Stefano Domenicali, 2023

Domenicali wants to give rewards for practice sessions, not ‘cancel’ them

2023 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domnicali’s plans for practice sessions are not as radical as his comments last weekend indicated.

While attending the Moto GP round at Autodromo do Algarve, Domenicali told Portuguese channel Sport TV he supports “the cancellation of free practice sessions” in F1.

Taking his words at face value, this would obviously be deeply unpopular with grand prix promoters. A typical race weekend features three hours of practice, which can therefore last longer than competitive running. The longest race of 2023 so far took little more than an hour and a half, and by regulation qualifying can last as little as 45 minutes.

An F1 spokesperson subsequently stressed their priority is not to do away with practice sessions but make them more engaging. The series has already adjusted the balance between competitive and non-competitive track action in recent years.

In 2021, Friday’s practice sessions were cut back from 90 minutes each to 60, cutting total race weekend practice from four hours to three.

At a selected number of other rounds F1 went even further, introducing its divisive sprint race format. This effectively traded one practice session for a one-third-distance grand prix at three rounds.

It’s no secret Domenicali intends to carry on in this fashion. He explained his position on practice sessions to media including RaceFans last year, saying he would be “very aggressive” in pursuing a policy of having only one non-competitive practice session per race weekend.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“Free practice is very interesting for the engineers or for the drivers, but at the end of the day, in sport, you need to fight for something,” he said, words he largely echoed in Portugal.

Report: Verstappen says he is “not a fan” of sprint race format
“Every time we will be on the track – with the respect of the race on Sunday, that has to be always the most important part of it – there should be something to fight for in terms of points, in terms of awards. That’s my opinion.”

But while Domenicali has clearly had this goal in mind for some time, he has not yet indicated how he intends to achieve it. The potential obstacles are obvious.

The reward would have to be a strong incentive in order for teams to compete for it. If it doesn’t come with prize money or points it’s probably a non-starter.

Offering championship points would further complicate a system which has already grown in complexity since Liberty Media took over. It would risk ending championship fights earlier in the year, as the more points on offer, the sooner a title can be decided.

It would also increase the likelihood of a title being decided outside of a grand prix – something which became a more realistic possibility when sprint races were introduced two years ago. F1 further increased the chances of a championship being decided before the last race by doubling the number of sprint races and scheduling three in the final six rounds.

The challenges to this problem are similar to the still-unresolved problems with sprint races. While F1 has hyped the format to extremes, fans gave it a mixed reception, and the likes of Max Verstappen remain unconvinced of its merits. Several drivers last year urged F1 to end the practice of using the sprint races to decide the grand prix grid, but no change was made for this season.

Nonetheless, F1 says further changes to the sprint format remain under consideration in addition to Domenicali’s plans to enliven practice sessions. Whether any of this can be achieved without further lessening the status of a grand prix as “the most important part” of a round, or making too great a demand of viewers’ time during a race weekend, remains to be seen.

As is already the case with sprint race qualifying sessions on Fridays, F1’s problem may not only be attracting the interest of viewers in the first place, but failing to appreciate many people will not attempt to watch sessions while they are at work.

2023 F1 season

Browse all 2023 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

75 comments on “Domenicali wants to give rewards for practice sessions, not ‘cancel’ them”

  1. What next? Prize for the first driver to arrive from the airport, shortest toilet break, number of autographs signed, most litter collected?

    Ug.

    1. Ahah, indeed, doesn’t strike me as a good idea.

    2. Electroball76
      27th March 2023, 15:51

      “Congratulations, you successfully completed FP1. You unlocked an achievement!”

      1. “Congratulations, you successfully completed FP1. You unlocked an achievement!”

        Yep you got the correct labelling for this.
        Ye Gods, will the man never stop trying to make up excuses for having more Mario-Kart sessions?

