Could this testing idea save F1's Young Drivers?


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Back in September James Allen wrote a brilliant article on the dangers that F1 is facing in five-years time. Obviously in motorsports, budget issues are a huge concern going forward, especially as some teams are on the edge of their own financial meltdown and looking for drivers to bring money, whether or not they are deserving of the seat. The main focus of Allen’s article was how these financial constraints were hurting young driver development and how F1 may not see another Vettel, Hamilton or Alonso for years to come. I do not think there is a perfect answer, but there is one big area that can be brought back into focus – testing.

Testing, primarily in-season, has been all but banned from modern-day F1 as a cost control to keep the big teams like Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren from overpowering the sport and knocking out the smaller teams like Force India or Sauber. Long gone are the days of when a Ferrari could have a F1 race team, a separate in-season test team and a third testing team that focused on the upcoming season, and they should continue to be gone. The money spent on these programs was ridiculously high and although there should be limits on in-season testing for this very reason, it is still a necessity for all F1 teams, not only for performance developments, but more importantly, driver development. Currently there is only one real option where a driver can log miles in an F1 car without being on the Formula 1 grid, and that is as the test driver for Pirelli’s tire testing program. This is what former Toro Rosso driver and current BBC analyst Jamie Alguersuari did after losing his seat for the 2012 season. Although this has been great for Alguersuari’s experience, it is obviously not a viable option for all of the other F1 hopefuls going forward. This is exactly why F1 needs to lift its ban on testing and open the door a little more for F1’s future drivers.

As mentioned earlier, testing was banned, or rather heavily modified, to control costs and keep the big teams from strong arming the little guys on the development race. Luckily, there are still a few options that Formula 1 needs to take into consideration so the sport can continue to prosper and grow. First let’s take a look at in-season testing. In 2012 F1 had one in-season test at Mugello that allowed for some teams to catch back up to the rest of the field, but many young drivers were not utilized during that test, and this in-season test will be scrapped for 2013. The F1 weekend is a long, stressful few days that ends abruptly on Sunday immediately after the race. But, while the teams are already at circuits like Barcelona, Silverstone, Abu Dhabi, Monza, wherever, why not stick around and test on Monday following the Grand Prix? This Monday test day would be available only for reserve/test drivers and F1 rookies who are looking to get miles in a car and still allow teams to collect data on new parts. If needed, put a cap on laps ran for the day at say, 125. Three or four of these per season would not put much of a dent in the teams pocketbook, but would allow for many miles to be logged by the up and coming drivers. Not to mention, this would relieve stress on the teams who scramble to put on, test and tweak new parts every Friday during Free Practice, thus allowing development to be more consistent and cost-effective.

Speaking of Friday Free Practice, take the current F1 drivers out of the cars for all of FP1, handing their cars over again to reserve/test drivers for the entire hour and a half session. Similar to my in-season testing idea, F1 rookies would also be allowed to drive. This idea is partially allowed in F1 today, but very few teams take advantage of the option, thankfully at Williams, Sauber, Caterham, Force India, Marussia and HRT it is very common to see a reserve driver in the car on Friday mornings, giving those guys their, albeit short, chance. Make this mandatory across the grid and young drivers get an extra 25-30 hours of F1 seat time in season. The remainder of the weekend would be only for current F1 drivers.

This leads us to winter testing. F1 tests in the ever-shortening off season for about 10 to 12 days, allowing the teams to log a comfortable amount of data and miles before the opening race of the upcoming season. These test days are broken up into two sessions - a morning session and an afternoon session. Why not use the same idea here as my Friday Free Practice idea. Give the reserve/test drivers (and future rookies) the morning session, then save the afternoon sessions strictly for the current F1 drivers. This again allows for the young drivers to log another 30 or so hours in an F1 car and a perfect opportunity to receive more personal coaching from the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso or Heikki Kovalainen and their engineers.

