Practice sessions are a key part of the F1 race weekend schedule. We look at why practice sessions exist in Formula One and why drivers and teams find them so useful.
What Are F1 Practice Sessions?
F1 practice sessions are a key part of the F1 race weekend as they allow teams and drivers track time to learn the track and test the setup of the car before they compete in qualifying to determine the strart order for the race.
With ever changing track conditions, upgrades to cars, challenging night races and street races, practice sessions are the perfect time to get used to the track and the car and get into the right groove before the real racing gets underway.
How Many Practice Sessions Are There?
There are three practice sessions before each Grand Prix. These are called FP1, FP2 & FP3.
FP1 & FP2 are 90 minutes long, whilst FP3 is 60 minutes long.
Quick Explainer: The ‘FP’ in FP1, FP2 & FP3 stand for ‘Free Practice’.
When Do F1 Practice Sessions Take Place?
On ‘normal’ race weekends, FP1 & FP2 take place on the Friday and then one session takes place on Saturday morning before qualifying.
Tradionally, the first two practice sessions in Monaco took place on Thursday, but this was changed for the 2022 season to help the teams with logistics as The Spanish Grand Prix took place just a week before Monaco.
Practice Sessions During Sprint Weekends
During sprint race weekends, there’s one 60 minute practice session before the qualifying on Friday, and then one 60 minute practice session before the sprint race.
The limited time to practice before qualifying further increases the challenge to drivers and teams alike during sprint race weekends, which can lead to teams gambling on setups and strategy for qualifying and the sprint race itself.
Do Practice Sessions Matter?
The short answer is no. Any lap times you put in or the order in which you finish don’t matter. Having said that, in order to be able to take part in the race, a driver needs to have particiapted in at least one practice session across the weekend.
Rookie Driver Practice Rule
For the 2022 season, Formula One introduced a rule that meant teams have to field a rookie driver (a driver who has not competeted in more than two championship races in their career) at least twice during the season (one for each car).
The rule was introduced to allow younger drivers an oppourtunity to get behind the wheel of a Formula One car. Not only does this help young drivers gain experience, it also helps them get points on their FIA SuperLicense, which they may need to qualify for an F1 seat.