George Russell, Pierre Gasly, Nyck de Vries, Albert Park, Australia, 2023

“One session is enough”: F1 drivers back Domenicali’s call to cut practice

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers say they should be given less time to practice at race weekends, following recent comments by the series’ CEO Stefano Domenicali.

Aside from the six sprint race weekends, drivers will have three one-hour practice sessions at most rounds this year. Domenicali recently reiterated his view that F1 should only have a single non-competitive session per weekend.

George Russell agreed F1 could cut practice to a single session “to dial in the car, to test things for the future.”

While Domenicali is keen to offer more rewards for sessions during race weekends, Russell says a single session is still needed to give teams the opportunity to develop their cars.

“We obviously have no testing at all,” he pointed out. “I think one session is good enough for all of us to do the various things we need to try to help develop.

“This is still the pinnacle of the sport. You don’t want to be just left with the car that you created at the start of a year with no opportunity to trial new things. That is sort of the beauty sometimes, you’ve got this 60-minute session, you can try new things, develop, improve further.

“Whereas if you’re going straight into a session that is points-worthy or there is a reward, you’re less likely to trial new things.”

However Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, says there is no reason for F1 to have more practice than the junior series which often accompany it at a race weekend.

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“Obviously the more practice you do, the more up to speed you’ll be, the more comfortable you’ll be with the car. I don’t think it’s right that Formula 1 has three times the amount of practice that you have in a F3 and F2 categories. They should be the ones getting more practice also because they’re doing less races, they don’t get to test that often.

“No practice would be too little. I wasn’t in favour of the sprint races initially, but having done [six] in the two years, I really enjoy the sprint races. Having action on a Friday I think is vital for all of us and also for the entertainment factor.”

Other drivers echoed Russell’s view. “I agree with George,” said Pierre Gasly. “Definitely three’s not needed.

“As a driving point of view it’s always nice, you can work on fine details on the car and really try to nail that car balance for the weekend. But generally speaking I think one, two maximum is more than enough for us.”

Nico Hulkenberg said he had preferred having less practice time when he raced in junior series. “It comes down to bit your personal opinion and preference,” he said. “I think we have a good amount of practice now.

“Thinking back to what George said to junior series, I quite enjoyed it at the time, having only 30 minutes like in F2 and then getting thrown into quali.”

F2 drivers have a single, 45-minute practice session before qualifying this weekend. Logan Sargeant, who moved up to F1 from the series this year, said having three hour-long practice sessions “is definitely a lot, especially coming from F2 where you just have to take risks a lot sooner than I currently have to.”

“So as a rookie, I don’t mind having two or three, but going forward, I don’t think three is necessary.”

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    Keith Collantine
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    85 comments on ““One session is enough”: F1 drivers back Domenicali’s call to cut practice”

    1. Why do I get the impression they’re being forced to say such rubbish?

      1. Yeah, because Liberty wants the time slot to create revenue driving events rather than what they perceive as ‘dull practice’. So a counter argument would be: ‘What are you talking about. This is a sport and the athletes need their training’. They thought of that so now they found some ambassador to eliminate that argument.

        1. But without the 2 pratice i want my entry ticket much cheaper!

      2. @Craig I don’t get the same impression. I find their views genuine.

      3. Of course they are.

        Some people might agree and some might not but my thoughts are this:

        • Having a format which includes Friday practice, Saturday Quali and Sunday Race is simple, builds to a crescendo and makes sense even to casual viewers
        • F1 seems addicted to the pursuit of a mythical “show” that delivers excitement 100% of the time. Not only is this not possible but even if it was, people would soon be overloaded and get bored of it
        • Can you imagine any other sport changing its rules so frequently? Imagine a string of boring football matches after which the FA decides to introduce “Sprint Football” where the match lasts for 10 minutes and goals only count for half their usual value.
        • Less is more. At some point, a saturation point will be reached, interest and revenue will decline and F1 will be forced to make u-turns
        • I don’t accept the argument that younger fans want constant action. Authenticity matters to young people and they are quite capable of focussing their attention on something they value despite what the Daily Mail and Liberty Media keep saying
        • My advice to liberty is to accept that not every session will deliver thrills and spills no matter what you do. Instead they should build value through quality not quantity, do away with the gimmicky and inconsistent formats and allow the budget cap to do its thing over the next few years

        Surely it’s not rocket science

        1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
          30th March 2023, 11:51

          As soon as you mention any other sport there is no comparison. As a footballer i can go to a park and practice taking corners or free kicks without limitation. As a runner I can do some extra miles for stamina. As a weight lifter, etc. You get the idea.

