An eye on the future: Is a single practice session the way forward?

31-10-2020 11:00
An eye on the future: Is a single practice session the way forward?

This weekend Formula 1 returns to Imola for the first time since 2006, but not as we know it. The race weekend will consist of only three sessions, FP1, qualifying and the race! But is this a sign of things to come? 

What's the plan?

On any normal Formula 1 weekend we would already be two sessions and one day down, with an eye on Saturday with FP3 and qualifying set for the following day. However, we are not in any normal Formula 1 season, which means things are a little different for obvious reasons, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc for the world of sport and F1 is no different. We've already raced on three circuits that weren't on the original calendar as well as racing on circuits more than once this season. 

And this topsy-turvey campaign is set to take another turn as we return to Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and our third race in Italy. The weekend gets underway with the first and last practice session of the weekend, at 9AM for an hour and a half and after that, it is straight into the action, with qualifying taking place between 1PM and 2PM. With just two sessions under their belts, the drivers will line up on the grid on Sunday at 12:10 for the first F1 race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari since Michael Schumacher won in his Ferrari in 2006. 63 laps around the famous circuit will decide who will stand on top of the podium on Sunday afternoon.

Too much data

Each season Formula 1 visits a similar set of circuits, with the exact same weekly setup, FP1, FP2, FP3, qualifying and then the race. If you do the same thing year in year out, you will inevitably build up an enormous amount of data and knowledge of whatever you're doing and Formula 1 has exactly that issue, even more so because everything is studied to the most minute detail. 

Take the Spanish Grand Prix for example, it has been raced at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1991 without fault, combine this with pre-season testing at the circuit in Barcelona the teams have enough data to send a mathematician insane. So when races go entirely to the script and the fans moan about another boring race, what do we expect when each team has enough data to race the perfect race? It is no surprise that some of the best races have come from races where we have far less data.

Of course, we can't just scrap these circuits, they have huge lucrative contracts that they depend on but do we need to do all this racing on them?

Now how does this relate to this weekend's schedule? Formula 1 hasn't raced at Imola since 2006 and with only one session the teams are gonna have the bare minimum compared to what they would normally have on a race weekend, opening up the opportunity for the race to be far less predictable. Drivers aren't going to know what angle to take each corner or what the best strategy is to run. 

Too much racing

Each race weekend we are bombarded with different sessions, which for a huge Formula 1 fan is heaven, racing on TV all weekend along with all the additional content which is available nowadays, it is perfect. But for a casual fan or someone who is just looking for something to watch all of these sessions can be a little intimidating. What does each one mean? What do they do in each one? Why do they do each one? These questions may seem silly but they're very valid, particularly in a sport that already has a reputation for being a bit confusing.

Do we really need them all? Less of these confusing sessions would surely encourage more people to watch the pinnacle of motorsport and make it more inclusive. 

Is it the way forward?

Yes! Fans no matter how serious, want entertainment and at times Formula 1 can be more of a snooze-fest. But it has so much potential as we've seen this season. When we finally arrived in Austria we were provided with one of the most dramatic races as driver after driver dropped out or the complete chaos we saw at Mugello. Of course, safety is paramount and the wellbeing of the drivers should be the absolute number one priority but do we really need all this racing? 

A single practice session would help eliminate the issue of having too much data, all of a sudden teams won't know every single detail of every single circuit to the degree they do now. Without these complicated sessions, casual fans no longer need to know what the teams do in each one, and as a result Formula 1 opens itself up to a whole new audience. 

Now I don't expect Formula 1 to rip up and change contracts with current circuits and change the way a race weekend operates but allowing for a little bit of the unknown could make the world of difference to the sport. In Formula 1's case, less could mean so much more!

Read more about: Formula 1 Imola

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