,” he explained. “Better simulations, they just have better tools and that’s going to, in this situation, give them the edge.

“But as a driver, you can make a bigger difference, if you’re good at adapting. The bigger teams benefit from any situation, rather than the smaller teams.”

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2020 F1 season

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Author information

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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42 comments on “F1 drivers keen for less practice after two-day Eifel Grand Prix weekend”

  1. I hear what you’re saying but it’d be hard to justify the ticket prices for events to see less of the cars on track. Perhaps allocate a practice session for reserve drivers?

    1. May be cancel F1 friday practice but ask the F1 drivers to do a sprint race in BMW M1, or realistically Porsche 911 instead ?

    2. I doubt it will cause a major dent in ticket income. @tommy-c
      Few people buy tickets for just the Thursday, and weekend tickets are typically still cheaper than single tickets for Saturday & Sunday thus don’t need to be reduced.

      Burger & Beer sales will be down though.

    3. It could work without fans being shortchanged if they crammed Friday with support race practice, quali and sprint races. I’d enjoy a day of watching the likes of W Series, F3 and F2 before F1 takes centre stage on a Sunday.

      1. @geemac A Friday full of only support categories likely wouldn’t draw a crowd as most fans attending aren’t there to watch those.

        Certainly when Silverstone had the support categories running on Thursday a few years ago the place was virtually empty & the grandstands tend to empty on Friday/Saturday when the support categories are on track.

        The TV figures are the same, Hardly anybody watches F2/F3 or the Porche’s in comparison to F1.

        1. In my experience Friday’s at Grand Prix weekends are pretty dead generally. Only the hardcore fans like us turn out to watch the cars turning laps. I suggested that on the assumption that people may turn up to watch actual racing rather than “just” practice.

    4. There’s plenty of support races and most people turn up as early as the campsites open. Le Mans opens their site a week before the race and still pack them in. There is zero issue with there being less practice if it means a more chaotic race

    5. I’ve been to two Grands Prix and missed Friday at both – is it really that big a deal?

      1. I feel like a lot of people only go on Fridays because it’s their only chance to see an F1 car live without paying ridiculous prices. Fridays are really, really cheap in comparison.

        I enjoy F1 on TV much more than at the track but I do a lot of motorsport photography and visit the track on Fridays only to take photos.

      2. @graham228221 Yes, Friday practice is by far the best, Most valuable part of the weekend as far as i’m concerned.

        It’s really the only time where you have time to walk the track & spend time watching cars from different corners. Going to a race weekend & getting to really spend time watching from various parts of the track to really take in the overall performance of the cars at each different part of a circuit has always been the most enjoyable thing for me & the 3 hours on Friday’s are really the only time where you can really do that.

        The 1 hour on Saturday practice doesn’t give you enough time at each place & for qualifying & races you want to stay seated so you can pay attention to the times, positions & so on.

        If they were to do away with the Friday or cut practice back to maybe 90 minutes on Saturday it would for me make it far less worthwhile attending races given how my favourite part of a race weekend wouldn’t be possible in the same way it’s been for as long as i’ve been going.

  2. I don’t think we should drop Friday altogether but I do believe four hours of practice is too much… Two sessions would be nice.

    My guess is one or two sessions might be sufficient until a team has a serious problem with their car, at which point three practice sessions would probably feel insufficient. When you consider how complex the aerodynamics are on these cars, and that there’s limitations on wind tunnel testing and CFD simulations, then reducing the amount of practice track time could end up hurting the teams with the least amount of experience with aerodynamics.

    1. boo hoo :(

  3. Maybe I’m naive but I can’t see how this is workable financially. Costs won’t go down that much as many are fixed (eg travel costs, circuit maintenance and I doubt drivers will accept a salary reduction) and revenue will drop.

    All this will do is force F1 to abandon ‘traditional/heritage’ races that have to turn a profit (or at least not lose money) for circuits that use F1 as a promotional activity to balance the books or the cost cap will need to be driven down further with driver salaries included in it.

    As I said before, the drivers are more than welcome to volunteer their cars for FP1 and FP2 to young drivers if they want a greater challenge. There will be no shortage of willing volunteers!

    1. @chimaera2003 Why wouldn’t they accept a salary reduction? A somewhat lower one is still more than enough to do essential basic things. Why should an annual figure be, for example, 50m when 1, 5, or 10m as the yearly income is also decent?

