Further details have emerged about 2022’s requirement for every F1 team to ensure that two Free Practice sessions over the course of the season are given to their young rookie drivers. Now, it has been revealed, that teams will not have any say in which regular driver misses out. Therefore, by the end of the 2022 season, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and every other driver on one occasion will have had to have sat out a Free Practice session so that youth can be given a chance.
With legendary racer Kimi Räikkönen leaving Formula One at the end of this year, there is just one unconfirmed spot on the F1 grid. This is due to the fact that almost every other racer of the 2021 season remains in place next season - albeit for some in different teams. Alex Albon makes his well-deserved return to F1 and Räikkönen’s teammate Antonio Giovinazzi still hopes to have done enough to be retained by Alfa Romeo.
Therefore, the 2022 F1 season will feature a roster of racers who by and large are locked into contracts for many years to come. As such, there appears to be much less opportunity for new drivers to breakthrough. With talent such as Oscar Piastri and Théo Pourchaire, lighting up the Formula Two world (not to mention Guanyu Zhou hoping to make history for China) for them to potentially miss out on F1 would indeed be a shame. As would it be for them to finally enter F1 too late into their careers.
Fortunately, we already knew that plans were in place stating that every team on the Formula One grid in 2022 would have to ensure they allow their young drivers two sessions of free practice to ply their craft. This fact has been known since September this year.
At that time, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team boss Toto Wolff remarked: “We need to give young drivers the opportunity to have a little bit more stress during the race weekend, have a comparison against the other guy in the garage, work with the team…I very much welcome the regulations for next year.” A similar mindset came from McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl commenting “We are fully supportive of the sporting regulations which are in place next year.”
Now, further details have been published by Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Grüner. According to the latest plans, there will be no choice which regular driver is chosen to sit out the free practice session. This rule would ensure that the so called ‘number two driver’ is not the one always missing out. Instead, it will be made clear that by the end of an F1 season, every regular driver in every F1 team will have to have missed one Free Practice session.
Free Practice sessions have already been reduced to one hour from the previous 90 minutes and Max Verstappen has commented as to how he likes the fact the practice time is shorter. Now, in 2022, we shall have the scenario where on one race weekend of the season, any driver, which includes Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, would be forced to sit out a session meaning reduced running time and experience on track.
These changes are very positive for the world of Formula One which is clearly looking to the future. Also, in the world of young rookie drivers, there was the announcement that there will be changes to next year's Abu Dhabi Young Driver Test. Already, not every youngster who has just started racing will be eligible because as usual any participant needs to have at least 25 Super License points from the Junior Series to be deemed a rookie. However, entrants to the test may now not have more than two Grand Prix starts to their name. Had this rule been in place last year, then two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso as well as Robert Kubica and Sebastien Buemi would not have been able to take part.
Also, while not just thinking of the young drivers, the new rules show consideration for the workload mechanics endure. As such the Young Driver Test in 2022 will be just one day long as opposed to the previous two. To compensate for this change in the length of the session, teams can now use both cars on the single day of running. Such a rule now means that team mechanics can return home to loved ones sooner – something which we no doubt all agree is very well deserved.
I welcome all of these changes. Youth being given a chance is vital to the future of Formula One at a time when fan bases are so established in the pinnacle of motorsport. This news shows that although cost may also be a factor, F1 is putting the people before the sport and that can only be a good thing.