          1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
            30th March 2023, 11:53

            Also with other sports you get the time between games, races, whatever to continue practicing.

        2. Can’t argue with any of that.

      4. I actually agree, 1 practice session is enough. And the drivers seem genuine about it too. Less practice means that teams will have less time to fine tune and learn tires behaviour, which means more decision making on the fly during races. Ultimately making me more.challebging for drivers and engineers. F1 is the pinnacle so it should be hard. F2 does get that many practice sessions. I would rather see more sprints and less practice.

      5. I kind of agree. Given how wrong Mercedes got things last year and this year, I find it hard to believe that George would say one session is enough.

      6. I was initially a bit surprised but it kind of makes sense (seems genuine). Teams rarely use all the track time available anyhow (presumably due to the costs and wear of driving around for longer than very strictly necessary). When conditions are nothing like those expected in the race, damp or rain for example, sometimes nothing happens. So drivers must feel that time could be condensed into one or two sessions instead.

        There’s also the argument that less time for teams and drivers to set-up optimally means more room for set-up mistakes and potential upsets. Obviously drivers will be quite happy when it’s their rivals who mess up. Depends how confident they are in their themselves and their team.

        1. Those arguments may make sense for a spec series but not for something like F1 as there’s so much more to do in practice besides simple set-up optimisation.

      7. If you limit practice then you are effectively limiting car development over the season.

        This means you start the season with a fully developed car and you don’t use ‘practice’ to test new features, but simply to fine-tune the car setup for that circuit. Do they really want this?

        On the other hand, only the top teams can afford to add more to the car over the course of the season, so this might benefit the lower-placed teams.

        1. I think it is true to say that the drivers don’t need more than the one session to practice that track. They’ll already have clocked up time in the simulators for that exact layout, and it is just a cas eof fine tuning the limits rather than discovering them. However, it is not enough time if you want to develop the car, try out new ideas, which to me was always the most interesting part of F1. Unfortunately, the way the sport is now structured, they can’t make much use of the practice sessions anyway. The limited number of tyres means they cannot risk running two different set ups on new softs or they will run out of tyres. Engine penalties penalise development mileage. The budget caps limit what they can do with bodywork and aero testing. So I doubt more time in practice sessions would change anything, and may just result in drivers spending more time sitting in the pits waiting for ideal weather conditions rather than waste mileage and tyres on a cold track.

    2. What about those rookie FP sessions then? Are they all going to give that rookie hour in Abu Dhabi and all the current drivers will start the weekend when quali starts?

      1. @qeki They’d, or the requirement would probably get dropped altogether, or perhaps two practice sessions (with the first reserved for the purpose) for a familiar circuit such as Circuit de Catalunya, where teams could confidently only run drivers with at max two GP starts. Only running criteria-meeting drivers in the post-season test would also suffice, though.

      2. What about those rookie FP sessions then?

        Let rookies run in short form races in last year’s car, I can think of a few weekends (6 in fact) where they have an ideal slot – I think Domenicali calls the slot in the weekend a “sprint race”

    3. What about the fans? Will they be happy to go along to a circuit and pay to watch one 45 minute practice session, then qualifying and a race? I guess a two day race weekend?

      Circuit owners revenue cut by 33% (2 days income versus 3) ?

      1. I guess it would depend on the quality of the support races. A two-day weekend wouldn’t be too bad for the fans if there was something happening on track all the time, even if it wasn’t F1. But some weekends have no support races at all, which adds up to a lot of time staring at empty tarmac. Not my idea of a fun weekend.

        1. They’re already testing the water in Las Vegas where there absolutely no support races, just dead track time……

      2. They should decide first if they want to keep the current schedule or move to a 2 day. Maybe this is going to a two day event but they still have 4-5 sessions to fill those days. FP, (FP2), Qualifying, Sprint, Race.

      3. I doubt many people would trek all the way in and out of the circuits for a 45 min session. It often takes longer than that just to get into these places.

      4. Circuit owners revenue cut by 33% (2 days income versus 3) ?

        If F1 goes to a two day event, which has been mentioned a few times, you can be sure the “weekend” tickets will remain exactly as pricey as they are currently.