Like I said earlier, this is not the perfect option, but it helps develop young drivers in a fairly cost-effective way for the teams and series. We will never again see the days where some drivers were able to log 10,000+miles in an F1 car before their first race, but taking these simple steps will allow for drivers to be more prepared for the sport, instead of just throwing them in the car and saying, “Okay kid, here’s your chance, don’t screw it up.” F1 normally thinks in the now, or short-term, but needs to begin looking out further and getting guys like Rossi, Daly, Valsecchi and Frijns much needed miles is key to the sport's success. They are, after all, the future of F1.
Staying behind on a Monday sounds like a good, cost-effective idea, but we just have to make sure that the teams aren't testing any new parts. However I think Friday sessions should be used by the race driver to prepare for the weekend.
I think with Friday mornings and winter testing you would seriously struggle to get the teams to agree to any sort of agreement that forced them to put a reserve driver in their cars. Particularly the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull etc. - they don't want a rookie to bin it on Friday morning and destroy their championship chances. As for winter testing, like you say the amount of time the teams have to prepare is already severely restricted and I think they need the freedom to be able to do what they want.

The Monday testing idea I like (probably not every Monday, but certainly some Mondays), although again perhaps things aren't as straight forward as they seem. For one thing, with restrictions on the likes of engines and gearboxes used in the races the teams would also have to ship out engines etc. that are specifically for testing. The cost wouldn't be as much as shipping the whole team somewhere, but it wouldn't be insignificant I imagine. Then the circuits, the teams and everyone else involved have to fit it in to their schedules, which are often quite tight. You couldn't have a Monday test on the occasions where the next race weekend starts the following Friday, for example. And chances are it wouldn't be possible at a street circuit.

Anyway, I don't see why they couldn't arrange something like four or five Monday tests during the season. Whether that would solve budget issues and remove pay drivers I severely doubt, but at least it would give some rookies and reserve drivers a bit more of a chance. Actually, that makes me think of another thing... it's quite likely you'd want to coordinate it with GP2 and the other race series. Whether it would be more convenient to have it at weekends where GP2 are or aren't there I'm not sure.

Finally, the teams may well be begging for more testing in 2014...

we just have to make sure that the teams aren't testing any new parts

I don't think that would be necessary personally, provided the number of days is limited so that all/most of the teams can turn up to all/most of the tests. Let them run what they like!
I think having only 3 or 4 Monday tests throughout the season would be very beneficial for the young driver development. Yes, maybe having them drive on Friday morning wouldn't fly with the teams, but something needs to be done to get these guys some miles.
You could even divorce it completely from the teams and have a generic testing car; something like the Toyota Pirelli use for testing tyres for example.

Yes, it won't be the same as the various cars from each team but it would still be an F1 car and give them valuable time on the track.

Doing it this way would remove any issues related to testing parts, shipping out spare engines and gearboxes, having chassis' wrecked, etc.

Take it one step further and the FIA could even oversee it...
I think Brogan is on the right line.As most of the teams are UK based why not have dedicated testing days at UK tracks with the teams running a one year old car.
They would not require a full race crew, the crews could made up from other teams mechanics not the race crew.
This would give the novices track time, avoid the race crews being subject to working excessive hours and also avoid the teams testing new parts.
There would be costs involved but nothing like shipping the young drivers and spare cars and engines and the additional costs of flights and hotel accomodation for the young drivers.
To be honest I'm not too keen on the idea, I don't believe it's as cost-effective as you might think. Most parts on the car are designed to last a race weekend and parts that aren't such as the engine and gearbox, teams won't want to put unnecessary mileage on them which would mean taking extra parts to a GP and the added transport cost of taking the extra parts would be similar transport costs to just testing at a random track.
The cars will have to be prepared for testing after the race on Sunday which means a lot of extra work for the already overworked engineers, even more if the car retired from the race and needs to be repaired. Unless you bring a test car or extra engineers to prepare the car, which also means extra costs.
Not all young drivers would be available. As the feeder series such as GP2 and WSR don't follow the same calendar as F1 not everyone who has the realistic talent/money to be in F1 will be available. Some teams would just want to run their test driver such as McLaren running Gary Paffet at last year's Abu Dhabi test.
There's also the cost of producing and transporting extra tyres for Pirelli.

In regards to all of Friday Practice 1 would teams just have to field 1 test driver or 2? Either way not a bad idea, but I'm sceptical of the benefit for the same reason above that very few of those who'll be driving in that session will ever actually race in F1 so why take away the time that could be better utilised by the driver who's actually racing that weekend and wants/needs the track time.

