May 7, 2013

At last, some sense

There should be more action in FP1 now the teams have extra sets of tyres © Getty Images

One of my least favourite parts of an F1 weekend is the first half hour of FP1, that aeon of time on a Friday morning that sees TV cameras trained on an empty circuit as teams conserve their rubber for the weekend ahead.

The decision not to run is logical, but it’s hardly the best advert for Formula One. Come, watch our show! We can offer you a handful of outlaps and then thirty to forty minutes of absolutely nothing at all! We promise it will get more interesting in a bit.

So it is excellent news that all teams will now be furnished with an extra set of tyres for use on Friday mornings. The original idea – which I think was better – saw an extra set of tyres being allocated to those teams choosing to run a young or test driver on a Friday morning, but the teams weren’t overly keen.

You might think that the teams would be all over an idea that gave additional testing and development time to upcoming talent, as from the outside it looks like a great way to ease youngsters into a race drive by giving them time to learn the car in a relatively low-pressure environment. With experience comes confidence, after all.

But when the subject was raised the team principals’ press conference in Bahrain, representatives from the front-running teams objected, saying that fans would rather see the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso, and not emerging talents they might never have heard of. While that’s certainly a possibility, any fan keen enough to be trackside on a Friday morning is probably keen enough that they wouldn’t mind watching the youngsters in the morning and the stars in the afternoon.

Another divisive issue was the definition of a young driver – could McLaren put the likes of Gary Paffett in the car, given his years of experience as the team’s tester, or would they only get the tyres if they ran Kevin Magnussen, say?

In an uncompetitive arena, it wouldn’t be an issue. The teams would be focussed on ensuring the longevity of the sport that they would be dedicated to giving young talent adequate room to develop, running young drivers every Friday morning.

But in a competitive environment with so much money involved the teams seize upon every advantage they can find. Those with a reasonable shot of the championship can’t afford to run young drivers at the expense of bedding in their title contenders, even if such prioritizing is damaging in the long-term.

In an era of cost-cutting, these extra tyres are an inexpensive solution to the lack of time spent testing, even if all they will lead to is a full ninety minutes of track action on a Friday morning. But it would have been an equally cheap and effective way to give experience to those who need it most – the next generation of F1 stars – and it’s a shame that the opportunity was missed.

Comments

Posted by Peter C. Ross on 08/05/2013

Allow them to bring a third chassis and run it ONLY on Fridays. They can run Rookies or pro's in it, if they run rookies they get more tyres than if they don't. They can't use the car after FP2, but they can use it to correlate data and test parts which can be moved to the other chassis for FP3. Under no circumstances can it's engine or gearbox be used past FP2, nor any of the extra tyres allocated to it. This does not prevent them running the other chassis, so long as there are only two of their cars out at any time.

Posted by Pete on 08/05/2013

They may not run any extra in FP1 anyway, there are still engine and gearbox restrictions and they're not going to put more than the minimum mileage they need to get their setup and new parts tested. It's a big risk of a 5 place grid drop at the end of the season with the title on the line because they ran out of engines or gearboxes. I hope we'll see more mileage but we may see the same thing unless the FIA do something like let the teams run separate engines and gearboxes in FP1 for the whole season. This would realistically only add 1 or 2 engine/gearboxes for each team and allow a lot more running without fear of using up their allotment. We'll see what happens.

Posted by Antonio on 07/05/2013

There is a bigger problem with front teams (actually all teams, but hurts more if you are going for a championship): say a "young talent" takes Vettel or Alonso's car out on track with those extra tires... he does great, then he crashes... upsy...
So, i can fully understand why front teams are against it ;)

Posted by Flavio Parigi on 07/05/2013

I don't understand one thing. The team complain that there are no test and then on Friday they don't test. Why not make a set of tire that you can use only on Friday and stay like the old tire where you make an entire GP?

Posted by Alex Antonoglou on 07/05/2013

The likes of Ferrari and Red Bull cannot afford to have one of their cars crashed by a rookie on a race weekend as this would hamper their chances for victory and even a shot at the Championship itself. Smaller teams could perhaps run young drivers but the choise to grant the extra set of tyres without any strings attached was the right one.

Posted by John B on 07/05/2013

I think there's a simple solution to the first half-hour of FP1 being dead; simply allow/force the teams to do an installation lap before whatever support category race is immediately before FP1. That way they can do whatever they are doing in that 30 minutes while other stuff is on track, and when FP1 does start, they've got the whole time available. Given how many teams want more testing, they'd be foolish to not accept it. I agree that they should run rookies/young drivers too; in my experience you're at F1 on a Friday because you're a hardcore can and understand, or you just like the atmosphere (and probably couldn't name more than a handful of drivers anyway).

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WRITER BIO
Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'. Kate Walker
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