[F1 teams facing rookie FP1 scheduling headache
The FIA rules specify that every race driver has to give up an FP1 session for a rookie who has started no more than two grands prix.
However, a race driver who is a rookie at the start of the season is deemed to qualify, which means that Oscar Piastri with McLaren, Logan Sargeant with Williams and Nyck de Vries with AlphaTauri all ticked the box when they took part in FP1 at the opening race of the season.
Unusually, no other rookies completed an FP1 run in the first half of 2023, in contrast to last year, when Williams with de Vries and Red Bull with Juri Vips took the opportunity in Barcelona.
That means there are still 17 rookie slots to be filled in the last 10 races, and the only session officially confirmed thus far is for Frederik Vesti with Mercedes in Mexico.
The challenge the teams face in scheduling FP1 sessions is that the run of 10 races is effectively only seven.
The Qatar, Austin and Interlagos events are all sprint weekends, with FP1 followed by qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix, making it impossible for teams to run a rookie.
Of the remaining seven, several others also involve compromises of one form or another.
Singapore and Las Vegas are street tracks with an obvious high risk of incidents and it makes little sense to field a rookie, especially at the latter, which is a brand new venue that the race drivers will have to learn.
In addition Zandvoort, Monza and Abu Dhabi all host FIA F2 races. Teams are generally reluctant to allow their junior drivers to be distracted by F1 running on the same weekend as F2, especially if they are still fighting for championship positions and potentially an F1 super licence.
Jack Doohan, Alpine A522
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
The current top seven contenders in this year’s F2 championship are all junior drivers of F1 teams and thus potential FP1 contenders, namely Theo Pourchaire (Alfa), Vesti (Mercedes), Ayumu Iwasa (Red Bull), Jack Doohan (Alpine), Victor Martins (Alpine), Oliver Bearman (Ferrari) and Enzo Fittipaldi (Red Bull).
The concerns about doubling up mean that Zandvoort and Monza are unlikely to see F2 drivers in FP1 action, and the F1 Friday run programme in Italy is further complicated because it is an alternative tyre allocation weekend.
However, it’s inevitable that several teams will have to use the Abu Dhabi finale as their last chance despite the category clash, which was the case in 2022, when five fielded F2 contenders. The FP1 running also serves as part of the build-up to the following week’s rookie test at the same venue.
Such considerations do not impact F1 reserves who are not currently racing in F2, thus giving their teams more flexibility.
That list includes Felipe Drugovich at Aston Martin, Pietro Fittipaldi at Haas, and Super Formula racer Liam Lawson at Red Bull/AlphaTauri, whose only clash is with the Mexican GP.
The remaining two tracks on the 2023 schedule are Suzuka and Mexico City, and even they involve some compromise in that Pirelli is planning to run its prototype 2024 tyres on Friday at both venues. That makes for a more complicated run plan that teams have to work around.
In addition, the tricky nature of Suzuka and the strong likelihood of weather disruptions means that it is rarely used for FP1 sessions.
However, Red Bull famously put teenage rookie Max Verstappen in a Toro Rosso in 2014, and the Faenza team also ran Honda protege Naoki Yamamoto there in 2019.
Given his Suzuka experience, Lawson could be a logical candidate for Red Bull, while Iwasa – who competed in Japanese F4 at Suzuka before he went to Europe – would be an obvious PR coup for AlphaTauri and Honda at the same event.
That leaves just Mexico as a track that, as already recognised by Mercedes with Vesti, is a relatively straightforward location for rookie running, even with the Pirelli testing. Thus like Abu Dhabi, the weekend is likely to see a flurry of rookie activity.