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An end to point-less practice sessions?


Days after insisting that he is not "selling the soul of F1", Stefano Domenicali appears to put the sport's heart and kidneys up for grabs.

It was inevitable that many of those fans won over by the "bitter rivalries", "Machiavellian politics", "intense drama" and "heart-stopping incidents" of Drive to Survive, might find their attention spans waning when it came to the on-track stuff.

Qualifying and the race are all very well - for the most part - but for many of those 'new fans' the three practice sessions that get Grand Prix weekends underway are really little more than - how did they used to describe it? - cars going round and round.

Never fear, Stefano has a cunning plan.

The F1 boss believes that there should basically only be one 'traditional' practice session each weekend, while the others could be made more competitive by means of awarding points or prizes, presumably for the fastest laps, number of laps, most spins or best tweet.

"I think to see, from a fan perspective, that every day there is something to fight for on the track is very important," he told members of the media ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

"I mean, free practice is very interesting for the engineers or for the drivers," he continued, "but at the end of the day, in sport, you need to fight for something.

"There are already limitations on the calendar to have free practice outside of the racing weekend. So I will be very aggressive to have one free practice in the morning on Friday and then every time we go on the track, something to be awarded. Because in that respect, there is some action going on, people are always connected to understand what is happening.

"So this will be my input for the discussion on the future. Every time we will be on the track - with the respect of the race on Sunday, that has to be always the most important part of it - there should be something to fight for in terms of points, in terms of awards. That's my opinion.

"I would like to see any single session apart from the first, maybe, on the track to award something. This is something that I'm really keen to discuss with the drivers and the teams and of course with the FIA, because I think that will add the intensity that everyone wants to see when you are on the track."

Ignoring what the engineers or drivers might think about reducing the amount of practice time, be it points or prizes, making the sessions more competitive will also open up the opportunity for sponsorship, no mean thing for a sport that appears to continually wear a 'your name here' sign around its neck these days.

It has already been proposed that next year, when the number of sprint races is increased to six, there will be a separate 'championship' for these events, so what is next a championship for the practice sessions or could the world championship be decided by the fact that Driver X was quickest in FP2 in Qatar?

Ahead of the Miami Grand Prix, Zak Brown enthused that F1 races could be as big as the Super Bowl, and with Domenicali's words in mind how long before Liberty takes the obvious step of splitting the Grand Prix in two with a Super Bowl-style music and promotional extravaganza during the break... and don't think they won't have considered it.

While the FIA vetoed increasing the number of Sprints this year next year there will be six in 2023, and with an eye on MotoGP, which is to introduce Sprint events at every round next year, Domenicali said: "It's good that Moto GP is trying to embrace a different proposition on the weekend. As always, when you change something... I remember last year, you have people that are in favour, people that are not in favour. This is part of, as I say, the normal discussion.

"There are reasons why we are working to have a six races next year. We are working together with the FIA to finalise the details. We are ready also to work on details to change something on the extra sprint format that will be discussed in the next F1 Commission. But at the end of the day, if the people that are following the Grands Prix or the MotoGP races are happy and the promoters are happy and media are happy, I would say that the outcome should be easy to find in terms of a solution."

"What we want to discuss in the next F1 Commission is how to, let's say, make some correction on the actual sprint format to see if there is something that we can improve or any other idea."

As the bastardization of the sport continues, seemingly unchecked, it is difficult to decide what is worse, Liberty's determination to totally reshape F1 for the streaming generation while monetising every aspect of it, or the fact that the man doing the dirty work was at one time a purist like the rest of us.

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1. Posted by NS Biker, 31/08/2022 22:12

"A few years back, yes the good old days, when I was messing around with Motocross Racing, we would always laugh at those out to "Win Practice".
To have someone suggest that this is a legitimate idea for F1 is .... rediculous
It is bad enough that times from Free Practice can and do get used if Qualifying does not occur (why do you think they monitor Track Limits in practice). But to legitimize some form of competition with points available for "free" practice is just plain nuts. "

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 26/08/2022 10:59

"The crux is that F1 is transitioning from the preserve of enthusiasts (on Track & in the audience) to an entertainment for "fans". Those of us in the "Old Guard" have choices to make: to accept this transition or to look elsewhere for our Racing.

The problem, for me at least, is one of History. My love of F1 started in the early 1960's and in those days, there was lots of innovation, excitement & (sadly) life or death danger. No need for artificial gimmicks to "spice up" the spectacle. This was the bleeding edge, these were the fastest & most technically innovative cars driven by some of the best & bravest drivers of all time.
The competition on track was mirrored by the development race in the Factories & Garages of the Teams. As highlighted by Max Noble in his latest piece F1 in all its aspects was all about the "human spirit".


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3. Posted by TokyoAussie, 26/08/2022 3:00

"I cringe every time I read about changes to the event format of a race. I remember fondly, very fondly, arriving on a Wednesday to catch the two practice sessions on Thursday, two practice sessions on Friday, practice and qualifying on Saturday, warm-up and race on Sunday. Since those days, the on-track action has steadily declined while the on-bum ticket price has skyrocketed out of sight. Now, FOM wants to race around traffic cones in the desert or inner cities instead of Spa and the like. And now this about practice sessions? Just sad."

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4. Posted by phantom, 26/08/2022 2:49

"Why not points for all runners? Extra is you actually finish!

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5. Posted by didaho, 26/08/2022 0:18

"Have a separate comp. for Practice World Champion."

