A number of drivers including Mercedes’ George Russell have come out in support of suggestions that there should be fewer practice sessions during Grand Prix race weekends.
Currently the normal schedule allows for two one-hour practices on a Friday, already a reduction from the dual 90-minute sessions that used to be the norm up until the end of the 2020 season.
There is also a third practice on Saturday morning before qualifying. The format is different for sprint race events with the second Friday session replaced by qualifying, and the sprint taking the Saturday afternoon slot.
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But this week, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali suggested that the sport could do without so many practice sessions, leading to reports that they might all be dropped in future.
“I am a supporter of the cancellation of free practice sessions, which are of great use to the engineers but that the public doesn’t like,” he told Portuguese broadcaster Sport TV last weekend.
A Formula 1 spokesperson later denied that Domenicali was advocating an end to all practice sessions but rather seeking a way to make them more exciting and engaging for fans.
And it seems he’s got support among the drivers in the paddock who find the hours of practice no more thrilling than the fans in the grandstand.
“I think one session is good enough for all of us to do the various things we need to try to help develop,” commented Russell, a director of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association).
“No practice would be too little,” he continued. “You don’t want to be just left with the car that you created at the start of a year with no opportunity to trial new things.
“That’s sort of the beauty sometimes: you’ve got this 60-minute session, you can try new things, develop, improve further,” he noted. “If you’re going straight into a session that is points-worthy or there is a reward, you’re less likely to trial new things.
“This is still the pinnacle of the sport,” he added. “[But] I don’t think it’s right that Formula 1 has three times the amount of practice that you have in the Formula 3 and Formula 2 categories.