      5. @Gerrit Who says the practice session length would be 45 min in a single-session format?
        It’d be the same 60 min as presently, like in the 2020 Emilia-Romagna GP rather than any shorter.
        The single practice session could also occur on Friday, so one session per day.

      6. This is about all race weekends having sprint races.

      7. A 2-day race weekend is, I think, Stefano’s objective, in the (vain) hope that this will free up time to shoehorn more race weekends into the season. I say (vain) because the biggest sticking factor is getting the IT and related infrastructure in, which makes even back-to-back races extremely difficult and would still have the same lag time, unless the proposal is to have no running whatsoever on Friday (since all other track use, barring trackday running that would probably not be compatible with insurance in context, requires that infrastructure). Limiting all running limits F1’s ability to fill the inevitable gaps between sessions – it would likely be restricted to one series on the undercard instead of the more usual three, with associated loss of revenue.

    4. If they take away one or even two FP sessions it leaves a lot of room for sprints.

      Friday: FP, Qualifying
      Saturday: (FP/Sprint1), Sprint(2)
      Sunday: Race

      1. Let’s go all in:

        Friday: Quali, Sprint 1
        Saturday: Sprint 2, Sprint 3
        Sunday: Race
        Monday: Sprint 4

        1. Nah, they’d put sprint 4 in the middle of the race.

          1. Sunday: Ra (Sprint 4) ce…

        2. Nice one !

        3. Friday: Free sprint
          Saturday: Sprint Qualifying, Qualifying, Sprint
          Sunday: Sprint Race

    5. This generation of drivers i swear! First George said testing once is not he’s saying 3 practice session is too much..Jesus

      1. They are practically forced to be PR trained mindless drones, except when they are driving the car (to some degree). Obviously, associations like the one Russel’s the president of should be fighting against such things, but alas. After all, we are talking about kids without any education given a rare opportunity to be 1 out of 20 in the World and earn fame and money. I really can’t enjoy listening to them talking, it’s like listening to parrots. I’m not sure why any of them has any fans really, only a very few have the smallest degree of personality and charisma, the rest could be replaced by bots.

    6. If (or rather, when, given how hard they are pushing for it) they do cut practice to a single sessions, I know what’s going to happen. Teams on the backfoot will complain that they don’t have enough time to develop their car and that they’ll never catch up. Kinda the same things they are saying with the current budget cap.

      So they rather think about it long and hard… because once it’s done, it’s never undone…

      I also think that this push for one practice session is just another way to force a sprint race at every weekend, like MotoGP does. There’s surely a reason why Domenicalli made his statement during a visit to the MotoGP race…

      1. + 1. I think you’re right about a hidden agenda.

    7. Great! Drivers support this is really needed. All with good reasons.

      Friday: 2 hrs FP1, Quali
      Saturday: 30 mins FP2, Sprint
      Sunday: Race

      1. So we only one repeat of a race per weekend? We need a pre-sprint race instead of quali. Although I’m amazed that no one’s talking about a post race sprint session, because more is better. Perhaps instead of needless podium ceremonies etc.

      2. If you have quali on Friday and a FP on Saturday you’d have to get rid of parc ferme and allow teams to tweak the cars.

    8. A sport for which you aren’t allowed to test, train or practice is a very weird sport indeed.

      For both driver and engineering and designer development you need the opportunity to test and practice. You can’t improve without having more experience. And driving in the simulator isn’t the right kind of experience.

      It’s also really strange that young drivers after finishing F2, are suddenly not driving anymore. They become a reserve driver and are just watching other drivers drive and the functioning of the team.
      Yet, they are at the stage in their lives and career where they can learn so much from actually driving.

      1. Don’t underestimate how good the simulators are and how much they’re used.

    9. If they had that last year Mercedes and others would still be bouncing around like kangaroos.

    10. How many times does it need to be said?
      Most people (participants and viewers alike) want more of the available track time to be used for competition – not practice.
      Hardly anyone pays F1 money to watch practice sessions – this isn’t inexpensive anymore. It’s the blindingly obvious reason why Friday attendance and viewership is tiny compared to Sunday.

      1. Is it obvious to you why sprint races get lower viewing on the Sunday than non-sprint race weekends? And that reducing practice to add sprints is thus a very bad idea?

    11. I have to pay more to see less. ???
      If the drivers love F1 cars, they should want to drive them as much as possible.

