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Domenicali F1 Free Practice

Is Domenicali going to scrap F1 free practice sessions?

Stefano Domenicali, F1 CEO since 2021, has already overseen the introduction of sprint races. Now he's taking aim at teams' ability to prepare during the F1 weekend

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F1 boss Stefano Domenicali has caused a stir over the weekend by suggesting he’s looking to get rid of free practice. But what did he actually say?

Domenicali F1 Free Practice
Lando Norris of McLaren during Free Practice 3, ahead of the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Image Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images) 

Speaking on Portuguese channel Sport TV after the season-opening MotoGP race in Portimao, Domenicali said:

“I am a supporter of the cancellation of free practice sessions, which are of great use to the engineers, but that the public doesn’t like.”

This isn’t the first time the Italian has taken aim at the first three sessions of a conventional F1 weekend. Just last year he proposed awarding points during practice, as the unrestricted running doesn’t have a “purpose” or contribute enough entertainment value.

Domenicali has already proved willing to challenge convention and take the sport in new, unproven directions. His tenure as CEO saw the introduction of sprint races in 2021 – the biggest change in weekend format and general approach to racing and points allocation F1 has seen in its history.

Is this change about to happen?

The short answer is no, and the long answer will get you to roughly the same place. Domenicali may be in favour of eradicating practice in F1, but even as CEO, he can’t act unilaterally on the matter.

Even if he can lobby the support of F1’s 10 existing teams, he’d still need to get the FIA’s blessing. So, there is no quick, easy or straightforward route to making his vision a reality.

When Domenicali introduced the idea of sprint races, they received universal backing from the teams for three events across the 2021 season. However, when it came to extending that number to six for 2023, unanimous support from the 10 wasn’t enough to see the change implemented, as the FIA blocked the proposal.

What reaction has this provoked?

Saying Domenicali’s comments have caught ire online would perhaps be a bit strong, but they have prompted a reaction from fans and journalists covering the sport alike. Some even took the opportunity to provide a more light-hearted take.

Whilst the F1 supremo certainly has more information and resources to support his comments, the initial reaction cuts against his view that fans do not like free practice.

However, that could be a result of a number of factors, such as traditional supporters of F1 being more outspoken, or the fact that only diehard fans tend to watch those sessions anyway.

After all, with two of the three hours of practice scheduled for Fridays, they tend to be the most difficult for people to view.

Ultimately, whilst Domenicali’s comments are certainly punchy, the path to making this happen is a long one.

Featured Image Credit: Eric Alonso via Getty Images

  1. Awarding points for practice sessions would automatically turn them from non-competitive to competitive sessions, meaning they’d stop being practice sessions.
    I wouldn’t mind, for example, having only a single FP session for each event, be that 60 or 90 minutes.

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