    3. I could get behind points for “shortest toilet break”. 🤔

      1. Kimi wouldn’t approve

    4. This obsession with “the show” has been hurting the sport for a long time, AD 2021 was just the peak.

    5. This is utterly ridiculous. Fans love practice sessions. I dont know which fans he spoke to that didnt like it. Probably the same ones who said sprints were a “huge success”.
      It adds to the build up of the weekend. Ted’s notebook is a huge fan favourite. The tension steadily rising until the Q3 and the race. You cant just have a competitive session right from the word go. It dilutes the tension of races for starters.

    6. The next should be a total removal of private tests and other stupid restrictions. There is already a budget cap in place, so all the previous measures aimed at lowering the expenses through the season are now useless. Give the teams the freedom to evolve their cars the way they want. Only then you can transform practices into minor competitions, giving points to teams or drivers for the longest distance, fastest lap, or highest acceleration. However, I am afraid that we most probably they will spice up the practice sessions by giving out points for the most ridiculous things, like the longest burnout, the fastest donut, or the best drag race impression (you know how much Americans love those).

  2. The search for ever more profit for Liberty continues unabated and the sport is not allowed to get in the way of it.

  3. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
    27th March 2023, 13:05

    That’s definitely a neat idea.

    They could maybe replace second practice with a sprint practice session, the result of which could then determine the number of laps available for each driver in the final practice session, which would then determine the number of attempts available for each driver during qualifying, which would then determine the grid order for the sprint race (where applicable), and that would then determine the grid order for the grand prix.

    Oh, and points. Loads of points. In fact, give out all the points on Fridays and Saturdays, then give out so-called “championship tokens” on Sundays. The tokens can then be traded in for more points, or for upgrades to the car, or (if you get the elusive Mario Kart Token, available only at select venues) for a DNF for your main competitor.

    I see no way this could possibly not be a hit with the fans.

    1. Why stop there? the number of laps they intend to complete in practice versus the number of laps they actually do could be converted as an average into the number of times they can use DRS.

    2. Y’know, I’m thinking that maybe you’re taking the proverbial… :)

      Why not? Stefano is.

  4. I feel that they want to go in another direction. They will be giving away wind tunnel time.

    Imagine that: the best time in FP1/2/3 gets an additional one wind tunnel run per week. Additionally, the team that covers the most laps in FP1/2/3 gets an additional wind tunnel run!

    1. @micio I had a similar thought myself because as you point out it is the sort of thing the teams would value. But giving more development time to the team which is already quickest is the opposite of how the ATR rules work, so it would be contradictory to use it in this way. I’m not sure it would be much of a draw for viewers either.

      1. Could try doing it just as the rules were intended, allocated from last to first? Then watch everyone tootle around at 0.1mph trying to be last. As much as Monza 19′ Qualifying gets a lot of grief. It was something a bit different. I do find myself go back to YouTube to watch it because it is quite funny.

      2. Maybe something like the following:

        Any team which completes at least 90% of the maximum laps completed in a practice session gains a 1% bonus to their development time

        Note: 1% not 1 percentage point, so ATR rules still “effective”. Teams lower down would gain more of a reward, as long as they could afford to make use of it.

        This would effectively reward teams for going out an putting the laps in, and could lead to some interesting situations with cars charging around at the last minute trying to get the last few laps in, or trying to knock a competitor out of the 90%.

        Of course, that’s just off the top of my head.

  5. I already couldn’t take this guy seriously anymore after he started recommending pharmaceuticals to people. As if that were any of his business. But he has now proven indefinitely to be a complete lunatic.

    1. Do you know I think you might be correct. It’s almost as if he lies awake at night trying to think of what part of the race weekend he can change. With no real justification or cause for doing so. Like no action means there’s something wrong.

      1. Coventry Climax
        27th March 2023, 14:49

        How about him supporting the pharmaceutics by taking sleeping pills? Lots of them, please.

        1. No need for sleeping pills, just watch Domenicali’s current version of F1

    2. Coventry Climax
      27th March 2023, 14:48

      Which is why I called him ‘Dementicali’ before.