      1. I think Stefano has a plan for that, and the drivers have probably picked up on it given it was obvious enough to get a separate article on RaceFans.

    12. I see now why Liberty hired Domenicali. He is a pleaser without an own strong voice, a puppet of the corporate machine that is ever hungry for more revenue.

    13. I wonder if this alleged view of the drivers is also the view of the teams? I wonder what Toto things about having to get that Mercedes up to the performance level of their rivals with just one 45 minute practice session each weekend? The same goes for any team who thinks they are struggling.

      I can see that 3 hours might be a bit excessive. What don’t they compromise? Maybe 2 x 45 minute sessions each standard weekend?

      1. @phil-f1-21 I assume teams might share the same view in the end, although the practice session length would also be 60 min in a single-session format (like in the 2020 Emilia-Romagna GP) rather than any shorter.
        A single 60 (or 90) minute practice session would suffice as a standard.

    14. Toto thinks!

    15. Various drivers have long complained that they don’t particularly care for Friday sessions. And it’s perhaps a bit excessive to have more practise (three hours) than competition (1h qualifying + 1,5h race) in a GP weekend.

      I don’t particularly care for Sprint races, but mostly because these cars and tyres aren’t made for Sprint races. The idea of more competitive sessions is, in itself, a positive. Maybe have two races like Indycar does sometimes (Detroit, for example).

    16. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
      30th March 2023, 10:56

      Taking into account that they turn up at a circuit having done umpteen simulations at the factory and driven the cars using computer data that pretty much mimics real life, its no surprise that actual practice sessions have no value. Limit driver sim work and practice holds value again, but as F1 reaches towards 30 races per year (it will happen) a 2-day weekend seems the only viable solution in making it all work. Or…make Fridays solely for reserve/test drivers only.

      1. @tsgoodchild 30 will never happen because of certain impractical aspects (not only for the seasonal upper limit), not that it’s even an intention in the first place.
        However, simulations indeed reduce actual practice session valuability, but I don’t see much point in going the other way round these days anymore.

    17. Their views echo mine, as I’d be okay with a single practice session for each event, as pointed out in the earlier relevant-matter article.

    18. I’m all for cutting down on the number of F1 practice sessions if they will be replaced with events such as F1 Academy (the new all-female driver series) or even F4. Whether that would be logistically possible/financially worthwhile I don’t know.

    19. @Tim i agree too mcu simulations and not enough real world practice. Why are tes allowed soo much simulation time and soo little real world driving time. As a fan i want to see the real car on a real track. I wamt to hear more of the dialogue between driver and engineer, between engineers in the teams. Between team and fia. I want to see more live data. We should as fans know the fuel loads, engine modes etc during practice etc. Practice is a part of F1. I watch everything F1. Rewind and watch again. Let there be no simulator work. Bring back reality. And dont someone say its bad for the environment please.

    20. I remember back in the day when f2 drivers would be amazed whe. They finally get to drive an f1 car now after all the simulation work its all dumbed down unfortunately.

    21. Here’s my proposed weekend format:

      Friday AM: Free Practice Session
      Friday PM: Sprint Race Qualifying (3-part knockout format, but one-shot in each part only in reverse Championship standings order)
      Saturday AM: Grand Prix Qualifying (Current format)
      Saturday PM: Sprint Race, Top 8 points system (10,8,6,5,4,3,2,1)
      Sunday: Grand Prix, Current points system

    22. I have to say, personally I’m not a fan of the sprint races. Why not keep all the current practice sessions (thus keeping circuit owners and attending fans happy), but limit the number of laps allowed based on previous finishing position. Driver that came last or DNF previous race gets maximum number of laps allowed per session (say 30?), driver that came first in previous race gets the minimum number of laps allowed per session (say 5 ?). (First race of a season they all get say 20 ?). That might spice up the car setup and racing action as the season progresses ? Oh and whilst we’re at it, get rid of DRS :)

      1. Overcomplication.

    23. Anything that results in less track time for fans isn’t a positive.

      One of the best parts of attending a race weekend for me is Friday practice because it gives you the opportunity to walk around the track and watch from different places.

      Cutting down to just a single session of maybe an hour or less would make it far less worthwhile spending as much as is required to travel to and attend a race weekend.

