Mick Schumacher, Haas, Yas Marina, 2020

F1 practice cut by one hour for 2021 season

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 teams will have an hour less to practice on Fridays during the 2021 season.

Updated regulations published by the FIA show the two Friday practice sessions will be cut from 90 minutes each to 60 next year. The final practice sessions on Saturday morning will remain one hour in duration.

The total practice time available to drivers and teams before practice has therefore been reduced from four hours to three. The delay between sessions has been updated to take into account the cut in Friday practice.

The new reduction will apply at all rounds. This year Formula 1 experimented with a one-off, shorter race weekend format during the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, where just a single, 90-minute practice session was held on Saturday morning before qualifying.

As the grand prix schedule continues to grow – the 2021 F1 calendar will include a record 23 races – shortening or reducing the number of practice sessions could allow for multiple events to be held in succession more easily.

F1 race weekends currently include three days of track action from Friday to Sunday, plus pre-race and media activities on Thursday. The shortened, two-day race weekend at Imola this year allowed teams to reach the track on the weekend after racing at the Autodromo do Algarve in the south of Portugal.

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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...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 59 comments on “F1 practice cut by one hour for 2021 season”

    1. Half Measure regulation. (or 66.6% measure)

    2. …shortening or reducing the number of practice sessions could allow for multiple events to be held in succession more easily.

      90 minutes or 1 hour, Friday is already used by free practice anyway. How will it help hold the vents in quick succession? It would make more sense for example, to have media events on Friday, a 2-hour FP, quali on Saturday followed by the race on Sunday; basically this year’s Algarve’s format. This would leave Thursday completely free for the teams.

      1. Thursday is a setup day for teams….events such as media sessions which used to be held on Thursday are now on Friday. Its a consequence of filling the calendar with 23 races.

      2. @rockgod Algarve’s format? What do you mean? Imola was the only one without Friday running.

        1. @rockgod I forgot to add that this indeed won’t make a difference to holding events in succession.

      3. @rockgod the FIA has usually held scruitineering on Thursday to ensure the cars comply with the regulations before the first practice session.

        1. @anon The same will still be the case.

    3. Honestly, this fill-the-calendar paranoia is utter nonsense.
      Formula 1 used to be an event you wait for.
      Now it’s just meh.

      1. @liko41 Well, the number of races can’t get any higher than next year’s scheduled 23 since 23 was eventually chosen as the maximum permitted per season. I agree with you to an extent, though.

        1. Please check your facts before making claims – the new Concorde Agreement permits 24 without unanimous team consent.

          1. @dieterrencken I recently saw 23 mentioned as the one. Before it was 24, but not anymore, unless what was reported alongside the reduction in overall race duration (And some other changes for next year) from four to three hours earlier this month was incorrect.

            1. @dieterrencken I indeed always check facts before posting. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have pointed out what I pointed out. This wasn’t something I made up but based on what I had read or seen mentioned.

          2. With all due respect Dieter I really dont think you should be making these types of comments to readers of the site (“please check your facts before commenting”) simple correction would suffice. This certainly is not down to your minimal knowledge of english language nuance (You are famous for trying to trip people with your loaded questions in interview).
            I can only presume jere kicked your dog?

            1. @DeanR Nice joke there at the end. Nevertheless, I don’t intentionally give misinformation. I usually go by the ‘most recent’ info I’ve got on a matter, the most recent knowledge I’ve got at a given moment.

      2. I agree 100% that Liberty is watering down a very good product.

        1. Last time I looked Josh it was the FIA that sets regs not Liberty. Our anger should be directed at them, the EU gave F1 a separated structure to prevent too much influence from either direction.

          1. @f1johns Liberty are the championship coordinators so they set the calendar. The number of races in a year is a commercial consideration so not within the FIA’s jurisdiction

            1. @gardenfella72 Yeah you’re right in that context, however the main topic of shortened practice times is squarely in FIA remit not Liberty’s.

      3. @liko41 couldn’t agree more. The more races there are the less they mean individually during a season. The best way to build interest in a multi event sport like F1 is to develop (or allow to develop) a narrative throughout the title battle. This has been sorely lacking in recent years. Even when Hamilton and rosberg were closely matched there were too many samey races. So what we really need is fewer races but greater variety in the circuits we visit. I think the mid to late 90s are the ideal blueprint for this.