      1. what are you talking about? it’s based on supply and demand, of course 1m a year is “decent”… that’s not relevant.

      2. @jerejj you seem to have misunderstood – he was talking about reducing the income for the circuit owners, not that of the drivers.

      3. @jerejj I am pretty sure that given the choice between doing FP1 and FP2 or sitting them out with a salary reduction (they will have to accept something as team income will drop as promoters will start paying less), all the drivers would jump in the cars on a Friday without hesitation. Not one driver will voluntarily drop their salary to improve the show without something in return, an example would be a mechanism providing bonuses as a function of audience size or overall F1 income.

        As others have said, if 2 day weekends become the norm then the bigger teams will ‘out-simulate’ the smaller ones and maintain their advantage. Also it will provide less chance to catch up if the initial concept car design is faulty (eg Ferrari this year) as less track time to verify the CFD numbers.

        Part of the supposed chaos will have been caused by thinking they had 3 days and had planned for 3 days of running, if they knew in advance it was 2 days the teams will have designed plans to deal with it.

    2. What about combine the two day weekend with this year’s emergency measure – for tracks that can support changed layouts, have successive races at the same venue? Tourists can enjoy 8-14 days in the country if they like so the tourism sector would do better, easier on F1 personnel to get Liberty’s target 22 races, support staff get a longer gig, a heritage track like Silverstone would be in a better position to make money and the carbon footprint goes down markedly.

  4. I wouldn’t mind if Imola’s format were to become the standard, or for example, if some events had more practice than others.

  5. Why is it always the track time that suffers? Instead of banning practice time, ban simulation work and data analysis during the weekend at home base.
    No data is allowed to leave the track. No data is allowed to be analyzed off track, no reserve drivers driving 24h stints in a simulator.

    The car is setup up by the people at the track based on the data and feedback of the driver that drove on track. Instead of by a supercomputer and correlation tests and analysis by hunderds of people.

    But for some reason F1, LM and FOM are pushing for less track time and more show.

  6. i think reducing practice & dropping to 2 day events 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 2 day 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. Agree. Always enjoyed Fridays; and this was before the circuits started putting on entertainment for those arriving Thursday night. Explore the circuit, driver interviews, team displays (Ferrari and Jordan always had something special happening.) Plenty to do, and enough time and space to do it in comfort.
      And whilst it maybe looks a bit meh on the TV, being right up against the fence whilst F1 cars hammer past during practice at places like Pouhon or Copse is something special and not to be missed.
      Not sure of the numbers elsewhere, but doesn’t Silverstone get about 45,000 spectators on a Friday?

    2. Agreed. I don’t see it adding any value at all but no doubt someone at liberty will invent a benefit, most likely something along the lines of “we can increase the number of races substantially”.

      No doubt we’ll see this as a F1 voice survey shortly.

    3. @roger-ayles On the other hand, the attendance on a Friday is at best 25% of what it is on a Sunday.

  7. Friday for 2x 1 hour practice sessions.
    Saturday for qualifying and a sprint race.
    Sunday for a 1 hour practice/warm-up session and a GP.

    Same track time, but more of it is in competition. You know – the bit we all actually want to see.
    Problem solved.

    1. @S
      Sprint race is a BAD idea.
      Totally inconsistent with F1 history.
      Just BAD.

      1. Races used to be 4-6 hours long. Maybe we should go back to that?

        f1 must have changed more than any sport on the planet but you still get people who don’t like any change and rattle off that tired old chestnut about ‘history’

        A separate sprint race is a brilliant idea. You could have a sprint championship and all the people who don’t like change can close their eyes

        1. @tonymansell Were F1 races 4-6 hours long in the distant past? I haven’t been aware of this.

          1. @jere ok I got carried away. 3hrs 45 is the longest F1 race in Germany 1954 The pre championship Grand Prix racing used to be a lot longer and known as grand epreuve or grand trials, it is part of the history but we shouldn’t be handcuffed to it either way

          2. @tonymansell and yet you want to be handcuffed to what the cars were like in the 1990s, given your previous statements that you wanted the sport to revert to the design of cars as they were back then. Why is it that, according to you, it’s fine to be an extreme reactionary when it comes to the design of the cars?

      2. @liko41
        I think they’d be an excellent addition.
        They work great in F2 to create a different kind of challenge for teams and drivers.
        It’d never be that good in F1, but still better than dull practice sessions.

