Extreme Fernando Alonso F1 weekend format idea comes to light on eve of Chinese GP

Jamie Woodhouse
Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso in street clothes at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso in street clothes

As some drivers raise concerns over the lack of practice time at the returning Chinese Grand Prix, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso apparently would like to scrap free practice altogether from a Formula 1 race weekend.

Formula 1 is readying to return to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time in five years, where the revised F1 Sprint format will make its debut, the changes seeing qualifying and the Grand Prix now take place after the Sprint action is complete.

Fernando Alonso would prefer no practice at all

The customary one-hour FP1 session remains in place as part of the altered Sprint format, though this has caused the likes of Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz to speak out in concern over the lack of time to get to grips with the Shanghai Circuit once more. So, if just one hour of practice worries them, they would really hate Alonso’s idea.

Aston Martin ambassador Pedro de la Rosa said Alonso has proposed another new F1 race weekend format, one that if he had his way, would involve going straight into qualifying with no free practice to prepare.

“Fernando actually what he would like is to go directly into qualifying,” De la Rosa revealed on the F1 Nation podcast.

“He sometimes mentioned it. He doesn’t need to warm-up, he doesn’t need another set of tyres to go faster, it’s just bang, the first lap, that’s it, that’s the fastest he will be the whole weekend because he doesn’t need to get up to speed.

“But I think it’s good [the Sprint format], it’s good for the drivers to adapt, to make sure that they don’t have too much time to change the car setups, to learn the tricks of the track. So I think a Sprint format always makes the best driver shine a bit more.

“The reality is that the best cars will always shine, but the best drivers sometimes are not given the chance because by the time you get to Q3, for example, all the drivers have had like eight or nine sets of new tyres really to find the limit. That is the biggest difference.”

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1996 World Champion Damon Hill also picked up on that sense of “opportunity” for drivers who are not regularly given the chance to shine, as he picked out Alonso as the driver to keep a close eye on.

“I think anytime that the format is turned on its head, there’s opportunity,” said Hill. “It’s a bit like when it rains or something like that, I think you’ve got more chance.

“It’s not good if you’re at the front, because you want to preserve your position, you want to protect and you want all things to be equal, because then you know you’re going to be quick.

“But if you’ve got uncertainty, I think that’s great opportunity for people who ordinarily… People like Fernando, I’m sure he’d love it.”

Alongside Lewis Hamilton, Alonso is the only other active multi-time winner of the Chinese Grand Prix, having triumphed here in 2005 and 2013.

Read next: Martin Brundle dismisses driver concerns as Chinese GP returns F1 Sprint style