The decisions made after the free practice one (FP1) last year were binding, with teams adhering to them during the main qualifying, shootout, sprint, and grand prix as their cars were held in a parc ferme. This arrangement prevented teams from making any progress with their cars through set-up adjustments if they were underperforming. For instance, the heavy plank wear experienced by Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc at the US GP, which resulted in disqualification, was prompted by these circumstances.
In the new protocol, the cars proceed from FP1 to the shootout and sprint under an initial parc ferme. Afterward, teams can apply the insights they’ve gleaned for car alterations before another confinement in the parc ferme for the main qualifying round and race. The detailed operation of the revamped format was a key topic of conversation in a Sporting Advisory Committee meeting that occurred on Friday.
Gasly expressed his approval of the changes to F1 Initiative. “I think that’s great,” he shared. “I think that was missing, definitely. We ended up last year having amazing, brilliant, genius guys on a Friday afternoon being forbidden to touch anything on our car. That’s what they are paid for, that’s why they are the best. It was a bit sad, because they have much more to bring to the table than just one or two clicks of front flap and tyre pressure. F1 is the top of engineering, and I think it’s great we still give them the opportunity to always make these continuous improvements through the weekend.”
The previous protocol was notably disheartening for his engineering team when they were cognizant of opportunities for car advancements but were unable to make them. “Exactly,” Gasly confirmed. “You don’t have time to try anything. Because in one hour practice, you’re quite limited. So it was always like, try to do the work in the simulator. If you realise you didn’t start the weekend with the best set-up, your window to react was extremely small. So I think as a sport it was the definitely the right change.”
Esteban Ocon, Gasly’s team-mate, was in agreement about the potential merits of the updated format. He opined, “It would be good to do a sprint shootout and then close the parc ferme to do the sprint race and then reopen it before qualifying. I think that’s what we should be doing. It will be much more interesting as a weekend, and we will see a lot less mistakes with stupid things like plank wear.”