F1 practice slash called for in response to red flags rule tweak suggestion

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes; Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo

Valtteri Bottas spent five seasons as Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate between 2017 and 2021.

Valtteri Bottas has called for the amount of practice running on F1 race weekends to be reduced, arguing that three practice sessions is “too much” in the modern era.

Drivers were limited to around 15 minutes of useful running in second practice at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after the session was interrupted by two red flag delays.

The session was stopped for almost half an hour after Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz crashed less than 10 minutes into the session, with Nico Hulkenberg also bringing out the red flags just minutes after the restart after hitting the barrier at Turn 1.

Would you support a reduction in F1 practice?

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

FP2 resumed with 16 minutes left on the clock, with McLaren driver Lando Norris revealing after the session that he was limited to just five push laps in total in FP2.

The restricted running on Friday at Yas Marina – coming just a week after opening practice in Las Vegas was cancelled after Sainz hit a loose manhole cover – has fuelled a debate about whether F1 should grant teams and drivers extra practice running to compensate for delays.

FP1 and FP2 were reduced from 90 minutes to one hour for the 2021 season, with a third practice session lasting 60 minutes held ahead of qualifying on Saturdays.

However, former Mercedes driver Bottas believes that the teams’ advanced simulation tools mean it is no longer necessary to have three practice sessions on a standard race weekend.

Asked directly by PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher in Abu Dhabi if he would welcome more practice time, Bottas replied: “No, I don’t think so, because it’s the same for everybody – and we have too much practice nowadays anyway.

“Three practice [sessions] is too much. We don’t need that anymore with the simulation tools [and] simulators that we have nowadays.”

Bottas’s views were echoed by Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who when asked the same question by PlanetF1.com added: “No, it’s fine.”

Meanwhile, Hulkenberg admitted he would be open to more practice time – but acknowledged that the effect on the itinerary of a grand prix weekend and television scheduling would be potential hurdles to a change.

“I think it’s a very fair point,” he replied to PlanetF1.com.

“There’s obviously other implications – how the rest of the schedule has to be changed and TV times and all these things, it’s probably not as straightforward as we think – but obviously we lost a good 20 minutes with Carlos’s red flag with the barrier repair.

“It’s going to be a talking point now going forward.”

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At the final sprint weekend of the 2023 season in Brazil, a number of drivers spoke in support of the single hour-long practice session as the highlight of the format.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc argued that three practice sessions on a standard race weekend “is really long and can sometimes get a bit boring.”

Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver and seven-time World Champion, added that he enjoys the challenge of a single practice session before heading “straight into qualifying” on a sprint weekend.

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