Posted on December 16, 2009
FIA moves to prevent repeat of Alguersuari and Grosjean errors | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

The FIA has made another quiet but sensible decision, putting right something which was clearly wrong this season by allowing young drivers to test a car should they be called upon to move up to a race seat.

Alguersuari: In at the deep end

Alguersuari: In at the deep end


This season Jaime Alguersuari and Romain Grosjean were obliged to jump into a race car with no testing when they were called up to replace race drivers who had been sacked. Luca Badoer also had a torrid time in the Ferrari with no opportunity to familiarise himself with the car.

The testing ban was introduced as a cost saving measure, allowing teams to lay off their entire test team staff, but it backfired and the young drivers situation was clearly not acceptable for the world’s premier motor sport discipline.

The FIA statement says, “If a team declares that one of its current race drivers is to be substituted by a driver who has not participated in an F1 race in the two previous calendar years, one day of track testing will be permitted between the start of the week preceding second Event and the last Event of the Championship.

“The following must be observed: Any such day may only be carried out by the new driver and may not take place on a circuit hosting a race in the current Championship year.

“Any such day may only take place within a period 14 days prior to the substitution and 14 days after the substitution has taken place. If a team, having declared the driver’s substitution and performed the test, does not then enter an Event with the new driver, the team will be penalised by a reduction of one day from the pre-season track testing days available in the following year.”

Given the uncertainty and budgetary difficulties of some new teams we may well see this new rule being used next season.

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FIA moves to prevent repeat of Alguersuari and Grosjean errors
61 Responses

  1.   1. Posted By: Mac
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 7:34 pm 

    A hurrah for an outbreak of common sense. Might not be perfect, but a step in the right direction.

    [Reply]


  2.   2. Posted By: Soroush
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 7:48 pm 

    Ok, maybe it’s because I just woke up but:

    “…one day of track testing will be permitted between the start of the week preceding second Event and the last Event of the Championship.”

    that sentence is really racking my mind. Maybe it’s because I’m assuming Event = grand prix? Or do they consider Event = grand prix sessions per weekend?

    [Reply]

    Antti-Juhani Reply:

    The term “event” is defined in the international sporting code. There is an event for each competition with its own results, and that event includes any qualification rounds, practice sessions, heats etc leading up to that main competition. In F1 terms, then, a single “event” comprises all the activity related to a single grand prix, including all the F1 free practice sessions, the F1 qualifying session, and the actual F1 race. The weekend usually includes other events (for example two GP2 events for many weekends). All the collocated events together make up a meeting.

    An event starts when the pre-event scrutineering is scheduled to start, and ends when the post-event scrutineering ends, or at the deadline for protests, whichever is later.

    (That is how I understand the code from just reading it.)

    [Reply]

    Henri Reply:

    It just means they can’t test an extra day with rookies before the first event, or the last event.

    Basically the week before the second event they are allowed to test rookies that will have to race the second or third race!

    [Reply]


  3.   3. Posted By: Vimto
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 7:48 pm 

    A definite improvement, the question being is one day enough, especially with the complexity of some of the cars? The Ferrari is a prime example with neither Badoer or Fisi – both massively experienced – really getting to grips with it over a number of race weekends.

    [Reply]

    Dean Coulter Reply:

    Well, Ferrari have made cars that are tricky to drive in recent years. Not to forget KERS which effected braking, and made the car very unpredictable under braking. So with KERS gone it won’t be as bad.

    However, look at young Kobayashi. Finished ahead of his vastly experienced team-mate in only his 2nd full race weekend.

    [Reply]

    Lilia Reply:

    So maybe the problem is talent. This young drivers went bad even after three GP. Don’t tell me three GP weren’t as good practice as one testing day.

    [Reply]


  4.   4. Posted By: Matt W
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 7:48 pm 

    A good idea but is one day really enough for a rookie?

    F1 could easily spice up testing so that tickets could be sold, offering a cheaper way for fans to see the sport in the flesh, along with broadcast rights to make it more cost effective.

    They could even run little non-championship sprint races to give it more appeal with some kind of golden helmet award.

    [Reply]

    Dean Coulter Reply:

    It depends how long these test sessions are.

    Assuming they are one day long, and a driver can get between 8-10 hours testing. I would think that’s good enough. Not to mention the 4 hours before each qualifying and the race.

    Still, it’s better than nothing.

