Guanyu Zhou, Alpine, Red Bull Ring, 2021

F1 teams will have to run rookies in practice sessions next year

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Mandatory practice sessions for novice Formula 1 drivers will be introduced next year, the series’ motorsport director Ross Brawn has confirmed.

Concerns have been raised over the lack of opportunities being given to young drivers in F1. Tight restrictions on testing have meant teams have few chances to run their junior drivers.

To address this, new regulations will be introduced next year requiring teams to give opportunities during grand prix weekends to young drivers.

“They’ll need to run a young driver on Friday, every team, a certain number of occasion each year,” said Brawn in response to a question from RaceFans.

The rules will be written in such a way to ensure genuine new talents get the chance. “We’re being very careful about how we define a rookie to make sure,” said Brawn.

Every driver confirmed on the grid for 2022 so far has raced in Formula 1 before. Formula 2 points leader Oscar Piastri, who has won championships in each of the last two seasons, looks set to miss out on a promotion.

However Brawn said the presence of drivers like George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen shows there are opportunities for talented young drivers in F1.

“Look who we’ve seen come in,” he said. “We’ve seen George some in we’ve seen Charles come in, we’ve seen Max come in, we’ve seen other drivers come in.

“So there is the opportunity there if you’re good. It’s great to try and help, but I don’t think we’re lacking in young drivers coming through to into Formula 1.”

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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...
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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30 comments on “F1 teams will have to run rookies in practice sessions next year”

  1. Yeah, why not. A great opportunity for young drivers. Because nowadays there is almost no testing at all. I would still prefer more teams.

  2. It’s a great idea, but i hope they do tighten up the definition of what a rookie is.

    Really don’t want to see Alpha Tauri (for example) take the p and just run Sean Galel 5 times to meet the qota.

    1. Considering the likes of Vips, Lawson, Daruvala, Crawford and Iwasa are Red Bull juniors running in F2/F3 I doubt Alpha Tauri would have difficulty filling their seats for FP1.

  3. I’m not opposed to giving rookie drivers running on an F1 weekend, But I do dislike the prospect of them taking over one of the race drivers cars not simply because that’s taking track time away from the race drivers but also because any damage done to that car could then have an impact on a race drivers weekend which could also have a knock-on effect in the championship if any damage results in component changes & grid penalties.

    If they want to run young drivers on Fridays then find a way to fund 3rd cars like we had in 2003-2006 so that teams running young drivers doesn’t impact the race drivers.

    1. As others said, you have a great point. But I would go even further – though how this would work with the cost cap in place, I don’t know – give the rookie drivers a separate practice session. If they’re running in a third car, great for all the reasons you mentioned, but having a rookie-only session would provide more on-track running for the fans in attendance (they’ve already cut down practice sessions for this year anyway, so we’ve lost an hour of track time just on Fridays) and it might also encourage teams to run more rookies. Ideally that would open up a path to F1 for more drivers, even if it only got them to the Friday practice session.

      Of course we all know how difficult it is to actually get a seat in F1, how much sponsorship and money needs to be involved, but maybe we’d see someone put in some mind blowing laps and if we’re lucky that might cause teams to consider a talented driver who doesn’t have the same level of sponsorship or connections that have helped less talented drivers get into F1.

      Reply moderated
    2. Imagine the teams being mandated to run rookie drivers on fridays and then having a “sprint super duper weekend” meaning the race drivers get zero opportunity to setup their own cars or drive them prior to qualifying @jerejj, @balue, @stefmeister

      1. .. but the show! The show! @bascb

    3. It wont have an effect on the top teams as it will be the No2 driver that gives up his car every weekend. I mean can you see Max, Lewis or anyone agreeing to give their car up in the midst of a title fight? It wont happen and the No2 drivers fall further behind. This is a.good idea but the finer details need resolving.

    4. Agreed, and of course there is the cost cap to consider. Who would want to be forced to put an inexperienced driver in the car on a wet Friday (especially if the rest of the weekend is forecast to be dry).

    5. Coventry Climax
      12th September 2021, 0:54

      And not just that and the cost cap, there is also hardly any testing anymore, so the testing is currently actually being done in the free practice sessions. With rookies behind the wheel, there’s no reliable feedback and no comparison to what the car felt previously. This will certainly hamper some teams, and not necessarily just the teams that ‘can afford’ to have a little less testing.

  4. So the people who turned up at the tracks last year on a Friday to spend money and enjoy 3 hours of watching the best drivers in the world are now expected to turn this year to watch just two hours. And at selected tracks from next year spend a day at the track watching just one hour on the Friday.
    That’ll be almost exciting as the special qually days when on Sat you can watch a pointless parc ferme practice session followed by a safety first drive around the park for 40 minutes.

    1. Recall when they a fuel-burn processional time? Apparently made sense .. to some one. Not to us, at the tracks … Zzzzzzz

  5. Glad this is finally becoming a thing. Just a shame it didn’t happen 10 years ago when it was pretty obvious young drivers were losing out on gaining experience due to heavy testing restrictions.

  6. The problem with this rule is that few of the drivers who get to run on Fridays, especially for the big teams, will be genuine future F1 prospects. Instead we will get a set of “practice specialists” who have no realistic chance of racing, but who are valued by teams for their car development/feedback abilities.

    You only have to look back at when third cars were allowed for some teams to see what would happen. You had the likes of Pedro de la Rosa and Ricardo Zonta racking up laps for McLaren and Toyota, not because they were genuinely in with a shout for a drive (although PdlR did deputise for the regular drivers on a couple of occasions) but because they could provide good, reliable data for the team.

