Formula 1 needs more Formula 2 drivers participating in grand prix practice sessions, according to Ross Brawn, Liberty Media’s managing director of motorsport.
Making sure that young drivers get plenty of running in Friday practice is an essential part of preparing them for the step up into F1 and ensuring that there are plenty of strong candidates for any vacant seats.
Prior to 2006, teams could give their future stars track time during practice sessions in a third car, but now it is necessary to make the commitment of sitting one of the regular drivers out for the session.
“Putting someone into F1 who hasn’t got the experience is a risk,” Brawn told Autosport. “You have to prepare them as well as possible, maybe doing the Friday morning practice.
“Those sorts of initiatives are important before they get exposed. If they have a problem [and] they get into F1 the wrong way, then their careers could be damaged.
“We’ve started looking at more positive initiatives to get the young guys to have an opportunity to drive – that sort of thing [is] what’s being discussed at the moment.”
So far in 2017, two teams have used reserve drivers in FP1, with Renault running Sergey Sirotkin in Russia and Austria, and Force India giving two opportunities to Alfonso Celis.
F2 championship leader Charles Leclerc will also have four outings for Sauber in Malaysia, the USA, Mexico and Brazil.
Brawn also emphasised the importance of the single-seater ladder, and the benefits of strong feeder formulas, not just for the progression of young drivers but for motorsport as a whole.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a young guy coming in, he was a star in F3, a star in F2 and then he does a [Max] Verstappen-like entry into F1,” he added.
“That’s what we want to see. By having those races at an F1 grand prix, the fans can start to engage with them.
“It has so many benefits – commercially and from a sporting perspective – that we’ve got to make it work.”