Williams will give their test driver Valtteri Bottas his second run in an F1 race weekend during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix tomorrow.
As in-season testing has been largely banned since 2009, this is the best way for teams to give up-and-coming drivers valuable seat time in a current car.
The unfortunate down-side to this arrangement is that one of the teams’ regular race drivers must give up their car for 90 minutes of the four hours’ practice they get at a race.
Previously teams have tended to rotate which of their drivers has to give up their seat, to make sure neither is unfairly disadvantaged.
Force India did so with Paul di Resta in 2010, with Nico Hulkenberg and with Jules Bianchi this year. Renault and Lotus also operated similar arrangements last year.
But Williams have decided not to split the time evenly between their two drivers when running Bottas. Instead, Bruno Senna will have to give up his car every time Bottas is given a run. Pastor Maldonado will not have to give up his car as much as once.
With Bottas set to appear at every non-street race, Senna stands to miss out on over a dozen practice sessions this year – a significant amount of time which will leave him playing catch-up to his team mate almost every weekend.
This unfair and unsporting arrangement reflects poorly on one of the sport’s most historic teams.
It’s true that it’s not always possible for teams to give their drivers exactly equal treatment. For example, when there is only one example of a new part available.
But this is different: as their rivals have demonstrated, there is no reason why Williams shouldn’t be able to swap which of their drivers has to give their seat up.
It is especially unfortunate this should happen to Senna, who has always been playing catch-up to his peers when it comes to track time.
He spent almost a decade of his youth out of motor racing following the death of his uncle Ayrton Senna.
When the younger Senna signed with Williams he was mindful of the historic association between his uncle and the team, and was at pains to point out his family had given the move their blessing.
I wonder if they did so knowing he was going to receive such shabby, second-class treatment.
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