Under a rule introduced for 2022, race drivers are required to forgo a free training session for a driver who has started two or fewer times.
Early in the season, most teams were in no hurry to the rookies because they felt the race drivers needed all the mileage they could get in the new cars. Later, some have maintained that focus because they are in tight fights in the constructors’ championship.
Plus, the budget cap means teams are more wary than ever about a starter taking exorbitant damage, as happened with Alfonso Celes and Force India in Mexico in 2017.
Teams now only have six races left to play a new player on Friday, and Brazil – which saw a weekend of FP1 racing followed by qualifying – is clearly off the table.
This leaves only five other events, many of which also involve concessions. The risks associated with Singapore mean that the street will not be chosen, especially since the race drivers have not been there since 2019 and will have to adapt to the cars that are expected to be difficult to handle.
Japan is rarely used in FP1 racing, due to how easy it is to get off the ground and damage the car. Once again, it has been missing from the schedule since 2019 and the race drivers will have to keep up with the pace, as bad weather is also a threat.
However, it’s not impossible for a novice to run in Suzuka, as Max Verstappen proved with Toro Rosso in 2014.
An additional complication for both Suzuka and Austin was that the pitches were chosen to test the Pirelli 2023 tires in an extended 90-minute FP2 session. On the one hand, it gives race drivers more time to the track if they miss an FP1 race, but on the other hand, they are required to do a tire test, so the running plan for the day is more complicated than other races.
Mexico is kept as a Pirelli backup in case one of your other tire test sessions gets affected by rain, but other than that it’s probably a popular choice for the novice running.
Abu Dhabi is sure to see a lot of rookies in FP1, simply because it’s the last chance. The teams also consider it relatively safe, due to the intense runoff, and in addition, there is less stress on parts as there is no racing to follow.
The complication for those currently racing in F2 is that they also have to deal with the series finale, with a tight battle for position behind the top two. Teams don’t like rookies having to jump from car to car on the same weekend, although Liam Lawson did in Belgium last month.
Here’s what the teams have done so far, and what they’re planning:
Nick de Vries stood in for Lewis Hamilton in France, and the Dutchman is set to do another session for the team. The complexity is that if he signs a 2023 race deal, his new team may want to do some FP1 racing.
Nick de Vries, Mercedes W13
Photography: Alistair Staley / motorsports pictures
Red Bull Racing
Juri Phipps had a picnic with Red Bull in Spain, before the beverage company dumped him a few weeks later. Liam Lawson will likely do the second round in place of Verstappen, although he is also set to fit into the AlphaTauri outing.
Robert Schwartzman worked hard in Ferrari simulations, and earned his reward with FP1 races in Austin and Abu Dhabi. It is the first time the Italian team has used an FP1 session for a third driver.
Oscar Piastre was supposed to take over the FP1 race in the Alps, but for obvious reasons, plans are now in flux. Jack Doohan, who is due to drive the 2021 car in Budapest this week, is the logical choice for the two sessions, and remains a favorite to race the race. However, if de Vries gets the nod for the seat, there may be pressure to get him into the car.
McLaren’s plans are also not clear. The team would love to take Piastre in the car if Albin agreed to release him early. However, it also has IndyCar races Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou, all of whom drove the 2021 car and are eligible to run in FP1s. Zach Brown has hinted that O’Ward will drive in Mexico, but none of the three are guaranteed.
Alex Ballou, McLaren F1 test in Barcelona
Photography: Monaco increased management
Liam Lawson led the team lead at the spa and is scheduled to do another session. However, plans could change if the team signs de Vries and it makes sense to give him some mileage.
The team did not have a small program of its own, so it agreed to use the Mercedes de Vries shared reserve at Monza. However, the team over the weekend agreed a driver development deal with F2 champion Felipe Drogovic, and the Brazilian will drive in Abu Dhabi.
Like Aston, Martin Williams was happy to give De Vries a tour of Spain, and that extra preparation paid off when he was called up to race at Monza. The team confirmed a few weeks ago that Logan Sargent would be driving for his home race in Austin.
The Swiss team read the rules correctly and the FIA agreed that Zhou Guanyu’s start to the weekend in Bahrain could be considered a rookie session. Theo Burshire will be with the team in the US and Mexico and is set to replace Valtteri Bottas in one of these races – the Mexican team will likely be hesitant as the team is reluctant to combine the Novice run with the Pirelli Test.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Photography: Alessio Morghese
Haas has yet to confirm their plans, but unless there is an urgent reason to hire another driver, Pietro Fittipaldi will take over the rookie run. However, he won’t be able to do Austin because Antonio Giovinazzi will be driving there, and leaving both drivers out of FP1 will be a challenge for the team in its home race.