Formula 1’s post-season young driver test has become a controversy after the FIA ruled out any further exemptions on who could be involved. Here’s who can and can’t take part.
Renault’s success in persuading the FIA to allow veteran Fernando Alonso to run ahead of his grand prix return in 2021 prompted rival teams to request if they too could get approval for new drivers to run.
While the test had originally been intended only for those who had not taken part in more than two grands prix, the FIA accepted that allowance should be made for anyone who had not raced in 2020.
While that was good news for Renault, the move angered a number of its rivals who felt that Alonso would be getting an unfair advantage over drivers like Carlos Sainz Jr, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel who were moving to new teams next season.
Ferrari and Racing Point in particular were eager to push to get their new drivers an early run but, as revealed by Autosport, F1’s race director Michael Masi informed all the teams on Tuesday that only those who had not raced in 2020 would be eligible.
That decision has not gone down well with everyone, and has left F1 in a far from ideal situation where a number of vastly experienced or older drivers can now take part in a test that was specially arranged to help young talent.
Here is a rundown of some of the surprises in terms of drivers who can and cannot take part in the test.
Drivers who can take part in the F1 Abu Dhabi test
39 years old
311 race starts
Alonso is returning to F1 with Renault next season, with the team set to be rebranded as Alpine from 2021. And although the two-time world champion is well in excess of the original two-race limit to test, the fact he has not competed in 2020 means he is eligible.
36 years old
97 race starts
As Alfa Romeo test and reserve driver, Kubica has appeared in four free practice sessions for the team this season. However, having not raced in F1 since he left Williams at the end of 2019, he can join the test.
32 years old
55 race starts
While Buemi has not raced in F1 since 2011, he has maintained close ties with Red Bull as a simulator and development driver. Having not raced in F1 last season, he gets a green light to test because of the 2020 exemption.
25 years old
1 race start
Aitken was always down to do the young driver test for Williams, as part of his ongoing role with the team. And although he has now competed in F1 this season, after standing in for George Russell at the Sakhir GP, he will not have raced in more than two events this year so is all clear to run.
28 years old
41 race starts
Although he is not believed to be in line for a run, Mercedes reserve driver Vandoorne could be drafted in by the German manufacturer because he has not been called on to race this season. Had he filled in for George Russell at the Sakhir GP, he would have been instantly ruled out.
Drivers who cannot take part in the F1 Abu Dhabi test
Carlos Sainz Jr
26 years old
117 race starts
While Sainz has competed in only a fraction of the events that compatriot Fernando Alonso has done, the fact he has raced in F1 this year for McLaren means he falls foul of the FIA criteria. Ferrari must now wait to run him in one of its cars.
33 years old
256 race starts
Racing Point would have liked to have given Vettel a run in its car in Abu Dhabi, prior to his arrival at the Silverstone-based team for 2021. However, he cannot do so because he raced this season.
31 years old
197 race starts
Ricciardo’s switch to McLaren meant a post-season test would have been ideal for an early run. However, amid the original plans for the run to be strictly for young drivers only, his new team abandoned plans to run several weeks ago so the idea was never considered.
22 years old
37 race starts
The post-season test has often provided the opportunity for big teams to try out younger talent – Russell being an obvious target for Mercedes if they were unrestricted. However, despite being just 22, the fact he has raced this season means he cannot run at all.
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