F1 has slowly introduced a bit more testing over the last few years, including some days specifically for young drivers, but the amount of time young drivers get in modern cars is way, way less than it was a decade or so ago.
Specific test sessions are one thing, but Ross Brawn wants to introduce more ways for young drivers to gain F1 experience during actual race weekends so that they are better prepared for when they get their chance as F1 drivers.
In the 2000s teams used to be able to run a third car in Friday practice, which was often driven by a a young talent. It’s how Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica first made an impression, and although teams can still elect to run different drivers in practice sessions it has to be at the expense of one of their regular race drivers. Ross says he’s looking at ways of reintroducing a similar system.
“Putting someone into F1 who hasn’t got the experience is a risk. You have to prepare them as well as possible, maybe doing the Friday morning practice. Those sorts of initiatives are important before they get exposed. If they have a problem they get into F1 the wrong way, then their careers could be damaged.
Brawn also said that it would be a benefit if an F1 driver had to miss a race at short notice for some reason, because then an F2 driver would be more able to jump in and do a good job.
“I don’t think replacing Felipe [in Hungary] with an F2 guy would’ve been very fair, because they would’ve had very little time to get into the car. There’s a better structured way of doing it, but that’s the sort of thing we want to do. Friday practice – we’ve started looking at more positive initiatives to get the young guys to have an opportunity to drive – that sort of thing is what’s being discussed at the moment.”
Liberty Media is starting to take Formula 2 a bit more seriously than it otherwise has been in the past, as news has already emerged that upcoming superlicence changes are going to make it more or less compulsory for young drivers with F1 ambitions.
Brawn told Motorsport.com that he sees the series as an potential place to experiment with rule changes which could then be implemented into F1.
“Because we’re all under the same umbrella, why would you not want to see how you can develop ideas and concepts? F2 is very committed to the reverse grid, which works very well for them, but they have some different commercial considerations, so F1 may not necessarily follow. And of course they have two races which F1 doesn’t. We’ve started to look at the safety car restart procedures, different grid formations for the start – things like that can very easily translate from F2 to F1.”
He also said that he’d like to see the route to F1 be a bit more like that used in MotoGP so that fans can become more familiar with young drivers as they progress up the ladder.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a young guy coming in, he was a star in F3, a star in F2 and then he does a Verstappen-like entry into F1. That’s what we want to see. By having those races at an F1 grand prix, the fans can start to engage with them. It has so many benefits – commercially and from a sporting perspective – that we’ve got to make it work.”
It’s cool to see the sport paying a much closer interest in the junior formulae which are so crucial to the success of F1.
It’ll be interesting to see just how the path to F1 changes in the coming years as Liberty Media and the FIA seek to try and tie the whole process together.