Formula One officials have released the schedule for the 2021 World Championship this Friday which includes a shortening of the free training sessions. The change is aimed at increasing the activity on the track during each of the practices.
The FIA and Liberty Media have thus announced that in the upcoming season, Friday practice sessions 1 and 2, will be shortened by 30 minutes, lasting one hour each instead of their usual hour and a half.
Saturday’s session, on the other hand, which takes place before the official classification round, will remain unchanged, keeping its original length of 60 minutes.
The three free practices this season, which is due to start on March 26 with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir Circuit, will therefore have the same duration.
Getting the cars out on the track
The idea behind the shortening of FP1 and FP2 is to eliminate ‘idle times’ on the track. Teams are usually not in a hurry during these practice sessions and have plenty of time to fine-tune their cars.
Put it another way, the excess time they enjoy during these sessions, in which they are just doing the final technical check-ups to their vehicles, usually means that -at certain times- vehicles are just left in the garages.
Some experts and fans have been quick to react to the news and, although there are contrasting views on the matter, a sizable part of the public opinion is opposed to the decision. Opposers argue that viewers are being ‘robbed’ of the extra time, in which they like to follow the evolution of the cars in action.
The intention of Formula 1 organisers, however, is to squeeze the sessions in such a way that teams have to bring their cars out on the track during the entirety of their duration. At least that’s the theory. A different matter will be to see if this measure really does have the desired impact.
As for the training times, Friday’s Free Practice 1 will start at 11:30 am and Free Practice 2 will do so at 3:00 pm European Central Time, one-hour earlier GMT. Saturday’s session will start at 12:00 pm, three hours before qualifying.
Races will again start on the hour
The other big change announced by F1 organisers is that races will again start on the hour rather than ten minutes past the hour as it had been since 2018.
This controversial measure was implemented with the intention of keeping viewers that extra time in front of the screen, a precious ten minutes which could be used for some very valuable advertising.
This change of mind of Formula 1 owners, Liberty Media, probably stems from the commercial advantages not being worth their while. The red traffic lights will thus go off again on the hour as it had been since the inception of the discipline.
15.00 pm European time
The FIA has also established that in 2021 The European races of the World Championship will be starting at 15:00 pm (one-hour earlier GMT), ignoring the request that they are brought forward to 14:00 pm, as it used to be the case three seasons ago.
Changing the start of the GPs and shortening the Free Practices have been the only concessions that the FIA has made out of all of the schedule proposals on the table.
Friday Practices shortened: F1.com.