  6. Mr. Nicholson, Chief this is Stefano. He will be staying with us for a while.

  7. Another solution desperately looking for a problem by the sound of it.

  8. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
    27th March 2023, 14:07

    Whether you like Sprint races or not is one thing but an appeal to me is that qualifying happens after a single practice session, so there is the possibility of a varied grid for the sprint. I have often thought of the following as a concept to bring in:

    Friday: No on-track running. Media/Fan day, akin to what Silverstone does on the Thursday.
    Saturday: FP1 (60 mins) & Qualifying.
    Sunday: FP2 (45 mins) & Race.

    Brings back Sunday morning practice, but parc ferme is opened and allows those who had a poor qualifying to change their setup for the race.

    1. @tsgoodchild Not very good for those who are paying a small fortune to travel to a race weekend to see cars on track though.

      When I went to Silverstone in 2021 and it was a sprint it was a worse experience because of the revised format in terms of no longer having the 2 hours of practice on Friday which a lot of those who attend on Fridays tend to use to walk around the circuit and watch from different areas.

      For the competitive sessions (Qualifying & the GP) you want to be seated so you can focus on the action & try & follow the times, positions & so on. Practice is a far more enjoyable spectacle for those attending because you can just walk around & enjoy watching the cars.

      With a normal weekend format you have plenty of time to walk about on the Friday & can then sit in the stands & follow the action on Saturday/Sunday.
      With the awful sprint format you don’t have time to do that because an hour on Friday isn’t enough time to walk around the track & you then end up feeling more rushed to get to a place to watch for qualifying & the same is true on Saturday. Additionally with the Saturday sprint practice session been about long runs you lose a lot of the spectacle so it’s not as enjoyable to watch anyway compared to a normal weekend.

      Everything coming out of Liberty indicates to me that they don’t understand what the fans enjoy, what they want & how they view the product. It seems like it’s all been catered around the more casual viewer who want & maybe even need constant action because they don’t understand the nuances of the sport which many of the more dedicated fans do.

      I saw not too long ago that they are looking at ways to make pre-season testing more interesting which just proves my point. They don’t care about the integrity of the sport, It’s all about the show aimed at the more casual netflix viewer.

      1. @lynn-m Completely agree on the pleasures of practice as a roving spectator. Sadly, it seems like there are fewer and fewer F1 tracks that are designed to allow for that kind of walkable viewing experience. Vantage points are harder to come by on street circuits. And I imagine promoters would rather sell you expensive tickets to an exclusive, closed-off grandstand where you’re held captive to a single food and beverage stall. At this rate, it seems like Austin may be the last truly walkable F1 circuit ever built. I mean, I know you can walk around Miami and it seems there’s plenty to do there, but I can’t imagine there are many great spots to see the cars that you can walk to.

        1. @markzastrow The issue is the owners no longer wish to cater to the fans who actually purchase tickets to the race weekends. There’s far more to be gained by catering to the TV/Netflix audience who apparently need to see some form of jeopardy on display at all times.

      2. I’ve gone to a number of races and the race itself is the only thing worth it. Qualifying and practice are terribly boring live. Last few times I went I just showed up on the Sunday.

        1. @darryn I don’t understand how any fan could find standing trackside and watching the cars terribly boring.

          The thing I love about attending practice (And the in-season testing before it was banned) is that you can just walk around and watch the cars & truly get to appreciate the performance of them without having to focus on laptimes, positions, strategies etc.. as you need to during qualifying & the GP.

          Thats honestly the thing I enjoy most about attending any race meeting, Just watching the cars but with something that offers the sort of performance levels you see from F1, WEC & Indycar it’s an even greater spectacle than with some of the slower categories.

          1. I liked the power of it. I grew up at drag races. It’s only really enough when they are all going for it at the same time in a race. This was back when they were loud though. 3.5l era and the second 3l era. I haven’t bothered going to the latest turbo era races. I like the new engines, but they are TV only for me.

  9. Drivers complain about lack of testing. So actually having time to practice should be enough reward.

  10. Stefano, ever heard the phrase if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? How stupid. This must all be under pressure from Liberty I presume? What the hell is this going to achieve? Only the possibly negative effects on the championship as highlighted in the article.

