F1 boss Stefano Domenicali caused a stir over the weekend by proposing to scrap free practice. But what did he actually say?
Speaking to Portuguese broadcaster Sport TV, Domenicali said after the MotoGP season-opening race in Portimao:
“I’m a proponent of canceling free training, which benefits engineers greatly but doesn’t please the public.”
This isn’t the first time the Italian has targeted the opening three sessions of a conventional F1 weekend. As recently as last year, he suggested giving points in training because unrestricted running had no “purpose” and insufficient entertainment value.
— FormulaNerds 🤓🏁 (@Formula_Nerds) March 26, 2023
Domenicali has already proven he’s ready to challenge convention and take the sport in new, unproven directions. His tenure as CEO saw the introduction of sprint racing in 2021 – the biggest change to the weekend format and overall approach to racing and scoring that F1 has seen in its history.
Is this change imminent?
The short answer is no, and the long answer gets you pretty much to the same point. Domenicali may support the abolition of the practice in Formula 1, but even as CEO he cannot act unilaterally on the matter.
Even if he could seek the support of the 10 existing F1 teams, he would still need the FIA’s blessing. So there is no quick, easy or straightforward way to make your vision a reality.
When Domenicali pitched the idea of sprint racing, they received general support from teams for three events in the 2021 season. However, when it came to increasing that number to six for 2023, unanimous support from the 10 was not enough to make the change happen, with the FIA blocking the proposal.
What reaction did that trigger?
To say that Domenicali’s comments angered online might be a bit strong, but they’ve sparked a reaction from fans and journalists covering the sport alike. Some even took the opportunity to offer a more light-hearted attitude.
and is that “public” in our room? https://t.co/jPIPpkxVvS
— Morgan Holidays (@morganholidays) March 26, 2023
While the F1 supremo certainly has more information and resources to back up his comments, the initial reaction belies his view that fans don’t like free practice.
However, this could be due to a number of factors such as: For example, the fact that traditional F1 fans are more open, or the fact that only die-hard fans watch these sessions anyway.
After all, with two of the three practice sessions scheduled for Friday, they’re the hardest for people to see.
Ultimately, Domenicali’s comments are certainly powerful, but the road to achieving this is long.
Selected image source: Eric Alonso via Getty Images