    [Reply]

    Werewolf Reply:

    I agree. The commercial opportunities of a couple of public tests seem curiously untapped.

    [Reply]

    Stephen Kellett Reply:

    What, you mean *you* (yes, you) would *PAY* to watch that? Really?

    And you think broadcasters think the same way?

    If so, I invite you to set up a company doing that, backed by *YOUR* money. Thats right, your house and everything you own as collateral.

    Sorry? I didn’t hear that. Speak up a bit. Oh, not so keen. Sure, I understand.

    Its *SO* easy to play with other people’s money when you forget it is not your own.

    The reality is, this footage has very little value. It does have value, but the real value is in the “new media”, brand building area, where people like James add value by putting such footage on their website *FOR FREE*.

    Starting to understand this now? Et tu Bernie?

    [Reply]

    DanielH Reply:

    I think Werewolf is correct. Thousands of people (myself included) attended the Friday practice at Silverstone. The times are, broadly speaking, meaningless, and one does not leave the circuit knowing the result of any competition.

    But it’s the experience that counts. Saturday and Sunday were too expensive for me, but Friday was perfect. Seeing and hearing the cars is quite amazing. TV does not convey one tenth of the noise of the engines, the minute variation in driving styles, the fact that the cars wobble and drift so much in what seems a straightforward corner.

    Why not allow people to pay a nominal amount to attend practice sessions?

    Werewolf Reply:

    Yes *I* (yes I) would *PAY* to watch that. Really.

    The cost would be less than a race weekend but the thrill and experience of F1 cars in action would remain. I vividly recall watching Button and Villeneuve running together on a drying track at a Silverstone test a few years ago and learning so much about their respective styles.

    Nobody would expect television to cover testing live! An opportunity though for an internet feed or one of the other new media. Traditional broadcasters would be interested as part of the build up to the next race or perhaps a magazine show.

    As for the franchise, regrettably I don’t think the value of my house would impress Bernie sufficiently to part with the rights, even if I had the commercial acumen to exploit them, which I don’t! In fact, I would say it is for the aforementioned vertically challenged entrepreneur to maximise his own benefits.

    Brace Reply:

    Most of F1 commercial opportunities are curiously untapped. :)
    That’s why Bernie has to take 50%, because he as a manager of F1 isn’t doing his job right.
    I mean, manager’s cut is between 10 and 20%

    Yet, Bernie takes 50% for doing essentially pretty weak job, and manages to last only because his “client” is so good. If he did his job better he could bank as much money by taking half percentage of that.
    Imagine, Willie Weber taking 50% from Schumie and managing to strike the deal only because Schumie is so good that teams will offer pretty much anything to have him in their car.

    [Reply]

    Alianora La Canta Reply:

    Silverstone charged £12 for entry to testing in the last year that it was permitted. They limited numbers to 5000 but it was a nice little earner for them.

    Rudy Pyatt Reply:

    Thank you for saying more common sense! Oulton Park Gold Cup, anyone?

    [Reply]

    Rudy Pyatt Reply:

    I have to add that the not-within-the- last-two-years aspect recalls the graded v. non-graded F2 of old.

    Yup. Open tests, sprint races included (two heats?), on TV and online, cut rate price for the tickets, circuits and broadcasters. Bernie and his minions are, as you all point out, missing an obvious commercial opportunity. Bernie could sublease a portion of the commercial rights to someone (Motorsport Vision and Eurosport?) to promote the “preseason” along these lines.

    Even better, given that Bernie has ignored the commercial possibilities of testing (by his course of conduct, at least arguably forfeiting his right to exercise commercial control over them), maybe it gives the FIA a loophole to directly lease rights to another party in order to promote the testing/preseason. And it is the FIA Formula One World Championship after all, not the BCE World Formula Championship. Just what obligations Bernie owes the Federation under his lease, if any, or whether or not he’s forfeited his right to the commercial control of F1 testing, are matters of EU contract law.

    So forward march all you contract specialists! Get to the F1 Commissioner and make it happen!

    [Reply]

    rpaco Reply:

    I think you will find it is “All rights in connection with” which covers everything.

    But I too used to go to Silverstone on Wednesday evening and camp for the weekend to watch everything before it got so ridiculously expensive.

    One day testing only, does seem very miserly on the part of the FIA

    Stephen Kellett Reply:

    @DanielH

    But it’s the experience that counts. Saturday and Sunday were too expensive for me, but Friday was perfect.

