Motor racing-Alonso leads call for more pre-season F1 testing

Formula One F1 - Pre-Season Testing - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 22, 2024 Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso during the press conference REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

(Reuters) - Fernando Alonso said it was ridiculous for Formula One to allow only a day and a half of pre-season testing per driver when teams spent fortunes on such sophisticated cars.

Even that limited amount was reduced for some drivers when Thursday morning's testing in Bahrain -- with the 10 teams each running a single car -- ended early due to a loose drain cover.

The afternoon session was extended by an hour, but those who handed over to team mates lost out.

"It is difficult to understand how we can have one day and a half each driver, which is going to be one day and a quarter now after this morning, to prepare our championship," said Aston Martin's Alonso.

"It's like in football or tennis you change the racket, the balls and everything before a tournament or a season and you let the players test all the equipment one day before a Grand Slam.

"We are talking about the most sophisticated sport and 200 million budget per team a year and things like that. It seems all ridiculous."

Pre-season testing was reduced from six to three days last year and there will be no official in-season tests in 2024 with the season expanded to a record 24 races.

Teams are also allowed to carry out 200km filming days and private tests in 2022 cars as well as helping tyre supplier Pirelli.

Mercedes driver George Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), agreed with double world champion Alonso, the sport's most experienced driver.

"I think if it's a silky smooth test then that one and a half days is just the absolute minimum. But you look at what happened this morning and the drivers who lost out, it is a big disadvantage," said the Briton.

"Every single lap you get is hugely valuable, the cars are more complex than ever, the tyres are extremely challenging... I'd like to see an extra day of testing or a second car. One and a half each is too little."

Williams driver Alex Albon, who could join Russell at Mercedes next season as replacement for departing seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton, said he would like three more.

The season starts in Bahrain next week, with practice on Thursday, and Alonso said teams should be allowed to run both cars in testing.

"All the mechanics are here ready for next week...I think we all have two cars more or less ready in time," he said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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