Mandatory rookie tests on Fridays “maybe something we should entertain”

2021 F1 season

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Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says he would be willing to accept a future rules change requiring F1 teams to run rookie drivers during Friday practice sessions.

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has suggested teams could be required to give testing opportunities for new drivers from next season.

Steiner, whose team is running F1 newcomers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, said he wouldn’t oppose the introduction of mandatory running for rookies after this season.

“It depends when it comes,” said Steiner. “In the moment, this year, it wouldn’t be beneficial for us, but I don’t think it will happen this year.”

With pre-season testing reduced to just three days this year, F1 newcomers have few chances to test current cars outside of practice sessions and the post-season rookies test. Some F1 teams including Ferrari and Alpine have taken to running their older cars, as permitted by the regulations, to give seat time to their junior drivers.

“If you think about it, there is very little opportunity for a non-F1 driver to show what he can do or even sit in an F1 car because the tests are limited,” Steiner conceded. “So maybe this is something we should entertain.

“I think we have to agree all of the teams, FIA and FOM together if this is the right way forward. But in general, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.

“Would I be big fan of it? Maybe as well not, but if it comes, it comes.”

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25 comments on “Mandatory rookie tests on Fridays “maybe something we should entertain””

  1. I’ve been banging this drum for a while…or at least a very similar one.

    In round numbers…20 races = 60 Free Practice sessions.

    Introduce a rule that no driver may take part in more than 50 Free Practice sessions.

    Introduce a rule with a lower threshold of Super License points that drivers are required to have to take part in Free Practice sessions.

    Teams will then be required to run their reserve drivers perhaps, or other promising rookies to make up the 10 sessions per car that they’re short. With one driver that means 20 Free Practice sessions per year, or one at every race. Got a new track, maybe your race driver wants all 3 sessions, but it means they can only have one FP session at another round making it essential that the replacement is good at engineering communications and car setup.

    They’ll be able to evaluate the drivers for speed, but also that quality feedback to the engineers. It’ll give drivers experience and keep reserve drivers familiar with the cars in case they’re needed

    1. This is reasonable. Not only it’s good for junior and reserved drivers, it can be source of income for the team too. Free practice doesn’t always mean it’s free. I knew some dad that spend half millions euro to test in a Toro Rosso for his son.

  2. Can you make something like that mandatory?
    “Hey, you must run this rookie who might bin your car in FP1 costing you a bunch of cash (in a post cost cap environment), potentially impacting one of your main drivers in FP2, and causing the already pretty intensely worked mechanics further work.”
    Are there even enough rookies with valid Super Licences? Or does that create a whole new kettle of fish.

    Incentives for running rookies in FP1, I can see that. But nothing mandatory.

    1. Then make sure you pick a decent “rookie” driver and give them a test plan to follow that doesn’t push them too far. I think it adds yet another tactical element to the team and the race weekend

  3. I still think Moto GP style wildcards could be fun – say no more than 3 teams per race, 3 wild cards per year each. It would also help with having staff to rotate out in the rediculous 21 race calendar as you would need another set of personel trained to run the car.

    Teams struggling should obviously be able to find a bit of Sponsorship/pay drivers to help cover it and the Alpine Driver Academy won’t be a career graveyard of tomorrows LeMans pilots.

  4. I think most who attend race weekends go to see Max, Ham, Lando, etc in the car. So far they have seen the seven and a half hours reduced to six over the 3 days. With this it’ll be down to five. Not sure how that attracts customers through the door.

    1. This is a good point…I’m not sure if most people come to see individuals or just stupidly quick cars to be astonished at the speed and change of direction etc etc. Some finessing of my idea above may be needed, but with it you should never be able to have more than 10 ‘rookies’ on track at once, I think??

  5. Not a fan of this idea, if there’s any kind of “forced” rookie rule in F1, it should be teams fielding 3rd cars exclusively to drivers with 2 seasons in F1 at most. The car’s results won’t be counted in the WDC (so poorer teams can choose not to opt for a 3rd rookie driver), and it will finally open up opportunities for young talent to get into F1.

    I don’t see rookie tests resulting in more drives for rookies, but I do see a year or two of competition in F1 for drivers to prove themselves worthy of a full-time seat.

    1. I can’t see the third car happening now, especially with the cost cap. Imagine the number of extra parts needed to be produced, extra shipping of tyres etc…it would add so much

      1. I mean, the cost cap doesn’t have to be the same for teams if you run three cars instead of two, obviously. That would be the least of the problems preventing this.

        1. But the point of the cost cap is in part to reduce the barrier to entry. You don’t want to increase that with third cars

  6. Coventry Climax
    9th September 2021, 14:13

    The biggest drawback, and therefor incentive from Steiner’s point of view, is that with the minimised testing time, any practice has effectively become some sort of a test also. To then have rookies that can not convey any information about the car’s behaviour, in relation to how it behaved at the previous race or practice, considerably hampers the teams that are at the front. In a sense, it’s a step further on the way to a spec series, with no room left for any development.

