Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali has sparked a debate over the future of practice sessions in the sport, after suggesting that he would like to see them scrapped. Domenicali, who took over as F1 CEO and president in January, made the controversial comments during a visit to the opening round of the MotoGP season in Portugal.
“I am a supporter of the cancellation of free practice sessions, which are of great use to the engineers but that the public doesn’t like,” he told Portuguese channel SportTV. This comment he has made doesn’t make much sense, as there have been no obvious complaints by fans about disliking practice sessions.
Domenicali’s remarks have raised eyebrows among fans and teams, who see practice sessions as a vital part of the grand prix weekend. Practice sessions allow drivers and teams to work on set-up and tyre strategies, as well as test new developments and parts. They also provide three hours of track action for spectators and broadcasters.
However, Domenicali’s comments should not be taken literally, as he is not proposing to eliminate practice sessions completely. Instead, he is looking at ways to make them more exciting and rewarding, by introducing incentives or points for performance.
“Free practice is very interesting for the engineers or for the drivers, but at the end of the day, in sport, you need to fight for something,” he said last year. “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.”
Domenicali’s idea is not new, as F1 has experimented with different formats for practice sessions in recent years. In 2021, F1 reduced the duration of each session from 90 to 60 minutes and introduced sprint races at selected venues, which cut Friday practice to a single session. The sprint races also added an extra element of competition and unpredictability to the weekend.
Is banning practice a good idea?
The pros and cons of Domenicali’s proposal are not clear-cut, as there are arguments for and against changing the practice sessions. On one hand, reducing or scrapping practice sessions could make the qualifying and race more exciting, as teams and drivers would have less time to prepare and fine-tune their cars. This could lead to more mistakes, surprises and overtaking on track.
On the other hand, reducing or scrapping practice sessions could also have negative consequences for safety, reliability and performance. Teams and drivers would have less opportunity to test their cars and tyres, which could increase the risk of failures or accidents. They would also have less data and feedback to work with, which could affect their strategy and pace.
Furthermore, reducing or scrapping practice sessions could also have an impact on the development and innovation of the sport. Teams would have less chance to try out new parts and concepts, which could hamper their progress and competitiveness. They would also have less scope to experiment with different set-ups and configurations, which could limit their creativity and diversity.
Ultimately, Domenicali’s proposal is not a simple one to implement or judge, as it involves balancing various factors and interests. While he may have a vision for making F1 more entertaining and engaging for fans, he also has to consider the views and needs of teams, drivers, promoters and broadcasters.
Whether he can find a compromise that satisfies everyone remains to be seen.