    4. I’ve suggested this before, but why not get rid of FP1 and FP3 for Bahrain and Abu Dhabi (probably also Jeddah) since the afternoon sessions are generally quite pointless for getting QLF and race-relevant data because of difference in temps, which wasn’t as great this year (applies to Bahrain 1 and Abu Dhabi), though, but still. FP2 as the only one under artificial lighting would suffice for these places. Singapore is a different case as the temps stay very stable all-year-round.
      Regarding Imola’s format: Yes, not having any running on Friday allowed for the double-header with Portugal, but the local noise restrictions were the #1 reason, after all, so should Imola take place two (or three) weeks after China, the same outcome concerning weekend format would still happen.

      1. Yes, some events rely on gate income more than others, but Singapore and Japan without Friday running (as a one-off at least) mightn’t be bad as they form a triple-header with Russia. This also applies to Spa and Monza following Zandvoort. Maybe also Canada due to being scheduled seven days after Azerbaijan to ease the burden for travelling teams.

      2. I am a Formula 1 fan that likes to see cars on track. I really don’t understand why F1 limits the amount on time on track. This current limitation has limited impact, as no one drives voor 90 minutes anyway in FP. But why would I travel to a track for only one FP, one qualy and one race? It is just not worth it, unless it is very close. Above that: I love the build up and the guessing after the first FP’s, I would really miss that. If FOM wants less prepared teams they should focus on all the simulation techniques available to the teams. That is something the people don’t see anyway, so limit that and let the teams find out the best setup on the track, where they should.

    5. Lets make the expensive GP’s even more ephemeral.

      1. Nice. Learnt a new word today!

        1. Ye, I too learned something new, but now it’s gone.

    6. I fail to see what reducing the track time by an hour on Fridays is supposed to accomplish. All the work to get the teams and cars to the track remains the same. Presumably, all the normal garage crew and other staff will still be in attendance, and the hours required to prep the cars for the track won’t change. I suppose that costs might be reduced slightly by perhaps having a few less car damaging practice incidents? Save a few bucks on fuel? As the actual team work load will hardly change at all, I just don’t get it. Having said all that though, I don’t really care. I seldom watch the entire 1 1/2 hrs. of either Friday session anyway.

      1. @schooner exactly the excuse is bogus. They are just doing this because it suits the teams, accomplishes almost anything, takes 1h of cars away from the fans that manage to watch practice.

      2. You could argue that since there’s less time available, teams will more often tun at the same time and there might be more (expensive) incidents in the future

      3. It’s to ensure people who don’t care post about it saying how much they don’t care, in great length

    7. Do FOM not realise this is a spectator sport???

      First total race time cut by 25%, now practice cut by 25%

      What next… 45 mins of quali OR 229 km of racing???

      I know we get more races… but not 25% more

      1. @the-edge Reducing the upper limit for total race time, stoppage including by 60 minutes is unlikely going to have a direct impact on proceedings, given how rarely F1 races exceed even two hours, let alone three.

        1. I agree it’s rare to exceed 3 hours, but just imagine if these rules were in place in Canada in 2011

          We would have been robbed of one of the greatest GPs EVER

          FYI, races often exceed a total race time of 2 hours

          1. @the-edge it is even more of an outlier than just rare – there have only been two races in the last 60 years which exceeded 3 hours in length, which were the 2011 Canadian GP and the 2016 Brazilian GP: until the 2011 Canadian GP, the last time that a race had lasted for more than 3 hours was the 1957 German GP (i.e. it took over 780 races for another race to last more than 3 hours to occur).

            Furthermore, even if they wanted to, in a number of countries there are practical limitations that would force the race to have to end within four hours at the latest, and probably sooner. For example, in Japan, dusk would tend to occur around 5.20-5.30pm at Suzuka in October, which is when the race is held – practically speaking, if you were getting to about that time, you probably would be having to stop the race as the conditions probably wouldn’t permit you to continue racing safely anyway, even if the four hour limit had not yet elapsed.

            To be frank, even running for longer than two and a half hours is rare – there are only three other races in modern times that lasted for more than two and a half hours, which were the 2020 Bahrain GP, the 2010 Korean GP and the 2012 Malaysian GP. Before that, you’ve got to go back to the 1968 Dutch GP to find the next most recent race that lasted for more than two and a half hours.

            Even your assertion that “races often exceed a total race time of 2 hours” is stretching things, because most races don’t last more than 2 hours. To put it in perspective, over the last decade, there have been 214 Grand Prix from the opening round at Bahrain in 2010 to the 2020 Abu Dhabi GP inclusive.

