In the build up to the Hungarian Grand Prix last weekend, much of the talk in the paddock and on the Internet was the debut of the sport’s youngest ever competitor. But it wasn’t so much that Jaime Alguersuari is very young, it was more to do with the fact that prior to the Friday practice session, Alguersuari had only driven a Formula One car in a straight line. Obviously, his fellow competitors were somewhat nervous about the fundamental lack of testing undertaken by the driver.
The lack of experience in a Formula One car wasn’t the fault of Jaime himself though. It was the fact that Scuderia Toro Rosso wanted the Spaniard in the car, and the fact that in-season testing has been banned for this year. Many current drivers voiced their concern over this, and Felipe Massa called the FIA to task, suggesting that they should allow rookies to test a car should they be called upon to substitute another driver. Likewise, McLaren’s experienced test driver and former racer Pedro De La Rosa believes that it would be very demanding even for himself to suddenly step up to the plate and race should the need arise.
And so we now come to the present day, where one of the sport’s most experienced drivers has been called upon to substitute the recovering Felipe Massa. Michael Schumacher has nigh-on sixteen years experience of racing a wide variety of Formula One cars, but the recent rule changes have made the 2009 cars very different to the last he raced in 2006, and the last he tested in 2008.
Ferrari have written to the FIA and their fellow competitors and asked for permission to allow Schumacher to test for one day in a F60. While this makes sense and is by-and-large completely understandable, it does put both the FIA and the other teams in a bit of a bind.
If the FIA agree, they have set a precedent. On top of that, Michael Schumacher is no Jaime Alguersuari. Schumacher is experienced, and wil undoubtedly give feedback on the car straight away. This takes it from a simple familiarisation exercise to a proper test. On top of that, will Ferrari’s rivals want this? The other drivers will not have the same fear of Schumacher driving as they did Alguersuari (who by the way, actually drove quite well in his debut). There is no fear of Schumacher throwing his car into another due to inexperience. In fact, the other 19 drivers are probably more fearful of the seven-time champion doing just that on purpose!
It will be interesting to see how the other nine squad’s respond to this. I would imagine the FIA might say something along the lines of it being acceptable as long as there is unanimous agreement among the other teams, but getting that agreement may prove harder than they think.
Do you think Schumacher should be given a day’s testing in a 2009 F60, or do you think he should just get on with it, much like how Jaime Alguersuari did?