  7. Seems contrived and could have implications in the world championship.

    This constant interference from the governing body in the sport is becoming somewhat tiring. They should take full responsibility for annihilating the ‘junior ladder’ with their ill-thought out super licence system first.

    1. That cannot be overstated. By limiting pathways to F1 and making the most important series an expensive scam designed mostly to make the promoters rich, the FIA has done more harm to F1’s rookie pool than anything else

    2. “This constant interference from the governing body in the sport is becoming somewhat tiring.”

      I agree, they seem to be pursuing an aggressive campaign of sabotage against the sport from a fan perspective.

  8. If they implement something like this, they’ll need to tighten up their definition of “rookie” so they don’t have people like Alonso, Vandoorne, Kubica, or Buemi (all participated in the 2020 “Young Driver” test at Abu Dhabi) showing up again in a session meant to give young drivers with little to no F1 experience an opportunity to show teams what they can do in F1 machinery.

    1. I think that can be figured out. I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to give drivers who’ve not raced an F1 car for a couple of years the ability to drive in an FP session. Maybe Rosberg could come back for a couple of sessions to give a team the benefit of his experience on where the car might be lacking that they might not be getting from their existing drivers??

      We could see the arrival of specialist setup drivers??

      1. How would bringing in drivers to give feedback on where the car might be lacking be different than what is supposed to occur during test sessions? Don’t they already have specialist setup drivers back at the factories working in the sims? That seems to be what Davidson’s role at Mercedes is based on what is discussed on Sky coverage.

        I’m not saying either of these things would not be useful for the teams, I just don’t see the need to create a mandatory session for them at the expense of the normal drivers getting track time. However, if there was an opportunity for inexperienced drivers to show teams what they can do in F1 machinery with all the pressure of a real F1 session, I think that is worth the trade-off for the regular drivers getting less track time.

      2. Coventry Climax
        9th September 2021, 17:39

        Specialist setup drivers? That’s supposed to be the drivers themselves, noone else. Certainly not the rookies – using whatever definition of that. Having been away for a couple of years is a certainty for not being specialist in setting a car up, because you have no knowledge of it and no experience with it – or with it’s tyres.

  9. Hate the idea. F1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport NOT a playground for rich power mad billionaires who want to bankroll their sons delusional aspirations, that’s what GT racing and LMP2 is for…
    Obviously Guenther Steiner wants more FP sessions because he would love the extra cash a rich pay driver would bring. HAAS team has no interest in winning races but making the most money selling a F1 seat to the highest bidder , heck even the teams livery is a Russian flag due to the cash daddy billionaire Mazepin brings to the team..

    If anything the FIA need to fix the super licence loopholes and abuse and have stricter entry requirements into F1 to prevent rich talentless hacks denying a poorer talented driver a race seat, for example the only reason Mazepin has enough super licence points is because his daddy is a billionaire and brought a top seat in F2 to be able to game the system to attain enough points to race in F1.
    Due to the corrupt way FIA sanctioned f2 is structured every seat is paid and super licence points are awarded for finishing at the top so the best teams ( if you had mega backers like Guanyu Zhou would you race for Prema Powerteam or HWA?!?)command higher premium so naturally drivers with the biggest backers can more easily gain points.

    TL;DR ANY rookie test day should be COMPLETELY merit based and not a glorified a pay-to-play session for the rich plus F2 needs to stop being a corrupt super licence scam monopoly and be a 100% fair spec series like what Formula Renault 3.5 Series was

      1. +1.

        Hopefully this article haas been paid to be posted – no other reason makes sense. Or cents.

  10. I’m not against the idea of rookie or reserve drivers getting track time on Friday, But I dislike the idea of it been done at the expense of the race drivers as that could have a knock-on effect for the rest of the weekend & championship.

    Putting another driver be it a rookie or experienced reserve in one of the main drivers cars where damage to that car, engine, gearbox etc… or damage to a set of tyres out of the weekend allocation could affect the main drivers over the rest of the weekend isn’t something i’d like to see, Especially if it ends up impacting the championship fight.

    I know they will never want to do it due to the cost reduction drive but when we had 3rd cars on Fridays in 2003-2006 that was to me the best solution as it gave young/rookie/reserve drivers some track time without affecting the race drivers as they were in the 3rd/spare car rather than one of the race cars.

  11. Hate the idea not only because its potentially hindering the race drivers weekend but also because when I travel to an F1 race weekend I am there to see F1 drivers in F1 cars & want to see those drivers in the cars as much as possible over the weekend.

    Just reduce the number of race weekends to a maximum of 18 & bring back testing. Doing that gives fans more opportunities to go & watch the cars without having to spend a fortune on a race weekend (Testing was always cheap to attend, Sometimes even free) & it gives teams opportunities to test drivers as well as giving Pirelli the opportunity to get data to actually improve the tires.

    I miss the days of been able to go & see F1 cars as regularly as I used to back when we had testing, It was so much fun & it’s a crying shame modern fans don’t have those opportunities anymore.

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