In a pivotal move that underscores Formula 1’s commitment to nurturing emerging talents, a significant rule change was introduced in 2022. This alteration mandates F1 teams to extend a unique opportunity to rookie drivers – granting them the privilege of participating in two first free practice (FP1) sessions within a single season. The primary objective of this rule is to bolster the prospects of promising young drivers, offering them invaluable experience and a stepping stone towards potential future careers in the pinnacle of motorsport.
“Robert will do Zandvoort in Carlos’ car, and he’ll do another one, probably Abu Dhabi, in Charles’ car.
It was the choice of the driver, I gave them the choice to do it where they want to do it. I know that it’s not an easy situation. But Carlos was [ok with] the idea.
It’s not so easy to decide because for sure you can’t do it in Singapore, in Japan, in Las Vegas. Also, you have some sprint events in Austin, Qatar, so that you can’t do it.
Then you have the races with the tyre allocation a bit different, it’s also so tricky to do it. It means that at the end of the day, you don’t have so many options.”
The eligibility criteria for these fledgling racers to leverage this rule are elegantly straightforward: they must possess a track record of having competed in fewer than two Grand Prix races. This criterion ensures that the rule remains exclusive to those who are in the nascent stages of their Formula 1 journey.
In a recent interview, Scuderia Ferrari’s team principal, Frederic Vasseur, revealed a momentous step towards realizing this vision. The highly regarded Ferrari junior driver, 23-year-old Robert Shwartzman, is poised to take the wheel during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend. Shwartzman, who boasts a commendable racing pedigree, will seize the opportunity to commandeer Carlos Sainz’s F1 machine during the FP1 session. This strategic move not only provides Shwartzman with a hands-on experience of the rigors of Formula 1 but also showcases Ferrari’s commitment to nurturing their young talents.
As the season progresses, the fervor for fostering emerging talents intensifies. The spotlight turns once again to Shwartzman, as he is slated to undertake another FP1 session later in the season. This time, he will assume control of Charles Leclerc’s F1 car during VT1, immersing himself in the challenges and intricacies of the iconic track for a span of 60 minutes. This initiative serves as a testament to Ferrari’s unwavering dedication to honing their junior drivers’ skills and providing them with platforms to shine.
Amid the excitement surrounding Shwartzman’s upcoming exploits, Vasseur addressed the considerations that go into selecting appropriate tracks for rookie testing. The esteemed team boss noted that Shwartzman’s credentials are substantiated by his commendable performance, having secured the second position in the fiercely competitive 2021 Formula 2 championship. This accomplishment, coupled with his role as a test driver, underscores his preparedness for the challenges that await on the F1 stage.
“They have to be focused on the F2 championship. And we will try to give them opportunities of testing either on the 2021 car or something else before the end of the season. But I want to push them to stay focussed on the F2 championship.”
While Shwartzman’s journey continues to unfold, he is also juggling commitments in other racing domains. Notably, he is currently engaged in the 2023 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup for AF Corse. This multi-faceted approach reflects Shwartzman’s commitment to refining his racing prowess across diverse terrains.
However, Shwartzman isn’t the sole beacon of hope for young racers. The likes of Arthur Leclerc and Oliver Bearman, brimming with potential, must exercise patience for their turn at the helm of an SF-23 F1 car. Vasseur remains steadfast in his assurance that opportunities will arise for these aspiring talents. He emphasizes, though, that they should continue focusing their energies on the fiercely competitive F2 Championship, ensuring they are primed to seize the moment when it arrives.
This new rule, with its strategic allocation of FP1 sessions, signifies Formula 1’s transition towards a more inclusive and nurturing environment. As the baton is passed from seasoned racers to a new generation of speedsters, the sport propels itself into a thrilling era where young talents are not merely the future but an integral part of the present.