Shorter practice sessions 'make quite a big difference'


One of the big changes brought in for the first race of the 2021 season in Bahrain was the reduction in practice time on Fridays, with the two 90 minute sessions cut to just one hour apiece.

It resulted in an immediate change for teams and drivers who could no longer idle in the garage but instead had to quickly get down to work the minute that the lights at the end of pit lane went green.

“All the teams have had to make changes," Mercedes technical director James Allison told the media afterwards. "Going from an hour and a half to an hour for those sessions makes quite a big difference.

“Last year, we had the luxury at the start of sessions to wait for a few minutes, maybe ten minutes sometimes," he said.

He explained that the reason for this relaxed start was "to let other teams clean the track and get the track in a state where we can then start to work on our programme," but said that option is no longer available to the teams.

“That luxury is gone with this change," he conceded. "You need to start when the session starts and then you need to keep the runs coming.

"That lack of half an hour means you really do need to keep your car out on the track as much as possible," Allison continued. "The time in between runs gets quite compressed.

"We reckon we had something like six or seven minutes for doing the changes in between runs, which puts quite a large limitation on the sort of things you can contemplate doing in the session.

“There is not really any time for freestyling or changing direction in the session itself," he added. “You have to have a pre-programme plan, you have to stick to it and you have to execute it cleanly.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-21. 26.03.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix

“It’s quite high pressure," he admitted. "But it’s also quite exciting, and I think probably a better product for the fans because the action on the track is always there.”

Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies also had a few observations to make about the new Friday format.

"During FP1 you cannot try the long runs anymore,” he told Sky Sports Italy. “Nobody did that [in Baharin.

"Maybe in the future we’ll find the way to do that again, but for the moment this kind of work will disappear so we lose this data.

“During the second free practice session then, you cannot afford to do a long run with two different compounds with each driver anymore," he continued

"We’ll have to choose before the start of the second session: who will try the soft compound, who will try the medium compound. Otherwise we won’t have the data about how the different compounds work."

He added that this meant drivers wuld be reliant on their team mates sharing the load on practice, rater than doing it it all for themselves. “This situation requires even more teamwork," Mekies stated.

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