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Formula 1

Why one of F1's simplest rule changes has had a massive impact

There has been much discussion of rule changes during the 2021 F1 season, from high-rake and low-rake to flexi-wings. But it seems that a much smaller change may have caused just as much of an impact.

Leclerc Frankrijk
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To news overview © Ferrari

It might be one of F1's smaller rule changes recently, but the decision to cut practice sessions from 90 minutes to 60 has had a huge impact on racing, according to pundit Tom Clarkson.

With less time allowed for practice on Friday and Saturday morning, drivers are unable to do such long runs and so there is less certainty about tyre management when it comes to the race. Clarkson says that the struggles of Ferrari at the French Grand Prix are evidence of this being an issue.

"Of all the rule changes that have been made in recent years, shrinking the two practice sessions on a Friday from 90 minutes to 60 minutes has had a huge impact," Clarkson told the F1 Nation podcast.

"Because now the longest run that any driver will do is maybe eight laps, 10 laps perhaps. So they go into the race not knowing what's going to happen to the tyres during a race stint, and as a result we're getting all these question marks thrown up the whole time.

"After Friday [at the French Grand Prix], Ferrari didn't think they had any problems. They were confident, but it was only when it went longer in the race that suddenly it all reared its head.

"Yes there were cooler temperatures and there was overnight rain on Saturday night so there was less rubber on the track, but equally there was no rubber on the track on Friday and they didn't see any problems.

"It's the simplest of rule changes on paper [that] has had a massive impact, and bring it on."

Clarkson - who conducts the driver press conference interviews at Grand Prix weekends - believes that McLaren have a car that is not as hard on the tyres, putting them at an advantage. The team had a solid weekend at Paul Ricard, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finishing in fifth and sixth respectively.

"McLaren I think have a benign car, which is very easy on its tyres, and they're making hay," Clarkson said. "Is it almost too easy to drive? Is that what Daniel Ricciardo has been struggling [with], to find an edge? Because the car is just very straightforward?

"I don't know. But it was great to see Daniel back on form."

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