    I cannot see any demand for these changes. Just completely ridiculous tinkering.

    1. Stefano, ever heard the phrase if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

      Even when it was broke, he didn’t see the need to fix it. Let’s not forget Ferrari won the only race of 2011 run under (even just a partial) enforcement of the regulations, in Silverstone. And did Domenicali keep at it to make sure that continued? The results of the season give the answer.

      So unlike with Ross Brawn, it’s not a surprise to see Domenicali parroting whatever Liberty Media comes up with.

      1. Coventry Climax
        27th March 2023, 14:44

        Correct, but for the part that Brawn comes up with his own nonsense.

      2. Brawn is worse. Good riddance.

        1. @darryn What made Brawn hard to listen to was that basically everyone knew he was way too clever to believe his script. With Domenicali though, let’s say there’s room for doubt. In some way that does indeed make Brawn worse.

          1. That’s a good point. Brawn was only in it for the money and knew better.

  11. What a joke. We need more practice and testing not less.

    They really need to stop following the ram survey of the moment

  12. Coventry Climax
    27th March 2023, 14:40

    “Free practice is very interesting for the engineers or for the drivers, but at the end of the day, in sport, you need to fight for something,”

    Why, mr. Domenicali, do you think it is called ‘free practice’? It was never intended to be interesting to anyone other than the teams and drivers themselves.
    It’s getting absolutely ridiculous to have a sports where all training, testing, trying, developing etc is either prohibited, takes place behind closed doors or earns points or rewards.

    I’m tempted to say ‘Domenicali out’, but the way things have been going lately and are still going, I don’t care anymore and will be ‘out’ myself.
    I’ve been saying this is probably my last season and all this does not make me change my mind at all.

  13. Awarding points for practice sessions would automatically turn them from non-competitive to competitive sessions, meaning they’d stop being practice sessions.
    I wouldn’t mind, for example, having only a single FP session for each event, be that 60 or 90 minutes.

    1. Yes a very good point. Awarding points is just completely unnecessary.

      1. I would be happy for free practice to be reduced to two sessions but I really don’t think it should be phased out or this unnecessary points/reward idea.

  14. Even if any of this man’s ideas were great (none is, ever…), I don’t have will nor time to watch 10 competitive sessions per weekend. What is wrong with this person? I’ve never seen such greet mixed with arrogance in my life. If you destroy this product (F1), I’ll abandon it. I care for the quality of content, not quantity. It’s easy, having ideas, we all have them. He should sometimes consult others about his.

  15. A driver with the fastest time in a practice session could get a free pass out of Q1?

    Could create some spicy moments at the end of a practice session with lower-tier teams vying for a free pass to Q2.

    1. That might have merit on the shorter circuits. The 5 fastest drivers are given a free pass from Q1, meaning there’s only 15 cars having to compete for Q2. So the slowest 5 would be eliminated at the end Q1, meaning Q2 consists of the fastest 10 from Q1 plus the fastest 5 from the Final Practice sessions.

  16. Things like F1 are about tradition. Cars are going to be an anachronism sooner than later. The reason I like to go to horse races or watch them on TV is because they are conducted the same way they were when people used horses instead of cars.

  17. There is absolutely no need for 3 hours of practice. A single 60 minute session is just enough. They are way too prepared for the GPs.

    Actually, not having any practice sessions isn’t the worst idea ever in this era. They are so prepared anyways. Just erase Parc Fermé rules in regard to car setup. Q1 could be a 30-minute session. Then Q2 and Q3 10-10 minutes. (they tend to wait a minute or two anyways) That’s 50 minutes plus the two breaks, that’s about one hour.
    Keep a practice session for brand new or heavily modified tracks only.

    1. Absolutely! One free practice session per season is all you need to ensure new drivers are prepared for F1, and the old drivers have mastered the new regulations per season.

      Idiot.

  18. Neil (@neilosjames)
    27th March 2023, 18:30

    Christ on a bike…

    Bit of a me-problem, but… I don’t have time for a three-day weekend of competitive sessions. And once I start missing some and accept missing them, I’ll no doubt care less about missing the rest of the sessions too. Once ‘AOMO’ (Acceptance Of Missing Out) sets in, former addicts can very easily become casuals.