            Out of those 214 races, this is the full list of races which went for more than 2 hours, starting with the longest first:
            2011 Canadian GP: 4hr 04 mins 40s
            2016 Brazilian GP: 3hr 01 mins 01s
            2020 Bahrain GP: 2hr 59 mins 48s
            2010 Korean GP: 2hr 48 mins 21s
            2012 Malaysian GP: 2hr 44 mins 52s
            2014 British GP: 2hr 26 mins 52s
            2020 Tuscan GP: 2hr 19 mins 35s
            2013 Monaco GP: 2hr 17 mins 52s
            2011 Monaco GP: 2hr 09 mins 38s
            2017 Baku GP: 2hr 03 mins 56s
            2017 Singapore GP: 2hr 03 mins 23s
            2015 Singapore GP: 2hr 01 mins 22s
            2012 Singapore GP: 2hr 00 mins 26s
            2014 Singapore GP: 2hr 00 mins 05s

            Rather than “often” exceeding two hours, only 6.5% of all races held during the last decade have lasted for more than 2 hours. Using the 2011 Canadian GP is arguing for the single case that has occurred in over 1000 races, and where races held in similar conditions have, in all other practical cases, had to be abandoned because it was not possible to restart – it basically doesn’t really make any sense or practical difference.

            1. @anon The Japanese GP, yes, (and the Australian GP) as they’ve tended to start around three hours before sunset. Also, the Azerbaijan GP thus far, although it was supposed to respect the four-hour window this year before COVID hit. Concerning Suzuka specifically, here are the sunset times for October below:
              https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/japan/suzuka?month=10&year=2021

            2. Also @jerejj – didn’t they bring the start time forward @Oz GP because the previous year they nearly needed headlights, or was that due to a delay [rain???], rather than +2hrs actual race time?
              I know Melbourne has 4 seasons in every day.

              I have just consulted my crystal ball and foresee the next problem:-
              Now we have a lot of time when only a few cars, if any, are actually on-track [+ in for giving back tyres – will that still happen??]. S-o-o-o, with shortened time drivers will complain about the traffic on-track interrupting their qually sim or long runs.

            3. @ancient1 That was back in 2014, even before the fatal Bianchi incident, which led to some other races getting brought forward by an hour for the following season. From 2009 to 2013, the Australian GP started at 17:00, but as people complained about this timing, it eventually shifted to 16:00(16:10), where it has stayed ever since.

    8. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      30th December 2020, 17:59

      Can’t see the point of this. As others have mentioned the at track time for teams does not change so the burden of being away from family is not eased. 30 mins less per session gives the track attending public less car spectator time on the cheapest day. It seems like a tepid toe in the water move before removing Friday practice altogether. The only other thing I can think of is less practice time has proven to produce more mixed up racing and variance in strategy.
      Would have been better to say two day weekends at triple headers and be done with it.

      1. Yes, think mixing it up is their point.

    9. I can’t see the point of this at all. There will be barely any cost saving (only fuel and tyres will be saved) and you are reducing the available product for promotors to sell.

      If this is a data based decision I would really like to know who they were asking. I fear they are asking prospective fans and catering to them rather than their core audience.

    10. Good thing I think, from all I could see it seems the less practice the more unpredictability in the race.

    11. I hope my GP ticket will reflect that reduction.

      I doubt it though.

    12. Practice is pointless now with limited sets of tyres that fall to bits and limited engine miles.

      1. Kidding. Practice is the best bit. You actually see the cars on it for a sustained period and pushing the car beyond its limit. Even in qually they leave a margin. I don’t care if practice is shorter but it sure gets the whin ers whinee ing

    13. Oh cool, so presumably ticket prices will be reduced accordingly…?

    14. OMG! Stop worrying about F1 and fans. Think about Crofty and Ted! They will have 1 hour less time to provide vital stats about their breakfasts or their equally vital inane opinions on everything not to do with F1. Oh the horror…

      1. @jimmi-cynic good one. Just caused me to spit out my coffee.

        1. @jimmi-cynic @dbradock Lol actually though your comment hints at why I’m fine with an hour less (lol like it matters what I’m fine with or not) because there is so much time when all we see is cars sitting in their garages with nobody on track anyway. I’m sure we’ll just see them running the same amount on track but since their time will be compressed we just won’t see them sitting idle so much, such that we’re hearing about stats on their breakfasts etc.

          For the same reason I didn’t mind when a few years ago they talked briefly about a fourth qualifying session rather than just the three. I would have been fine with that as it is so often the case that within a fifteen minute session they come out and do a run then go back and sit for as much as 5 or 6 minutes before coming out for a second run. A fourth session would mean more action on track more of the time.

