Motor racing-F1 considering mandatory Friday practice for young drivers

Formula One F1 - Italian Grand Prix - Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza, Italy - September 9, 2021 Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez with bicycles on the circuit ahead of the Italian Grand Prix REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

(Reuters) - Formula One teams could be obliged to run young drivers in Friday practice sessions from next season to provide an opportunity for fresh talent to gain track time and shine.

The sport's chief executive Stefano Domenicali told Italian media ahead of their home grand prix at Monza that the matter was under discussion.

"The topic of young drivers is very important and interests us, and that is why, at a time when tests are so regulated, there are some ideas that we will discuss in the next meetings with the teams," quoted the Italian as saying.

"In particular, we want to make the presence of young drivers mandatory in free practice."

Teams can currently run qualified young drivers with the required licence in first Friday practice during a normal weekend.

The Italian Grand Prix this weekend runs to a different format, with only one practice on Friday before sprint qualifying.

There is then a second practice on Saturday before a sprint race to determine Sunday's starting grid.

Domenicali suggested handing over first practice to young drivers on traditional weekends would have the added benefit of making races less predictable by giving regular race drivers less track time.

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner, who has two rookie drivers in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, said he would not be opposed.

"If you think about it, there is very little opportunity for a non-F1 driver to show what he can do or even sit in an F1 car because the tests are limited," he told reporters at Monza. "Maybe this is something we should entertain.

"I think we have to agree, all of the teams, (the sport's governing) FIA and FOM (Formula One Management) together, if this is the right way forward. But in general, I wouldn’t be opposed... if it comes, it comes."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)

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