Scanning the drivers’ schedule for the first Formula 1 test session, which gets underway at Jerez today, it dawned on me again how some drivers start the season immediately on the back foot and perhaps never recover the lost ground during the course of the season.
Take the case of Kamui Kobayashi. The guy has been out of Formula 1 for a full season, he will be rusty. Yet in their wisdom Caterham will only give him one day at the wheel of the all new Renault powered V6 turbo Caterham CT04, as Reserve Driver Robin Frijns – who is brilliant young prospect, but is hardly going to be a fountain of useful feedback – will take Kobayashi’s place for one of those valuable days.
On the flip side, well funded rookie Marcus Ericsson gets two full days in the cockpit, which just illustrates what €10 million buys and what Kobayashi’s ‘paltry’ €1 million gets him.
But I digress, because the real issue is seat time in a these spanking new, lots to learn about, new generation F1 cars. Surely maximum cockpit time, where minutes are precious, is vital to a driver’s preseason preparation. After all they only spend a mere six test days in these new cars before they line up in the pitlane for FP1 in Melbourne.
Oops my mistake, Kobayashi will only spend five if he is lucky, because it is not clear just yet if the wise men of Caterham will take a few more days off his test schedule in Bahrian too.
At Force India Nico Hulkenberg and/or Sergio Perez will forfeit a day to reserve Daniel Juncadella and a certain TBC. Again Juncadella is hardly going to be spewing forth pearls of technical wisdom, and we will see what ‘TBC’ has to say – hopefully this TBC will morph into either Nico or Sergio… but again what are the Force India big wigs thinking?
Can’t see Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg being asked to sacrifice a day for Sam Bird, or Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo opting out for a day so Sebastien Buemi can get a run in the RB10. Absurd thought, but why acceptable among the midfielders?
Some will point to Pedro de la Rosa’s outing last year for Ferrari, but the Maranello boys were using his vast experience to fine tune the correlation between the virtual world and the real world with regards to optimising their simulator. Also at the time it was believed at the time that Fernando Alonso sat out Jerez due to an unverified injury – but that’s another story…
Sacrificing testing time is not the only scourge that some drivers will face, as it can get worse for some poor fellows as they will have to sit on the sidelines of several Free Practice 1 sessions on grand prix weekends, while a newbie or Reserve pounds around on Friday morning. The likes of Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia will eject one of their race drivers for a Reserve or pay driver to get FP1 experience during the course of the season.
These missed sessions compromise a drivers’ weekend, to the point almost of, no return. While their rivals have three practice sessions to get in ‘the zone’ the FP1 absentees have only two sessions to get there. The records show that they seldom do – ask Paul di Resta about it…
Perhaps it is coincidence but a number of drivers who sat out FP1 sessions during 2013 have not retained their seats with the respective teams they drove for: Di Resta gone; Adrian Sutil switched teams; Charles Pic gone; Giedo van der Garde gone.
How many reserves or newbies who got the FP1 opportunities last year have made it into a race seat? Only one: Kvyat.
Testing is vital in Formula 1 (not the simulation stuff) and equally important is track time for young drivers and reserves.
So why not bolt on an extra day during the preseason tests – make each of the three stanzas five days instead of four – and make the fifth day a reserve/newbie driver day. How much more expensive will that be, relative to the blatantly obvious benefits?
Then on race weekends bolt an hour of practice prior to FP1 where Reserves and the like can get some valuable track time, and schedule the rest accordingly. Fans will appreciate the extra running of F1 cars, also the die-hards get to see the next generation of guys in action and of course, teams can get some early data in the bank ahead of the serious business of the weekend.
It’s such an obvious win-win solution that you wonder what the hell the men in blazers are thinking.
Instead of proffering solutions to these blatant, serious shortcomings in the Formula 1 system, the powers that be rather tinker with things that ain’t broke eg. double points, and ignore extremly important matters such as testing and development of young drivers.
In fact one wonders if they are even thinking at all?