Under a rule introduced before 2022, both drivers must give up free practice for a driver who has made two or fewer starts.
At the start of the season, most teams were in no rush to get rookies on their feet as they felt their drivers needed all the mileage they could get in the new cars. Lately, some have maintained that focus as they are in fierce battles in the Constructors’ Championship.
Plus, the budget cap means teams are more wary than ever of a rookie doing expensive damage, as happened to Alfonso Celis Jr and Force India in Mexico in 2017.
Teams now have just six races left to finish a rookie on Friday, and of those Brazil – which sees FP1 as a sprint weekend followed by qualifying – are clearly off the table.
That leaves only five other events, several of which also involve trade-offs. The risks associated with Singapore mean the street location will not be chosen, especially as drivers haven’t been there since 2019 and will have to adapt to cars that are expected to be tricky to handle.
Traditionally, Japan is rarely used for FP1 runs, given how easy it is to go off and damage a car. Once again it has been missing from the schedule since 2019 and drivers will have to get up to speed, with bad weather also threatening.
However, it is not impossible for a rookie to run on Suzuka, as Max Verstappen proved at Toro Rosso in 2014.
An added complication for both Suzuka and Austin is that the locations have been chosen for Pirelli tire testing in 2023 in an extended 90-minute FP2 session. On the one hand that gives drivers more track time if they miss FP1, but on the other hand they are required to do tire tests and so the running plan for the day is more complicated than in other races.
Mexico is being kept by Pirelli as a backup in case any of the other tire testing sessions are affected by rain, but otherwise it is likely to be a popular choice for beginner running.
Abu Dhabi will definitely see a lot of rookies in FP1, simply because it’s the last chance. Teams also consider it relatively safe given the extended run-off, plus there’s less pressure on spares as there’s no race to follow.
The complication for those currently racing in F2 is that they also have to deal with the series final, with a close battle for position behind the top two. Teams don’t like it when rookies have to jump from one car to another on the same weekend, even though Liam Lawson did so in Belgium last month.
Here’s what the teams have done so far and what they plan to do:
Nyck de Vries replaced Lewis Hamilton in France and the Dutchman will do one more session for the team. The complication is that if he signs a race deal for 2023, his new team may want him to do some FP1 running.
Nyck de Vries, Mercedes W13
Photo By: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images
Red Bull Racing
Juri Vips had an outing for Red Bull in Spain, before being dropped by the drinks company a few weeks later. Liam Lawson will likely do the second run in place of Verstappen, although he is also slated to fit in an AlphaTauri outing.
Robert Shwartzman has worked hard in the simulator for Ferrari and he is getting his reward with FP1 runs in Austin and Abu Dhabi. It is the first time the Italian team has ever used an FP1 session for a third driver.
Oscar Piastri was supposed to run the FP1 for Alpine, but for obvious reasons, plans are now in flux. Jack Doohan, who will be driving the 2021 car in Budapest this week, is the natural choice for the two sessions and he remains a candidate for the race ride. However, if De Vries gets the nod for the seat, there may be a push to get him into the car.
McLaren’s plans are also not clear. The team would be happy to get Piastri in the car if Alpine agrees to release him early. However, it also has IndyCar races Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou, all of whom have driven the 2021 car and are qualified to drive FP1s. Zak Brown had hinted that O’Ward will be riding in Mexico, but none of the three are guaranteed a run.
Alex Palou, McLaren F1 testing in Barcelona
Photo By: Monaco Increase Management
Liam Lawson rode for the team at Spa and is about to do another session. However, plans may change if the team signs De Vries and it makes sense to give him some mileage.
The team did not have its own junior program and so agreed to use the shared Mercedes reserve de Vries at Monza. But that weekend, the team reached a driver development agreement with F2 champion Felipe Drugovich, and the Brazilian will drive in Abu Dhabi.
Like Aston Martin Williams was happy to give De Vries a run in 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 Sargeant will be driving at his home race in Austin.
The Swiss team read the rules carefully and the FIA agreed that Zhou Guanyu’s debut weekend in Bahrain could count as a rookie session. Theo Pourchaire will be with the team in the US and Mexico and will replace Valtteri Bottas in one of those races. Mexico is more likely because the team is reluctant to combine rookie running with a Pirelli test.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Photo by: Alessio Morgese
Haas has yet to confirm his plans, but unless there is an urgent need to bring in another driver, Pietro Fittipaldi will take on the rookie running. However, he will not be able to drive Austin as Antonio Giovinazzi will be driving there, and it would be a challenge for the team to leave both drivers out of FP1 during the home race.