Friday practice to replace testing in 2001?

FIA is poised to eliminate testing on Grand Prix tracks prior to the race weekends, and to instead greatly expand the Friday practice sessions on each Grand Prix weekend. At last weekend's French Grand Prix, few cars ventured out in the ...

FIA is poised to eliminate testing on Grand Prix tracks prior to the race weekends, and to instead greatly expand the Friday practice sessions on each Grand Prix weekend.

At last weekend's French Grand Prix, few cars ventured out in the untimed testing, as most teams had spent several days doing extensive testing at the Magny-Cours track earlier in the week, making the Firday sessions relatively superfluous.

With recent, comprehensive testing data from the sessions, most front-running teams were loathe to use up valuable tires on Friday testing for little additional data, thus leaving the track quiet for much of the two sessions.

F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone, the managing director of Formula One Holdings, was clearly aggravated by the situation. While the teams may have saved rubber, the spectators wasted much of the day and of the price of admission, sitting in the granstands and watching the sun beat down on an empty track.

The proposal calls for a testing ban on each of the 17 Grand Prix circuits from 01 January until the race weekend each year. The two one-hour practice sessions on Friday would be replaced by a practice/testing session totaling six hours in length. There is no word, however, on whether there would be limitations on the number of tires used during this session.

While the smaller teams would benefit, in not having to spend their limited budgets on separate testing sessions, some teams have expressed concern that doing away with the testing sessions would prevent development and endanger safety due to the teams inability to test new components prior to race weekends.

However, the proposal does not call for an outright ban on testing, and the teams would still have a large choice of Formula One-level tracks to test on, even if the Grand Prix tracks are eliminated, including circuits such as Jerez, Estoril, Paul Ricard, Zandvoort and Brands Hatch. Some of these, including Estoril and Jerez, already have significant F1 testing activity.

In any case, as per the Concorde agreement, the proposed rule changes must be approved by all the Formula One teams, and that is by no means a fait accompli at this point. However, it is a near-certainty that some changes will be made for the Friday sessions next season, whether it is the six-hour scenario proposed by Ecclestone, the return of Friday qualifying, or some other scenario.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Bernie Ecclestone