    What does that tell you about the prices for Sat & Sun? That is the real problem (and of course that goes all the way back to Bernie and CVC).

    Don’t take my reply to Werewolf as “I’m not allowing it”. My point is, if there is a genuine commercial opportunity someone would be exploiting that opportunity (unless that is being prevented by some rule or by some person). The fact that such an opportunity is not be exploited means:

    a) There is no real opportunity. Your sample size of 2 (you and Werewolf) is not statistically significant. Many people say they will pay for things but then when push comes to shove they won’t.

    OR

    b) There is an opportunity. So why don’t you try to make it happen? If you succeed no doubt you’ll be wealthy and connected with lots of people in F1, which I imagine you’d like quite a bit. If you do, good luck for you, you are more of an F1 nerd than me (thats a compliment by the way).

    Note that even if it is being blocked by a rule or a person, and (b) is the case then you should still stand up and be counted and work with the rule makers or the person that is blocking it to unblock it and make it happen.

    I stand by my comments about broadcasters being willing to be involved. It would be an expensive exercise for them even if they were given the rights for free.

    [Reply]


  5.   5. Posted By: David Hewitt
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 7:50 pm 

    Wow, FIA makes a sensible rule change. Whatever next? ;-)

    [Reply]


  6.   6. Posted By: Curro
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:00 pm 

    This is a very sensible decision. It’s unfair on new drivers to jump into the thick of the action with no F1 driving experience whatsoever, and it’s also an unnecessary risk for the other competitors. The current testing restrictions are really annoying, it’s good to have a new rule against the general trend.

    [Reply]


  7.   7. Posted By: Mac
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:12 pm 

    Off topic, but Ferrari getting ready for Massa to take a year off so Schumi can get a seat for a year?

    http://www.pitpass.com/fes_php/pitpass_news_item.php?fes_art_id=39689

    [Reply]

    JT Reply:

    I’m just wondering where did you get this assumption from that story?

    [Reply]

    Vannman Reply:

    Please mac, you must be posting that for a laugh

    [Reply]

    Mac Reply:

    Slightly tongue in cheek but also knowing Ferrari’s Machiavellian tendencies I reckon they’d do anything to keep Schumi from going to Merc ;-)

    Schumi gave up his seat for Massa. Time for Massa to return the favour?

    [Reply]


  8.   8. Posted By: Olivier
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:20 pm 

    Great! Does it mean Michael Schumacher is allowed to test drive a Brawn? He has been out of F1 for three seasons.

    Much kudos to Kobayashi however. He really deserves a drive at Renault.

    [Reply]

    lip_iceman Reply:

    “…track testing will be permitted between the start of the week preceding second Event and the last Event of the Championship.”

    No. The first race hasn’t happened, and Mercedes is not replacing a driver.

    On the other hand, if this rule was in place at the time of Hungary 2009, he would have been able to test an F60.

    [Reply]


  9.   9. Posted By: Nick F
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:25 pm 

    Yes. Good rule change. James, don’t there need to be a few more conditions on the rule to prevent abuse though?

    …suppose next year Mclaren is locked in a close battle with Ferrari for the championship with 3 races to go. The aero guys come up with a radical new design for the floor of the car which they think is worth 0.3 secs per lap. it would be a bit risky to chuck it on the car at the race to see if it works so why wouldn’t you nominate Lewis Hamilton to be replaced by Gary Paffett and go test the new car out? the only penalty is 1 day of testing at the beginning of next season. for the money and glory of a championship surely that is a great trade off and worth a bit of rule bending.

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Well there is a “spirit of the rules” dimension, of course, wait and see what happens

    [Reply]

    Brace Reply:

    Hahaha “spirit of the rules”!!! :)
    You mean like double diffuser “spirit of the rules”. :)

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Exactamundo

    Lilia Reply:

    Putting Mclaren getting away with something like that of all teams is quite funny.

    [Reply]


  10.   10. Posted By: Chris Crawford
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:28 pm 

    I still think they should introduce Monday testing after the GP weekend.

    But surely they could have monthly test events which could be funded by ticket sales. How good it would be to see Alonso and others in their new car rather than a 4 month wait.

    [Reply]


  11.   11. Posted By: smellyden
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:41 pm 

    And what happens if the day gets called off because of bad weather, will the team be allowed to use another day, or will the team lose out on the testing time?

