FIA clamps down on F1 practice driver licences

The FIA has changed Formula 1 superlicence rules for 2018, to make it tougher for drivers to participate in grand prix free practice sessions.

FIA clamps down on F1 practice driver licences
Alfonso Celis Jr., Sahara Force India F1 VJM10, crashes in FP1
Alfonso Celis Jr., Sahara Force India VJM10
Alfonso Celis jr, Force India VJM10
 Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13
Alfonso Celis Jr., Sahara Force India F1 VJM10

Previously, drivers only had to complete 300km in a "representative Formula 1 car" over two days and answer questions on sporting regulations to qualify for a 'free practice only' superlicence, so long as the FIA adjudged them sufficiently capable based on their prior single-seater experience.

To apply for subsequent licences, drivers only needed their team to demonstrate it had briefed them properly on the sporting rules.

From next season, drivers will also need to have completed six races in Formula 2, or accumulated 25 superlicence points in eligible championships during the previous three years, to qualify for their first F1 free practice superlicence.

Drivers reapplying subsequently need to demonstrate they have completed a full season in F2 or amassed 25 superlicence points during a three-year period.

Of the third drivers who took part in practice sessions during 2017, only Force India's Alfonso Celis Jr would be affected by the ruling.

Although Toro Rosso practice driver Sean Gelael did not have 25 superlicence points, his F2 experience was sufficient.

Previous requirements concerning prior F1 mileage, knowledge of the rules, and FIA judgement that a driver "must have consistently demonstrated outstanding ability in single-seater formula cars" remain in force, under article five of Appendix L in the FIA's international sporting code.

The FIA approved further changes to its superlicence qualification structure in September, awarding more points to drivers who succeed in F2 and IndyCar and downgrading the World Endurance Championship, Formula E and European Formula 3.

The FIA has made a concerted effort to better structure and regulate the awarding of superlicences in grand prix racing since Max Verstappen graduated to F1 as a 17-year-old in 2015.

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