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Alonso in, Vettel out: Who can do F1’s young driver test?

Formula 1’s post season young driver test has turned in to a major controversy after the FIA ruled out adding any further exemptions as to who could take part.

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team R.S.18

Renault’s success in persuading the FIA to allow veteran Fernando Alonso to run ahead of his grand prix return in 2021 prompted rival teams to request if they too could get approval for new drivers to run.

For while the test had originally been intended only for those who had not taken part in more than two grands prix, the FIA accepted that allowance should be made for anyone who had not raced in 2020.

While that was good news for Renault, that move angered a number of its rivals who felt that Alonso would be getting an unfair advantage over drivers like Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel who were moving to new teams next season.

Ferrari and Racing Point in particular were eager to push to get their new drivers an early run but, as revealed by Motorsport.com, F1’s race director Michael Masi informed all the teams on Tuesday that only those who had not raced in 2020 would be eligible.

That decision has not gone down well with everyone, and has left F1 in a far from ideal situation where a number of vastly experienced or older drivers can now take part in a test that was specially arranged to help young talent.

Here is a rundown of some of the surprises in terms of drivers who can and cannot take part in the test.

Can take part

Fernando Alonso (age 39, 311 race starts)

Alonso is returning to F1 with Renault next season. And although the two-time world champion is well in excess of the original two-race limit to test, the fact he has not competed in 2020 means he is eligible.

Robert Kubica (age 36, 97 race starts)

As Alfa Romeo test and reserve driver, Robert Kubica has appeared in four free practice sessions for the team this season. However, having not raced since he left Williams at the end of 2019, he can join the test.

Sebastien Buemi (age 32, 55 race starts)

While Buemi has not raced in F1 since 2011, he has maintained close ties with Red Bull as a simulator and development driver. Having not raced last season, he gets a green light to test because of the 2020 exemption.

Jack Aitken (age 25, 1 race start)

Aitken was always down to do the young driver test for Williams, as part of his ongoing role with the team. And although he has now competed in F1 this season, after standing in for George Russell at the Sakhir GP, he will not have raced in more than two events this year – so is all clear to run.

Stoffel Vandoorne (age 28, 41 starts)

Although he is not believed to be in line for a run, Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne could be drafted in by the German car manufacturer because he has not been called on to race this season. Had he filled in for George Russell at the Sakhir GP, he would have been instantly ruled out.

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Cannot take part

Carlos Sainz (age 26, 117 starts)

While Carlos Sainz has competed in only a fraction of the events that compatriot Fernando Alonso has done, the fact he has raced in F1 this year for McLaren means he falls foul of the FIA criteria. Ferrari must now wait to run him in one of its cars.

Sebastian Vettel (age 33, 256 starts)

Racing Point would have liked to give Sebastian Vettel a run in its car in Abu Dhabi, prior to his arrival at the Silverstone-based team for 2021. However, he cannot do so because he raced this season.

Daniel Ricciardo (age 31, 197 starts)

Daniel Ricciardo’s switch to McLaren meant a post-season test would have been ideal for an early run. However, amid the original plans for the run to be strictly for young drivers only, his new team abandoned plans to run several weeks ago so the idea was never considered.

George Russell (age 22, 37 starts)

The post season test has often provided the opportunity for big teams to try out younger talent – with George Russell being an obvious target for Mercedes if they were unrestricted. However, despite being just 22, the fact he has raced this season means he cannot run at all.

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