In regards to the FIA running testing, that would be pretty expensive whether they used a generic car or teams' old cars and don't see who will pay. I believe the current FIA rules allow teams to run a 2 year old car as much they want, yet with the exception of Ferrari I don't think I've heard of anyone doing this now so I doubt they'll suddenly want to pay for it in future. I doubt the FIA would put in the money since they're always trying to get more money from the teams for themselves, plus they already run a driver academy, yet don't put any drivers in an F1 car.

The only way I see more testing is if general F1 costs are vastly reduced to accomodate the cost of testing, but I don't see that happening.
Whatever the solution, something needs to change.

The driving standards in GP2 are quite frankly appalling and these are the drivers who are generally being promoted into F1 seats, with predictable results.
The teams who have reserve drivers on the Friday morning sessions only do it for the money. Take that away and it is far better to have the regular drivers in the cockpit. So the top teams will never agree to it.

The generic car testing is an intriguing thought but i can't see the FIA wanting to run it unless the F1 teams cough up the money. Then the teams with pay drivers would be reluctant to let go of the money they currently rely on and pay out as well.
Whatever the solution, something needs to change.

The driving standards in GP2 are quite frankly appalling and these are the drivers who are generally being promoted into F1 seats, with predictable results.

Exactly. Looking up and down the open wheel ladder series, there is really only one driver who is F1 ready and he's not even in a feeder series - Jamie Alguersuari. The talent just isn't being developed at a quick enough rate to fill the F1 grid with proper drivers.
Then isn't it GP2 or WSR that needs to be improved rather than F1?

I don't disagree that talented young drivers should be bettered prepared for F1, I just think the simple fact is that with most of the potential ideas no one will want to put in the money to make them happen. Anthony Hamilton tried that academy idea a few years ago, getting lease agreements from teams to run 2 year old cars but it never really progressed because no one wanted to put in the money for the actual tests.

Since the testing ban was implemented in 2009 these are the drivers who have entered Formula One, with their testing experience before gaining a race seat in brackets:
Nelson Piquet Jr
Romain Grosjean
Sébastien Bourdais (2 test sessions pre-ban)
Jaime Alguersuari
Sébastien Buemi (1 season as a test driver pre-ban)
Kamui Kobayashi (2 seasons as a test driver pre-ban)
Nico Hulkenberg (2 seasons as a test driver, 1 of them pre-ban)
Vitaly Petrov
Karun Chandhok
Bruno Senna (1 test pre-ban)
Lucas di Grassi (3 seasons as a test driver, 2 pre-ban)
Paul di Resta (1 season as a test driver post-ban)
Sergio Pérez
Daniel Ricciardo (2 seasons as a test driver post-ban)
Jérome d'Ambrosio (1 season as a test driver post-ban)
Jean Éric Vergne (1 season as a test driver post-ban)
Pastor Maldonado (1 test in '04)
Charles Pic

Lack of testing or lack of talent.
There are some drivers on that list that have a lot of talent, but even with nearly two seasons of F1 still need more time. Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado, Kobayashi, ect are all very talented, but still make desperate moves trying to prove their worth. I think there is definitely room to improve GP2 and WSR, but I think it's a simple fact that all of these names listed just need more car time.
Lot of good ideas there F1 Shift!

I think they should figure out a way to monetize test sessions. I mean, couldn't you sell a ton of tickets for a test day at Silverstone, or Hockenheim, or Spa? Look at the amount of people that turned up on Friday at Silverstone this year to see about 10 laps. Imagine if they were assured nearly 1000 laps!

Additionally, you could televise and stream these test sessions for a nominal fee. I'm positive there are millions? of fans out there that get their F1 fix on TV and PC. These people salivate at the prospect of a full on test session.

So, far from throwing money down a hole, I believe that teams could actually make money through testing.
The Formula One owns the commercial rights of the sport for the next 98 years so teams could only broadcast or sell tickets to a test with the permission of Bernie, who will inevitably want a cut. If actual Grand Prix weekends can't make a profit I'm not sure test sessions could.