        And F1 history has nothing to do with anything. No sport has changed more than F1.
        Besides, there’d still be a 305km GP on Sunday. Tradition intact.

  8. This idea is incredibly shortsighted. If one practice session becomes the norm, the teams will simply adapt to it and it won’t add any extra unpredictability. It will obviously reduce track time which makes the product poorer both for attending fans and armchair fanatics who follow every session. Even if people don’t watch P1 or P2, they still provide headlines for rolling sports news, keeping F1 in the (non-fan) public eye.

    If reducing track time is the solution to making the sport a better watch then there are serious underlying problems. These cars are obviously too easy to drive. What we need is more challenging cars and circuits plus more variety on the calendar.

    1. Erm have you not noticed, there ARE serious underlying issues.

    2. @frood19 furthermore, the proposal is being pushed forwards based on what happened at the Nurburgring, but that race really wasn’t that unpredictable.

      If anything, the resultant gulf in performance between the top teams and the rest of the field was magnified, and the midfield order wasn’t that dissimilar to what we have seen elsewhere. If it was meant to “spice up the show” by throwing in randomness, then you’d have to say that race really didn’t live up to that billing.

  9. How will the teams develop cars then? If they only have an hour (or 90 minutes) to do the setup for race then that’s all they can do. Testing new parts will not be that easy.

    Or how about testing new young drivers? They can take over a Friday practice, but if there is only one practice than that’s not going to work.

    I would think there would at least need to be some races where an extra test day is included.

    1. How do they develop cars and test new drivers in other series with tight testing restrictions?
      They do what they can, when they can – and they make the best of the time and opportunities they have.
      It’s the same for everyone.

      Ultimately, what do viewers want more?
      Hours and hours of practice sessions leading to dull, boring and predictable ‘races’.
      Or an even slightly increased chance of better races?

      I know which I’d pick.

  10. I don’t agree because as a fan I enjoy watching the cars lapping the circuits & want to see as much of that as possible over each weekend.

    I also usually use the Friday practice sessions to just sit back & watch the cars, Switch between some of the OnBoard feeds we have on Sky & watch how each car is working, How each driver is tacking the circuit & what new upgrades each team has. As we move onto Saturday & especially when we get to Qualifying & the Race I tend to want to stick to the World-Feed so I can pay attention to the lap times, strategy, Positions etc…

    I’m disappointed Imola will only be 2 days as that is one of my favourite circuits so it’s a shame after 14 years we are going to see so little running around there on F1’s return.

    I also think only having 2 days could cause issues if Saturday is washed out. Yes they could jump straight into qualifying on Sunday morning without any practice but I don’t think that is especially fair for rookie drivers who may be driving on some of the circuits for the first time or maybe even taking part in an F1 weekend for the first time. There are also safety considerations should that happen as don’t forget that Pirelli also use practice to get a judge on what pressures, Camber levels & stuff are safe & often make tweaks after Friday. And the FIA also determine the safety car deltas & other procedural things (Including where track limits may need policing more closely) based off Friday running.

  11. Less practice certainly has the potential to create a bit uncertainty during qualifying and the race. However, it also means the potential for a lot of DNFs which I find a rather disappointing development when there are already only 20 cars starting a grand prix. I’d say if two day grand prix weekends are to be the norm then teams should be given a significant number of free testing days that they can chose whether or not to use.

  12. It would make races a lot more interesting

    1. @carlosmedrano Initially maybe, But after 3-4 races teams would have adapted & things will be no different to what they are now.

      The only reason missing track running sometimes leads to a less predictable race now is because teams go into a weekend with a planned run program & it’s that program getting disrupted more than simply losing the track time that can catch them out. If they went into a weekend knowing it was just 2 days with a single 60 minute practice session they would have run plans in place to maximise that 60 minutes & the net result will be it will make no difference to the race.

      The thing it would do however is make simulation tools more important, Something which will benefit the top teams who already have the best simulation tools & engineering departments. Track time they lose in the real world will just be made up for in the virtual world & again that will likely benefit the top teams who have the best sims/tools.

  13. these guys are always complaining left and right that they barely get to drive the car compared to all the other stuff they must do as professional race drivers, yet they’re willing to supress a day of work ?

    Not to mention how poor and rushed a two day race weekend feels for the public who pays for the tickets.

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