    1. My approach is never missing the GP. (either live or delayed) Missing quali sessions may happen from time to time. Missing Sprint weekend Friday quali and Sprint does not bother me that much.

      But I have to say F1TV helps not missing anything. (quali, Sprint, GP) Even if I have something else to do when the session happens, when I get home I just watch the missed session delayed.

  19. Maybe a need for random drug testing of Formula 1 management and go from there. The drivers need practice, especially new drivers to Formula 1, and veteran drivers as the cars change and setups change race to race.

  20. Let’s fit the wheel rims with spikes Mad Max style while we’re at it. If it’s jeopardy they want then let’s add some real jeopardy.

  21. I expect he’s been talking to Eric Bouillier so we can expect #1 to be awarded a Freddo bar.

  22. Justin (@vivagilles27)
    27th March 2023, 20:26

    If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Adding points or some other reward is just dumb. Has the attention span of the average fan reduced so much that we need everything to have some sort of reward? Having been to 20+ F1 plus several INDYCAR race weekends live, I honestly enjoy Friday as much or more than Saturday. Walking the tracks and seeing jaw-dropping cornering speeds from different angles and parts of the track that you cannot access on Saturday or Sunday is amazing. The crowds are smaller and they typically don’t worry so much about you being in your assigned seat. For all of it’s faults, Indianapolis was a great track to walk and all seats were general admission on Fridays. Austin and Montreal are also great tracks to walk and explore. Maybe all circuits should allow general seating on Fridays and let those of us who can’t afford an expensive golden ticket to access the areas reserved for the privileged few. On the side of the drivers and teams, seat time is so limited now I think it would be a mistake to cut any more time out of the weekend. Increasing the allotment of engines for the entire season would also help, perhaps two engines dedicated just for Fridays? The true fans that travel in on Thursday and leave on Monday deserve as much on-track time as possible and the longer weekend also benefits the local economies of the host cities. Just because practices are not artificially packaged for casual viewers does not mean they have no value to those at the venue and for the sophisticated fans on TV.

    1. Sepang used to be free to all and sundry on Fridays with access to all areas. Was the first race I went to and still one of the best experiences.

    2. Has the attention span of the average fan reduced so much that we need everything to have some sort of reward?

      Unfortunately yes. Most of the new F1 fans know F1 from Netflix. F1 is trying to appeal to the new generation of streaming, social media and video games. So this has to be expected.

  23. Give those medals for Free Practise times. Everyone will be happy. You guys get the “free” out of free practise as there is something to play for. We fans get what we want. Free Practise as it is now.

    1. I doubt Stefano will read this but I would like to know his opinion on this.

      1. Coventry Climax
        28th March 2023, 10:10

        I wouildn’t. I generally refuse to discuss any matters with people of dubious IQ.

        1. Coventry Climax
          28th March 2023, 10:11

          Where the heck did that ‘i’ in ‘wouldn’t’ come from? I’d already said ‘I’!

  24. Can we get a reward for the guy that gets rid of Domenicali?

  25. Liberty Exec to Stef:
    “We need to monitize free practice. Get rid of the free part. And… Stef: Engagement! Engagement! Engagement! Always being engaging the media, the fans – there are no poor ideas, only poor engagement. Also… Shareholder Value!”

  26. If we’re truly interested in streamlining F1 and removing useless bits, may I suggest we start with Stefano Domenicali?

    When I said F1 would eventually eliminate all practice sessions, I was being facetious.

    How the hell do the teams adapt to the ever changing Technical Bulletins (That we the fans STILL CAN’T ACCESS!!!), Pirelli playing Italian Roulette with tire pressures, or, you know… getting junior drivers up to speed?

    At this rate we’ll have no practice sessions, and the average age of drivers on the grid will be 45, because the young drivers have no opportunity to learn F1 cars. Just look at Haas, bringing in two experienced drivers to replace two rookie drivers.