    [Reply]

    Alianora La Canta Reply:

    All tests have to be conducted with an ECU on board, so it would be easy for a team to prove it did no running on a given day and therefore ask to try again later – provided the 28-day (14 days before/14 days after) window hasn’t passed.

    [Reply]

    Alianora La Canta Reply:

    If the test got cancelled after 10 minutes due to adverse weather… …I’m guessing the response would be “Tough luck”.

    [Reply]


  12.   12. Posted By: Rudy Pyatt
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 8:53 pm 

    Common sense? What will happen next? Lower ticket prices? Forget I said that.

    Seriously, this is good news. Giving them a day at least gives a chance for these guys to get used to the car and its systems.

    [Reply]


  13.   13. Posted By: Monktonnik
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 9:02 pm 

    That is probably the most sensible suggestions I have ever heard. Actually it might be away to help tracks like Donnington or Paul Ricard keep there hand in.

    [Reply]


  14.   14. Posted By: Crid [CridComment @ gmail]
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 9:07 pm 

    This isn’t all that generous. *ONE* day of testing? To build reflexes to go up against Ham and Alonso and Vettel? I think this cost control thing is maybe getting out of hand.

    And yet… You’d have to have a heart of stone to not have been amused by Roman’s shunt at turn 17….

    [Reply]


  15.   15. Posted By: Stu
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 9:55 pm 

    Glad the FIA have seen sense on this one, but I do agree that one day isn’t enough.

    [Reply]


  16.   16. Posted By: Chaz
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 9:59 pm 

    This seems like a good idea but I’m scratching my head to think of a way the teams will try to find a way to slide around this i.e. would it be beneficial or worth it for perhaps lower teams to change drivers more frequently to get additional testing days…

    [Reply]

    Alianora La Canta Reply:

    A team can only have four drivers per year except through force majuere. So unless the drivers were going to deliberately injure themselves or get arrested or something (extremely unlikely), such a clause could only be invoked twice in a season. Also, the disruption would be considerable. Nonetheless…

    [Reply]


  17.   17. Posted By: feynman
        Date: December 16th, 2009 @ 10:19 pm 

    They could probably do with rejigging the details of that, no?

    Struggling mid-season, you badly need a test, arrange to pound round Jerez with some known-quantity GP2 peddler, then don’t make the switch … all it cost you was one day of testing in the new year, who cares, you’ve benchmarked a whole garage full of front and rear wings, and have got some interesting tyre numbers and a good headstart for the guys busy building the new car, i’d take that trade.

    Surely it should cost you a day no matter what, and if you then don’t race the stand-in, it costs you some more days on top, just to nip that particular temptation in the bud.

    [Reply]

    Alianora La Canta Reply:

    I’m guessing they didn’t do that in case the end of the season is near and the team doesn’t have a “banker” day…

    [Reply]


  18.   18. Posted By: Werewolf
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 12:15 am 

    The good start of the new regime continues. Let’s hope the new F1 Commissioner has the same common sense approach.

    [Reply]


  19.   19. Posted By: Peter
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 1:05 am 

    Good news. Disgraceful disadvantage for young drivers. I actually think Alguersaurihas talent and he’s shown flashes of it, but Grosjean on the other hand – no. Worse than Piquet. I can’t see a future for him in F1.

    Any news on Schumacher though?! I’m dying to know some!!

    [Reply]


  20.   20. Posted By: Paul Mc
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 9:39 am 

    One day may seem quite short but you could complete race distances in that short time. Its better then having no time in the car at all. Getting familar with the cockpit environment and the feel of the car for 60 odd laps, even though its for one day, is a huge plus for young drivers. Its all about confidence

    [Reply]


  21.   21. Posted By: Krzysztof
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 10:24 am 

    What everyone seems forgetting is this supposed abuse of the rule, testing of the radicl floor design etc would be accomplished by a rookie driver having no experience with the car whatsoever and hence unable to extract the optimum, nevermnind maximum performance…

    [Reply]

    Frankie Allen Reply:

    I think what you are forgetting is that without a reference point it is meaningless. You will have no way of telling what influence the driver has over any change unless the results are exceptional. I really doubt they will allow changes to the car throughout the day apart from set up. Look at Badoer for example, he could have had an extra 100hp and it would have been difficult to spot.

