F1 rookie practice sessions a ‘complex situation’

Henry Valantine
Callum Ilott takes part in F1 free practice in Austria

Alfa Romeo reserve driver Callum Ilott pulls into the pits during FP1 in Austria.

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur has described rookies taking part in F1 practice sessions as having two opposing elements to them.

While he feels they present good opportunities for younger drivers to show what they could be capable of doing behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, they may be hindered in showing their full potential due to the need to keep the car on the road to hand back to the main driver.

Although that compromise is lingering in the background, the Alfa Romeo boss believes giving young drivers the opportunity to test Formula 1 machinery has paid dividends for the team in the past.

“The FP1 opportunity for the rookies, I think it is a good move for F1 in general,” Vasseur told GPFans Global.

“It is the best exposure we can give to the kids and I’m not sure the FP1 is a very relevant session.

“We did a lot in the past with Charles [Leclerc] and Antonio [Giovinazzi] and Callum [Ilott] but it’s not always easy because they are jumping in the car, they are not allowed to crash because we have FP2 two hours after.

“It means the first point is ‘guys, you don’t crash’.

Callum Ilott arrives in Belgium. August 2021.

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“Then they have two stints of six laps the first stint, three [or] four laps the second one and they have to show something.

“It is a bit of a schizophrenic situation and complex situation, but it is like it is. At least on the exposure and the marketing side, it is probably very good for them.

“It will help the rookie to find also partners for F2 and I think it is a good decision, a good move and a good connection between the two series and I like it.”

A number of rookies are in the running to take the second seat at Alfa next season alongside Valtteri Bottas, but Vasseur feels a longer-term solution for the team would perhaps suit them better with the change of regulations, rather than Charles Leclerc’s solitary year with them.

The now-Ferrari driver’s stay with the Hinwil-based constructor was shorter than they had anticipated – but Vasseur said the Monegasque was able to hit the ground running from the off due to the work he had already completed.

“The difference with Charles was that he was allowed to do a lot with us before,” he said when asked if the team want a driver who could repeat Leclerc’s rapid rise.

“We have also to consider next year is a bit different because we will have six days before the season with a completely new car.

“Perhaps we will have a reliability issue. We will have the new tyres, that mean also we have to consider this part of the situation.

“But it will be a choice for sure that I would like to have a commitment at least for the next two or three seasons. It means perhaps the first two or three races it is not the main topic.

“If you have this kind of plan, let’s build up something, you can think that together. But performance will be key.”