    I understand the wish to carefully define “rookie,” but if it’s the same kind of fudged wording that allows a nearly 40-year-old Fernando Alonso to participate in a young drivers’ test, then I can’t see it being very effective.

    1. Let’s not forget Gary Paffet doing the “young driver tests” for McLaren traditionally for about a decade @red-andy!

  7. Great news.. Just slap on less than one season worth of F1 races.

  8. If F1 wants to give younger drivers a chance they should give them a practice session alongside the big guys but then let them actually have a short race, and let it replace sprint qualifying. It would only be ten cars, granted, but they could call it the Futurestars race or whatever they like and dole out constructors points down to – I don’t know – 6th position. The teams would hopefully get worthwhile practice and tyre data from their young drivers, the crowd would get something extra to watch and the points would ensure that teams are encouraged to put in half decent drivers rather than deep pocketed no-hopers whose penalty points have expired for the second time.

  9. Just as long it’s ‘no pay drivers’, only genuine young talent.

  10. A step in the right direction… but it would be more helpfull if we had more teams on the grid (like 12-13), that were financially stable under this budget cap period, employeed new skillfull designers and engineers and hired competent drivers like the Piastris or Illots of this world, and not the Mazepins and the Strolls because they cannot afford otherwise…

  11. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    11th September 2021, 20:07

    I believe Dieter already touched it in a previous article as well, but they should just add another 2 teams (who are already waiting but don’t want to cough up the 200m required right now) which adds 4 seats. And for the love of Chin Chin: put a stop to the inflated driver programs. Red Bull and Ferrari (as well as Renault) have a handful each waiting but only a few spots available.

    1. Exactly, we need at least 24 cars . This way for next year Piastri, Pourchaire and Schwartzman would have a deserved seat and maybe Hulkenberg and DeVries would be racing.
      Only 17 seats available are too low (20 minus Latifi, Stroll and Mazepin)

  12. Isn’t Piastri’s lack of a promotion more to do with the fact that F1 (the sport and the organisation) would rather that his place went to Zhou for marketing reasons?

  13. What is the point of all that rookie testing if there is still no opening to get a drive in the next 5 years.

  14. Brawn’s really on a roll today, well, rolling and spinning really. “If it’s broke, don’t fix it, fix the stuff that works”

  15. If not for the cost cutting measures that were introduced over the past several years (the majority of which I feel were useless or pointless), the young drivers would have had ample opportunity with F1 teams as their test drivers. Bring back testing with appropriate considerations given for the cost cap, even if it’s prior to or after a GP and let the teams use those sessions for the young drivers. Putting the race car at risk in the FP1 session, especially with the cost cap in place, just to give a young driver some seat time seems unnecessary and a bit of a reach.

  16. Given that they’ve already taken away an hour of practice and that next year all the cars will be massively different, I can’t see any benefit to this for teams.

    Teams have to be able to have some leeway to test new parts & techniques, particularly if what they bring next year is lacking in pace. Chucking a novice into the car for P1 isn’t going to really help that.

    If they want rookies to get a chance, maybe they should be adding a “rookie session” to Friday or Saturday that enables them to put a rookie in a 3rd car (not one of their race cars) and gives fans some more on track action instead of removing a session.

  17. Yay, what a great way to bring another revenue to the teams from talentless paydrivers.

  18. Back in the day teams used to have
    – “test drivers” (like Luca Badoer for Ferrari),
    – “third drivers” (like Anthony Davidson for Honda), these usually served as “reserve drivers” as well,
    – then after the introduction of test limitations “development drivers” came into the picture (like Brendon Hartley for Red Bull) that are sweating all day long in the simulator,
    – then there are the “youth programme drivers” that very rarely have a chance to drive FP1 (like Callum Ilott for Ferrari/Alfa Romeo),
    – we also were introduced to the term “affiliated driver” (Simona de Silvestro for Sauber) which didn’t really mean much,
    – and finally there are the pay drivers with certain marketing value (like Tatiana Calderon for Alfa Romeo) or a deep pocket (Roy Nissany for Williams) their team desperately needs and ready to hand them F1 cars or even Friday-appearances.

    But as we saw it last year, all of this goes down the toilet when there is an actual need to substitute a racing driver. Instead of looking inside their circles and choosing Stoffel Vandoorne or Esteban Gutierrez, they went for Nico Hülkenberg that had a super license and more importantly, recent experience of driving F1 cars. Instead of being able to evaluate one of their promising young talents, like Mercedes was fortunate enough to do so in Bahrain with George Russell, they went for the short-term stop-gap solution with Hülkenberg, knowing that the German is not in their long-term plans. Also Jack Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi were less then sub-optimal substitutions for Williams and Haas respectively, almost zero ontrack experience with their car, and certainly not in their teams’ plans, they just happened to have super licences, that’s all. And even though I’m happy to see Robert Kubica back in a race seat, for Ferrari and for Alfa Romeo it might have been more beneficial if they could have evaluated a Callum Ilott or a Robert Schwartzmann instead.

    I believe this particular idea of Ross Brawn is at least partially an answer to this issue, and it just might work depending on the actual implementation of the idea. Teams could finally have young drivers capable of filling the reserve role again and step in with relatively higher experience if needed. On the other hand I don’t think that ontrack time should be denied of regular drivers in favour of the young guns, because as we see with Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and others, more than halfway into the season, and even with their huge experience and qualities, they still don’t trust and use their car 100%, so why would you cut their time even more? I could however easily imagine a two-hour test session the following monday morning for the young drivers which doesn’t harm the results of the teams, in the fashion of the Pirelli tyre-test we’ve seen in recent seasons.

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