So, Pirelli are upset that they don’t have the ability to get a lot of testing time with current-spec tyres on current-spec cars. Formula 1 also has an issue with younger drivers not getting the opportunity to have track time outside of one or two tests a year, meaning anyone who is drafted in mid-season (D’Ambrosio last season, for instance) is coming in virtually ‘cold’ and will struggle to match the pace of their teammate who is already dialed in with the car.
Maybe there’s a solution to both of these problems. Ten years ago, Formula 1 designated a free testing slot before Friday practice to a number of teams who’d finished below a certain placing in the Constructors’ Championship the year before. A two hour slot in which teams were free to do whatever they wanted, like any normal test session. What about if they brought that back?
Teams could run one car in a session with a per-designated ‘young’ or inexperienced driver (like the current YDT rules). Rookie drivers could get regular test time with current cars on genuine F1 circuits without eating into another driver’s free practice running, Pirelli could get to test out tyres with all of the teams regularly – everybody wins, right?
Yes, it would cost more, but how much more than allowing actual in-season tests between races? The teams and equipment would already be there for the race on Sunday, so it’d be cheaper than flying everything to Barcelona for a one-off test between races.
If running before the Grand Prix isn’t preferable, you could even hold the session after the race, a la MotoGP, instead.
While it’s a good idea at heart, I think the teams are so dis-harmonized these days, getting the regulations in place would be hard. If I remember correctly, the top 4 constructors were not allowed to run a car in those sessions 10//9 years ago. This massively helped BAR in scoring 2nd in 2004, as well as McLaren in 2005 to score the same result. I could imagine Ferrari and Red Bull being quite pissed in the press about this, had Mercedes been allowed to get extra mileage every race this season.
The easy way to avoid this, would be to allow all teams to have a 3rd driver on Fridays, but a 3rd car, as between 2004 and 2007 would probably be far too costly. In that, you’re risking a lot at tracks like Monaco, Singapore and Melbourne. I think the number of drivers who actually get their hands at the wheel in those sessions would disappoint, especially for teams like Ferrari and Red Bull.
As far as costs go, apart from extra spares, I think it can be done. Have a one hour session or so before FP1, drivers with less than 2 GPs experience in the past 2/3 years (which would allow a driver like Gene to drive, but someone like d’Ambrosio as well). Pirelli could spice things up a bit by offering teams an extra set of tyres for a driver from GP2, FR3.5 or similar to drive. I would hope GP2 would loosen up about their drivers getting a shot in an F1 car in that case, though.
Mondays would be less practical, I think. A lot of staff would already have to return to the factory to work there, teams could have already found out on Friday that certain new parts don’t work and head home regardless.