What are F1 teams permitted to do with their cars on ‘filming day’ shakedowns?

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during a filming day in 2022.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during a filming day in 2022.

Ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season, most of the teams will carry out at least one ‘filming day’ to shakedown their new machines.

Haas became the first of the 10 teams to reveal their 2023 look earlier this week, with the American-based squad showing off the livery their VF-23 will race with.

However, the VF-23 itself won’t be shown off until after the team have taken to the track with the car for the first time – Haas will hold a ‘shakedown’ of the car at Silverstone on February 11th.

Most of the teams will elect to hold a shakedown of their new cars before the start of official pre-season testing in Bahrain in late February, as such shakedowns allow for any unforeseen mechanical or technical issues with the build of the new cars to be spotted and ironed out before the start of the critical three days of track testing.

But how do these shakedowns fit into the current rules – how are teams able to carry out private track testing with a current car?

F1 teams make use of an FIA regulations loophole for ‘promotional events’

A provision in the Sporting Regulations is made to allow every team a set amount of track time with a current machine in order to gather promotional material.

This is for the purpose of gathering stock footage and imagery to show off the car from every angle. Just think of the amount of TV and internet ads you see throughout the year of a current Formula 1 car being driven around a circuit that might not even have held a Grand Prix – these promotional events are where this material is shot.

Of course, where there is a current car on track, there’s an opportunity for the teams to learn something relevant. This is why, in recent years, these promotional events (colloquially known as ‘filming days’) have allowed the teams the chance to perform a shakedown of their cars ahead of the start of pre-season testing.

But the filming days do have strict rules – the teams can’t simply turn up and start pumping in the laps. The rules have been carefully considered in order to ensure no team can gain a competitive advantage from the filming days.

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What are the rules for an F1 filming day?

The rules for an F1 filming day are laid out in Article 10.4 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, outlining the regulations for the ‘Testing of Current Car Promotional Events’, which actually state the event is used ‘purely for marketing and promotional purposes’.

Each team is permitted two of such days over the course of the season, so expect the vast majority of the 10 teams to have used one by the time pre-season testing begins.

The rules outline that teams are only permitted a maximum distance of 100 kilometres of driving time. Usually, teams opt for a shortened configuration of the track they have booked for the filming day, allowing them to get more laps in.

For example, the shortened ‘International’ layout at Silverstone is just under three kilometres, meaning a team using that layout could carry out 33 laps during their filming day. Using the full-length Grand Prix circuit, which is just under six kilometres, would permit a total of 16.9 laps (so back in the pits after 16, or ‘break down’ on track after 16.5!).

The car must be fitted with the standard FIA ECU for the filming day and, as outlined in Article 8.3.1 of the Technical Regulations, may only be used with FIA-approved software and may only be connected to the control system wiring loom, sensors and actuators in a manner specified by the FIA.

Finally, to ensure the teams can’t perform any sneaky performance runs, Pirelli supply specific tyres for use on filming days. These compounds are hard as a rock, may even resemble wet-weather tyres in terms of grooves and patterns, and are incredibly long-lifed – they are demonstration tyres which are often used for the demonstration runs (with umpteen burn-outs and donuts) that teams (think Red Bull) often carry out in cities around the world with older cars.

Added to these restrictions is the fact that, usually, the car is being followed around by a filming car or two – standard road machines kitted out with camera booms and operators to capture the angles required for their sponsorship-friendly videos and pictures.

Let there be no doubt about it: a shakedown filming day can only be used by the teams in order to ensure a very basic level of reliability ahead of proper F1 testing!