          1. @robbie would it really mean more action on track more of the time, or would it instead just make it seem that there is more action occurring?

            If we take a normal lap time as being around 1m30s, and given the driver has to complete the outlap, fast lap and then return to the pits, they are going to be using around 5 minutes of that session for that qualifying lap. The planned format would have seen Q1 and Q2 shortened to 12 minutes, with Q3 and Q4 set at 10 minutes (as opposed to the current format of 18, 15 and 12 minutes respectively for the sessions as they are now).

            Realistically, the revision in the timing system probably wouldn’t actually result in that many more laps being set by the drivers. There’s still the practical issue that quite a few teams might not actually be able to complete more than one flying lap if the overall length of the session is reduced, given that the cars have to be staggered out to some extent on track, whilst the logistical issues around the tyre allocation under that system were left unresolved.

            When the teams and Liberty Media modelled what would happen, they noted that, if the tyre allocation was left as it is now, it might end up with the teams still doing a similar number of laps as they do now – teams would simply distribute those laps over four sessions instead of three, and a midfield team that got into Q4 probably would prefer to sit the session out rather than wasting more of their limited tyre allocation.

            I don’t think it would actually result in “more action” overall – instead, I think it would just give the impression that there was more going on because you’d think that there was less time being spent waiting. However, in reality you’d probably see most drivers doing a similar number of laps as they do now and you’d just be changing how that was spread across the sessions.

    15. I welcome this change. Teams will have a bit less time to prepare for both quali and race in FP2.

      1. @f1mre It won’t make any difference as teams will go into the weekend with a run plan that will still get them all the data they need.

        You could do away with Friday entirely & give them a single 60 minute session on Saturday morning & it still wouldn’t have that much of an impact because they would go into the weekend with a run plan to maximise that time (As they did at Imola with the single 90 minute session). And of course they would also just further rely on the simulation tools which is something the top teams have more of.

        I think back to 2003 as an example. Most of the teams only had a single 60 minute session on Friday before the Friday qualifying session, In the 1st 3-4 races having so little track time did affect things a bit but after that everyone adapted to the reduced running & it ultimately ended up making no difference which is why they went back to 2 sessions on Friday from 2004 onwards.
        .

        The only thing reducing track time over a weekend does is give the fans less opportunity to see the cars which will never be a positive thing in my view. Especially for those like myself who enjoy going to the tracks to watch the cars & enjoy the freedom you get on the Friday, Been able to walk the track & watch the cars from different corners & such… Best part of the weekend as far as i’m concerned.

        1. @roger-ayles Fair comment but just would add as per my comment above, that at least for the reduced session there will be more action on the track and less idle time with cars sitting in their garages. They’ll have their run plans and they will have to be on the track more than in the garage if they want to complete said plans.

    16. Here’s hoping that less practice time will introduce some unpredictability during the race and qualifying. Right now the teams are too dialed in by Saturday afternoon to have much excitement on Sunday. An hour of spectating time on Friday isn’t worth a processional race on Sunday.

      1. @g-funk It will make zero difference.

        Everyone said Imola was going to be fun because it was a 2 day weekend & teams only had the single 90 minute session before qualifying yet it had zero effect as teams simply went in with a run plan that maximised the track time they had. And of course they also got a lot of good data from the simulation tools they have now.

        The only reason that losing some track running can sometimes have an effect is because having a wet Friday or something means teams aren’t able to do the run plan they had planned going into the weekend & so aren’t able to get the data they planned to.

        1. @roger-ayles I think the relative low ratings of that race have more to due with the track itself than the format of the weekend. As classic a track as Imola is, it doesn’t produce a lot of passes. Even before the race, Hamilton predicted it would be pretty boring. But we did see some unexpected results like Gasly qualifying 3rd then retiring with coolant issues, Ricciardo getting a podium, and Racing Point getting their strategy wrong with Perez. Maybe in 2022 with the new cars that will hopefully allow better following and overtaking along with a reduction in practice time we’ll see some better on track action on Sunday.

    17. The only good thing is to have more races per weekend. But having more tracks is nice too. As the audience, I like to have double headers, and sometimes a triple header.

    18. I’d just like to point out that this ‘new’ weekend format is the same format that F1 used in 2006.

      Until 2007 the 2 Friday practice sessions were always 60 minutes & you would then have 2 45 minute sessions on Saturday morning before qualifying & until 2003 you also had the 30 minute warm-up on Sunday morning.

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