F1 teams in race to use up rookie FP1 sessions
Formula 1 teams are in a race to fulfil their obligations to run a rookie in two FP1 sessions, with several yet to confirm their plans.
Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri
Under a rule introduced for 2022, both race drivers have to give up a free practice session for a driver who has made two or fewer starts.
Early in the season, most teams were in no hurry to field rookies as they felt their race drivers needed all the mileage they could get in the new cars. Latterly some have maintained that focus as they are in tight battles in the constructors' championship.
In addition, the budget cap means that teams are warier than ever about a rookie generating expensive damage, as happened with Alfonso Celis and Force India in Mexico in 2017.
Teams now have only six races left in which to field a rookie on Friday, and of those Brazil – which as a sprint weekend sees FP1 followed by qualifying – is obviously off the table.
That leaves just five other events, several of which also feature compromises. The risks associated with Singapore mean that the street venue won't be chosen, especially as race drivers haven't been there since 2019 and will have to adjust to cars that are expected to be tricky to handle.
Traditionally Japan is rarely used for FP1 running, given how easy it is to go off and damage a car. Again it has been missing from the schedule since 2019 and race drivers will have to get up to speed, with bad weather also a threat.
However, it is not impossible for a rookie to run at Suzuka, as Max Verstappen proved with Toro Rosso in 2014.
An added complication for both Suzuka and Austin is that the venues have been chosen for 2023 Pirelli tyre testing in an extended 90-minute FP2 session. On the one hand that gives race drivers more track time if they miss FP1, but on the other, they are obliged to do tyre testing and thus the run plan for the day is more complicated than at other races.
Mexico is being kept as a backup by Pirelli should one of the other tyre testing sessions be affected by rain, but otherwise it is likely to be a popular choice for rookie running.
Abu Dhabi is certain to see a lot of rookies in FP1, simply because it's the last chance. Teams also regard it as relatively safe, given the extensive run-off, and in addition, there's less pressure on spare parts as there is no race to follow.
The complication for those currently racing in F2 is that they also have to deal with the series finale, with a close battle for position behind the top two. Teams don't like rookies to have to jump from one car to the other on the same weekend, although Liam Lawson did it in Belgium last month.
Here's what the teams have done up to now, and what they are planning:
Nyck de Vries stood in for Lewis Hamilton in France, and the Dutchman is set to do one more session for the team. The complication is that if he signs a 2023 race deal his new team may want him to do some FP1 running.
Nyck de Vries, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images
Juri Vips had an outing for Red Bull in Spain, before being dropped by the drinks company a few weeks later. Liam Lawson is likely to do the second run in place of Verstappen, although he's also scheduled to fit in an AlphaTauri outing.
Robert Shwartzman has been working hard in the simulator for Ferrari, and he gets his reward with FP1 runs in Austin and Abu Dhabi. It's the first time that the Italian team has ever used an FP1 session for a third driver.
Oscar Piastri was supposed to undertake the FP1 running for Alpine, but for obvious reasons plans are now in flux. Jack Doohan, who is set to drive the 2021 car in Budapest this week, is the logical choice for the two sessions, and he remains a candidate for the race drive. However, if de Vries gets the nod for the seat there could be a push to get him in the car.
McLaren's plans are also not clear. The team would love to get Piastri in the car if Alpine agrees to release him early. However, it also has IndyCar racers Colton Herta, Pato O'Ward and Alex Palou lined up, all of whom have driven the 2021 car and are qualified to run in FP1s. Zak Brown had hinted that O'Ward will drive in Mexico, but none of the three has been guaranteed a run.
Alex Palou, McLaren F1 testing at Barcelona
Photo by: Monaco Increase Management
Liam Lawson drove for the team at Spa and is set to do another session. However, plans could change if the team signs de Vries and it becomes logical to give him some mileage.
The team had no junior programme of its own and so agreed to use shared Mercedes reserve de Vries at Monza. However that weekend the team agreed on a driver development deal with F2 champion Felipe Drugovich, and the Brazilian will drive in Abu Dhabi.
Like Aston Martin Williams was happy to give de Vries a run in Spain, and that extra preparation paid off when he was called in to race at Monza. The team confirmed some weeks ago that Logan Sargeant will drive at his home race in Austin.
The Swiss team read the rules properly and the FIA agreed that Zhou Guanyu's debut weekend in Bahrain could count as a rookie session. Theo Pourchaire will be with the team in the USA and Mexico and is set to deputise for Valtteri Bottas in one of those races – Mexico is more likely as the team is reluctant to combine rookie running with a Pirelli test.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Photo by: Alessio Morgese
Haas has yet to confirm its plans, but unless there's a pressing reason to field another driver then Pietro Fittipaldi will undertake the rookie running. However he won't be able to do Austin as Antonio Giovinazzi will be driving there, and leaving both drivers out of FP1 would be challenging for the team at its home race.
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