  27. Would be nice just to have an actual GP entertaining enough to watch lights to flag. He is worried about practice? Practice?

  28. Well if they allowed more teams into the sport we could have competitive Friday sessions, reasons for the fans to tune-in on a Friday, and an excellent spectacle for the fans at the track too. Pre-qualifying. Oh wait…

  29. It would risk ending championship fights earlier in the year, as the more points on offer, the sooner a title can be decided.

    I don’t wish to sound like I am ‘for’ the idea, as I am not, but whilst I havent done the maths, is this statement true? If there are more points on offer, there remain more points to gain from any outstanding part of the season. Or another way of looking at it is that If a team won all the points in the first third of the current system, they would have 33.3% of the points they could have won, and 66.6% would remain. Which would be the same with any variation of the points system.

    The only way this statement would ring true is if the ‘new’ points had a greater bias than the existing ones (e.g. if the new points were only awarded to the ‘winner’ and not graduated through a group of ‘winners’?) and we do not know the proposed system yet to be able to conclude this.

    But again, I am rather against the idea. In addition I feel Dominecali’s comments are rather contrived:

    in sport, you need to fight for something

    In most sports the atheletes practice thier chosen discipline. It is somewhat of a quirk that fans of F1 come to watch them practice. To me this would be like Spurs allowing fans to pay to come and watch them train, then later on saying, “ahhh.. there are fans here during our training….. we’d best put on a football match to make it more entertaining”.

    Whilst this is obviously ridiculous, it might make more sense if they said, we will have our reserves play a short game, or put on another peice of ‘entertainment’. But hang on. isn’t that what the support races are in the F1 weekend?

  30. The reason teams do the bare minimum in practice is that the engines cost like, £12 million a unit, and they only get a tiny number each season. A single lap of practice probably costs the teams £20,000 in engine wear alone, and that’s just not a practical way of running the sport.

    Make the engines simpler and cheaper, and give the teams more of them.

  31. A sticker on your car for completing P1-P3.

  32. This is the ultimate in crazy.

    When attending races, I love trekking to different parts of the track during free practice sessions so I can see cars from different angles, different approaches to corners etc. it adds to the weekend. It also enables me to choose where (I only buy GA) it will be best to watch qualy and the race.

    Take that away and what exactly is the point of paying exorbitant prices to attend.

    Secondly, and more importantly, we’ve seen last year and this year, that despite some people saying that “data” and modelling is enough, teams have discovered that there’s been a big difference between what their modelling says and reality.

    Let’s give the teams time to actually test their development and tweaks in real track time instead of reducing time on the track. Already the reduction to 60 minutes is limiting their ability to try different set ups, it’s ridiculous to limit it even further and just allows one or two teams to run away from the pack.

    Practice is NOT boring or a waste – leave it alone!

  33. Up until a couple of years ago, my understanding was that practice was practice and the cars weren’t heavily scrutinized and times were unofficial.
    Then we had a couple of events in which qualifying was washed out and they had to revert to practice times to establish a grid. Is this what has prompted the tracking of “official” times in practice and the application of more scrutiny in practice with checking car weights and monitoring for breaches in the rules.? Previously the rules didn’t really apply in “free practice”.

  34. So if it’s to be for points then it must be open and above board.
    Each teams fuel loads used on each compound used should be freely available to all other teams plus engine modes etc.
    Most importantly in the interests of fairness in this bold new competitive environment each teams telemetry must be available to all to see if anyone lifted and where and why,and how far they registered on the grunt meter. Did they have anything on hand? How hard on a full fuel load were they pushing their new softs under someone else’s tear wing (even if that was possible for any time)
    Everyone must know all of every other teams endeavours and business.
    No chance of a P6 team coming up with a surprise tyre strategy that may allow them up to P5 etc.

  35. So can I have some prizes if I practise for some F1 role.

  36. What about reserving Friday practice sessions for the third driver and reserve driver only?

  37. Nurse !! Nurse !! He’s out of bed again !!

Comments are closed.