With various teams based around europe, getting to a test will be more expensive for some which may put them off. Also, not all teams will want to test in public or around the other teams. Like Mercedes missing the last day in Jerez pre-season testing so that they could hold their own private test and then Ferrari and Red Bull attempting to do the same.
If actual Grand Prix weekends can't make a profit I'm not sure test sessions could.

Isn't that mostly due to the enormous fee (25-50 Mil) that is required up front. Obviously there would have to be some leeway there.

I guess I just see this as yet another missed opportunity to expand the amount of coverage the sport should receive through internet streaming.
KekeTheKing It is mostly due to the fee, but I can't really see Bernie being entitled to a fee and saying don't worry guys, have your test and I'll only take 2 million this time.
How much extra would it cost to bring a 3rd car for each team?

I know we've discussed it on previous threads and I'm sure we concluded that the extra cost isn't unreasonable. If the teams brought a 3rd car then a new mini series could be created for junior drivers.
This could take place on a Friday with a small 15 min qualifying and a 60 min race. This would give drivers a chance to race in F1 equipment and also give races such as Korea a well needed support race both for the fans to watch and lay rubber on the track.

The teams will gain valuable data for the race so would only need a single friday practise session, if a junior driver crashes then the main team don't lose their race car, keep GP2 as they need a feeder series still for the younger drivers but all new drivers should spend some time racing competitively in F1 equipment before being granted the license to race amongst the best.
Some good ideas in here, but;

Think the first question is cost & resource, who would viably pick up the cost for the whole Test session series? As I assume 1 test session at a named track wouldn't be enough, they would need 3 or 4 through the season to get adequate experience @ different track types?

So if say we have 4 agreed test session through the season, at 4 tracks that give different experiences, tight & technical, long drag, etc. So you have to rent the track when it's not being used = Cost & Availability

Assume again these 4 tracks would need the full GP set up, as it is testing so statistically they are more likely to need the MediVac scrambled, etc, again = Cost of Track renting, Stewards & Medical Team availability
You could reduce the cost by bolt it on the side of an existing weekend, but it would have to be a Monday, as your rookie tanking the tub on a Friday ala Alonso did in Monaco, could cost a team a chance to qualify & or race Sunday. So Monday it is to cover availability, cost is met in the fact it's the most effective in that shipping costs etc are reduced.
This then does ask the question who? Is it the teams themselves, probably no chance! So would a more practical approach be a FIA branded Vanilla Test Team?
But then again this begs the question who would fund this? FIA or F1, it would have to be FIA as F1, why would Red Bull fund testing for a driver then to sit in a Sauber? So it would have to be FIA.
Okay I know, how would FIA fund this, well that is a question that would be basic, not nice but it would be a cost vs benefit discussion. What's the benefit to FIA vs the expenditure. Think that could answered by the start at Spa, we could so easily be talking in the eulogies of Alonso.
So would FIA use the moral card and bump up the funding from F1 teams? They would have too, they aren't going to have the money themselves (they may have some from companies that would benefit from it), so indirectly F1 teams would have to fund this.
Okay so you have a 4 Test days at 4 different fully staffed tracks all funded by FIA, but then again what in, what would these said drivers test in? Again would they learn anything in a HRT & would Newey allow any schmuck to get his hands on a RBR? No.
So like 'who runs this', the same would be said for what is tested, it would have to be a Vanilla F1 car created and developed by FIA. Oh dear, see the costs are going up as the Vanilla car would have to keep up with the teams development.
Again this car is maintained by who? Oh and assume it's own FIA staff of course, Whitmarsh is not going to release any staff for the long term benefit of Force India is he!
Okay back to the summary, 4 Test days at 4 different fully staffed tracks all funded by FIA (indirectly by F1 teams), in a Vanilla F1 Car run by it's own FIA Test Team. So the cars going round & round the track. Who's in it?
You have a whole new complexity, as teams would want their own up and coming driver to take part. Hey, FIA could claw back some more money to fund this.
Oh the tricky one, data, who gets the data and what data. Assuming this Vanilla Car will generate a great deal of data for said driver who's been funded to sit in that seat for 100 laps by say Williams? Okay might be easier than we think Frank gets a long sheet of telemetary but only for that driver. FIA keep the rest to assist in developing the car.
Anything else you can think of?​
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