      I saw someone above mention support races. I don’t go to an F1 weekend to watch the other categories and all you need to do is look at the crowds for F2/F3 to see most don’t. We are goto an F1 weekend to seeF1 drivers in F1 cars on track and getting less of that should be a non starter.

      1. I go to the track not for practice, but for competition. It’s called car racing….
        And I’m not that fussed whether its the headline act or a support series, because I enjoy car racing.

        Use the support series time to walk the track and scope out your viewing positions, if you really dislike motorsport (generally) that much.

        1. Why would you presume to tell them how to watch their hobby?

    24. As others have pointed out, I am not sure fans will wish to make all of the effort of getting to the circuit on a Friday for one 45 or 60 minute practice session. You have to believe that behind all of this is a hidden agenda to either make all weekends 2 day events or introduce a lot more sprint races. Maybe even a combination of both e.g. 2 days with no sprint or 3 days with a sprint.

      1. The vast majority of people interested in F1 aren’t going to see Friday sessions anyway, even with two of them taking 60-90 minutes each.

        1. Only because work gets in the way – which it still would for anything that those sessions were replaced with.

    25. No winter testing, no in-season testing, Sprint races, no free practise… What else Liberty ? Friday is a working day in most of the world with the exception of some Islamic countries, whichever event that will replace practise session will still have no audience.

      1. Competitive sessions get more views (local and via broadcast) than non-competitive….

      2. @tifoso1989 Liberty want more sessions they can sell to broadcasters and online viewers. So less testing and practice and more races. Good in theory, but, how does that fit into the weekends? If you want to have Qualifying, Sprint and a Grand Prix there are three big TV moments in a weekend. And that doesn’t work, because working people don’t watch on Friday and it’s extremely hard to get people to tune in twice a day on a Saturday or Sunday – especially when these broadcasts easily last close to two hours.

        It seems they’re trying to fix the wrong issue here. If the Grand Prix were awesome, many people would also be keen to tune in for qualifying. That’s two great TV moments. Not three, but two bigger ones. It seems the obvious solution. Especially because broadcasters aren’t dumb; they know Friday afternoons are no good for TV.

        1. Couldn’t agree more, well done !

      3. S, were you aware that broadcasters largely determine whether a given session gets watched, and were you aware that at most venues, the three-day system means that the only reduction in local audience get is due to unavoidable work commitments, which will still be unavoidable if the sessions are competitive (and are likely to have fewer people watching the later competitive sessions due to the predictability thus instilled)?

    26. Imagine not wanting to practice

    27. @matt smith that’s a brilliant idea. I have to agree. FIA.,F1 please look into this. Based on previous race position the driver or team is granted x amount of laps. Inversely proportional. I thinks its inversely proportional?? Lol

    28. Hey George… how many practice sessions did you get prior to your full-time F1 drive?

      How well would you have done in F1 without those sessions?

      1. He had 3 full years at Williams before he did anything of note….
        A few short practice sessions were nothing to him compared with the hundreds of hours in the simulator.

        1. Those two sentences contradict each other.

    29. It’s amazing at how little it seems like the current crop of drivers want to drive the cars given how in years past the drivers used to jump at any & every opportunity to get in them.

      You go back 10-20+ years and the drivers would all bemoan losing practice (And many did the testing ban) as it would result in less time for them to actually drive the cars.

      Guess the Playstation generation is just more into playing games & watching Netflix so want more time to do that rather than actually drive the best cars in the world in the real world. Shame.

      1. They drive it too much in the simulator I guess. Not much added value or excitement for them in practice sessions other than the 10 tune-in laps.

        A single practice session is enough. Also organize young drivers’ practice sessions at select weekends (about 5) with both cars per team. Also get rid of Parc Fermé. No major work or new parts between quali and race but let them tweak their setups.

        1. @f1mre Parc fermé is the only way the set-up permission could be enforced, unless major work and new parts are also permitted :(

    30. not a fan, going to the track to see live action, friday is by far the best day for the fans, at least for many of us

    31. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding here. What George is saying is “let’s have sprint race weekends all the time.” I wouldn’t mind that, personally.

      1. @dang Given they take nearly all the excitement out of the Sunday race because they make the next day’s result too obvious, I’d mind that a lot.

    32. Any mention of drivers taking a pay cut should this eventuate?

      1. Reducing practice time would put more emphasis on their skills as racing drivers…..

      2. No, because the drivers are aware Stefano will find something for them to do with any time freed up by the arrangement.

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