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6. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 25/08/2022 19:05

"Domenicali must still have his Ferrari mentality ingrained in his psyche - interfering, and being unable to resist trying to "fix" something that isn't broke. Or maybe he's trying the Mosley approach - come up with something outrageous, then "settle" for what he wanted in the first place - except that he seems to have ignored the first part of that strategy. Time for MBS (mk 2) to exercise his authority......"

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7. Posted by Defiant, 25/08/2022 17:31

"Another nail in the coffin."

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8. Posted by MrGinger128, 25/08/2022 16:04

"This is a pretty bitter take.

The world has changed pretty rapidly. People have exponentially more options for their entertainment.

To capture the hearts of the next generation of fans you need to cater to them. It's that simple.

I swear people have such rose tinted glasses for the past. Processions where reliability played more of a factor than speed or skill. You might remember classic overtakes from times past but that's because they were about the only good overtakes the whole season haha. Now we have so many to choose from there's no point remembering single instances years after they happened.

The sport either evolves or stops growing. It stops growing then we'll see it wither and die. That's the reality of the situation, being bitter about times past won't help anyone."

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 25/08/2022 15:01

"I’ve previously used the comparison of Federer or Nadal being forced to *not* practice tennis to give others a chance to win a tournament. It would be laughed at! @ian_w gives a fine comparison to football (noting esteemed editor Balfe’s cheeky joke… :-) ) whereby fans would be totally confused if teams were banned from practicing!

We will actually see F1 drivers back in F2, F3, and the bumper cars down at the local fun fare to simply get time behind the wheel. This is a path to madness… which probably means that Liberty are 100% certain to run down it faster than an Orc into Mordor… "

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10. Posted by Rock Doc, 25/08/2022 14:00

"While reading this I seriously had to check my calendar. I thought it must be one of this hilarious PitPass joke articles that we all look forwards to each year.

But no we are in August. I checked.

I am lost for words. Without practice sessions what are the teams supposed to do. Limited practicing outside events at the moment. Which other sports doesn't allow the teams to practice.

Shaking my head and just walking away ..."

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11. Posted by overdriver, 25/08/2022 13:58

"In the very dim and distant past when I first watched motor sport there was no ‘qualifying’ – just a practice session to enable setup and track familiarisation, times from which determined grid position. Whilst it was doubtless quite a busy time for drivers and mechanics, it was a great opportunity to view the cars on track in a less fraught manner than in a race situation – even if they were just ‘going round and round’. Obviously, this would be total anathema to the latter day fan.

I have a problem with the term ‘fan’. Whether it is derived from ‘fanatic’ or not it seems to evoke images of aggressive partisanship. If I watch sport I am a spectator, a supporter if I pay gate money or simply an enthusiastic follower. Sport is the contest between individuals or teams and it is, to my mind, a privilege to watch. A privilege worth paying for particularly if facilities for my convenience are provided – hot dog stall, toilets and a grassy bank to stand on (seated grandstand a luxury!).

In its purest form sport doesn’t exist to entertain. It does so because we choose to watch. Neither is it a business although it will generate commercial activities – primarily facilities for hosting events in the form of stadia etc. However, any vestige of purity has long since departed Formula 1 which is now seen as a cash cow for ‘rights holders’ to prostitute its very being to global interests pursuing an ever increasing ‘fan base’ – i.e. potential customers for their non-motor sport related goods and services.

Thank the gods for Goodwood!"

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12. Posted by kdxrider, 25/08/2022 13:37

"I've said this before, no one is twisting the arms of the teams to race in this series ---- As everyone is saying, it's not F1 anymore.
and --- I've been wondering why this current Concorde agreement is only running for five years, well we've only got a couple more years until it's up again, then we'll see -----"

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13. Posted by Editor, 25/08/2022 13:05

"@ ian_w

Re: "playing with yourself all the time is no fun..."

Is F1 going to monetise that too?"

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14. Posted by ian_w, 25/08/2022 12:58

"Here's an idea ... lock the fans out on Friday. Only let them in on Saturday, for a qualifying session in the morning and a sprint race where active in afternoon. Sunday is race day. So there's something at stake on both days for the fans.

Now, on Friday teams can have a "point-less" morning and afternoon practice session, 60 minutes in the morning, 90 in the afternoon (or race equivalent times). They are under no obligation to run, put a car on track or do anything; their call.

Now you have an action packed two-day event and teams get back their on-track time too! You are welcome, Stefano. I will invoice you shortly.

I know there's a lot of BS going on in Premier League Football (sorry, as a Canadian, don't pay it too much attention; Go Eagles!), but can you ever imagine the FA saying, you know all those days you practice during the week, we should let the fans in and monetize it. And then, all those drills and practice you do, it's boring for the fans. Let's just make it a scrimmage, and then let's invite another team in 'cos playing with yourself all the time is no fun. Then we can charge real money for it. And since we are playing other teams, let's award points but not real points and have an alternate trophy for non-Saturday games. That will make the EPL way more popular and bring in more fans and revenue!

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15. Posted by Burton, 25/08/2022 12:45

"With the disappearance of in-season testing, practice is important to test components both for performance and safety. Let's do away with that too and when someone has a problem in-race and causes a massive shunt, we'll just whistle away, say it's on the FIA and the teams, we're just the commercial money collectors...ermm, rights holders!, nothing to do with us!"

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