    [Reply]

    Krzysztof Reply:

    Isn’t that what I was trying to say?:)

    [Reply]


  22.   22. Posted By: Hairs
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 11:18 am 

    While this is a nice gesture for teams stuck in a bind, the fact remains that the Alguersari/Grosjean situation didn’t arise out of bad FIA rules, but of incompetent team management.

    Both Renault and Torro Rosso knew before the season started that there was a good chance one of their drivers would get the boot mid-way through the season, but neither of them actually bothered to make sure a replacement was ready to go. Ferrari had 3 “reserve” drivers signed up, but none of them was either competent or fit enough to fill in when Massa had his accident. Red Bull, equally, were using David Coulthard as a stand-in 3rd driver for the first few races of the season while they decided which of their rookies would get the job – first Brendon Hartley, then someone else. I’m not sure that that sort of managerial incompetence from a Team Principal shouldn’t be punished.

    [Reply]

    melonfarmer Reply:

    Is it no coincidence that neither of the drivers mentioned have firm deals for next year? Talk about a career ruiner. Grosjean in particular would be a Mike Thackwell-esque waste of talent.

    [Reply]


  23.   23. Posted By: Spyros
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 11:41 am 

    Having only one day may not seem much, but I guess it’s A LOT better than nothing.

    Something else bothers me though:

    “Any such day [...] may not take place on a circuit hosting a race in the current Championship year.”

    Great, so a team like Ferrari can do the test virtually in-house, but any team based in the UK finding itself in this position goes… where? Not Silverstone, it’s in the 2010 calendar! I know there are many race tracks in the UK, but I can’t recall when any of them were last used for F1 testing.

    Now, I’m sure Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull or Renault wouldn’t think much about packing 3-4 lorries and drive through Europe for an unscheduled test, but I’m not sure the new F1 teams would see it this way.

    Thoughts?

    [Reply]

    john g Reply:

    if you’re packing up the trucks, it makes little difference if they go to silverstone or valencia – apart from the better weather in spain :)

    [Reply]


  24.   24. Posted By: Andrew Scadden
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 11:48 am 

    Excellent news – I found it staggering that the ‘new’ drivers last year couldnt do testing – for safteys sake- before jumping in the cars on a Friday.

    Good start for Mr Todt thumbs up :)

    [Reply]


  25.   25. Posted By: Richard
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 12:56 pm 

    This does seem a sensible decision. I’m not convinced that the testing ban is a real cost saver. However, with more races on the calendar there is little time available for testing. I can’t see why we don’t have 3rd cars in Friday practice with reserve drivers getting a go; reinstating that would avoid the need for the new rookie test rule. That said, if all 13 teams fielded a 3rd car Friday would be bit crowded!

    [Reply]


  26.   26. Posted By: Frankie Allen
        Date: December 17th, 2009 @ 1:37 pm 

    “The FIA has made another quiet but sensible decision”

    What a difference and I cannot underline these sentiments enough. Was wary Of Todt because of his history, but cannot praise him enough for his approach. As with Obama, still not completely sure it’s exceptional on a stand alone basis or just by comparison with their predecessors?

    [Reply]


  27.   27. Posted By: The Limit
        Date: December 18th, 2009 @ 5:14 pm 

    I think the FIA have realised that their policy towards young drivers and the ban on testing is not only unfair to the drivers, but dangerous aswell.
    How must the experienced drivers feel, coming up to lap someone who they know has only tested the car via a simulator and not in person. I can understand the huge desire the FIA and the teams have for slashing running costs, but there is only so far you can go before the sport becomes unsafe for those involved.

    [Reply]


  28.   28. Posted By: Andy
        Date: December 18th, 2009 @ 10:39 pm 

    James,
    I appreciate the cost cutting drive to prevent the ferraris et al testing their way to victory, but don’t we need more testing in f1.

    Completely banning testing has just gone to the other extreme.

    What do you feel would be a good solution on no of days testing. Surely 1 day per month on non race weeks?

    [Reply]


  29.   29. Posted By: Andy
        Date: December 18th, 2009 @ 10:42 pm 

    Frankie, absolutely right. Let’s hope this is a new dawn for the fia.

    [Reply]


  30.   30. Posted By: Andy
        Date: December 18th, 2009 @ 10:45 pm 

    Richard, good thought although the logistics cost of three chassis at each gp would be back to the old days.

    Testing in Europe or closest country would be cheaper.

    [Reply]

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