There have been many complaints from teams and drivers during the past few seasons regarding the lack of testing in Formula 1 – not just in consideration of whether or not the regulation truly reduces a team’s costs significantly when compared to the intense research and development that goes on in the sport, but also with regards to how young driver prepare for the highest level of motorsport.
One of the unintended consequences of the testing ban is a situation whereby young drivers are simply not getting the necessary miles in order to acclimatise to top level machinery and it is starting to catch them out. Indeed Romain Grosjean and Jaime Alguersuari are very recent examples of this rule going wrong – although Alguersuari has been resigned to the Toro Rosso team for the 2010; however his performances need to drastically improve if he is to keep his seat. Grosjean on the other hand may have seen his career grind to a permanent halt after just seven races as he struggled to make the transition from GP2 to Formula 1 during the middle of last season.
It is a catch-22 of sorts for the teams – they are looking for the new young driver that may reinvigorate a squad and deliver results; however with team bosses unwilling to risk untried youth, the average driver age in Formula 1 is rising as some pilots (not mentioning names) end up staying long past their sell by date.
In light of this, a very interesting little story cropped up on Thursday night. Anthony Hamilton – father and manager of 2008 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton – is putting plans in place to set up his own independent F1 Testing Academy. This new venture – called the GP Prep Drivers Academy – will lease out 2009-spec Formula 1 cars with crew and equipment; although costs are still being determined at this stage. It is believed a deal may already be in place for two McLaren Mercedes units and that talks are taking place with other teams, however this has yet to be officially confirmed. Discussions are also taking place with various circuits in the UK and the project may commence around March/April.
This project is hot on the heels of an announcement by McLaren that they have signed 14-year-old double German Junior Kart Champion Nyck de Vries; the youngster is to be personally managed Anthony Hamilton and the Hamilton Management Group.
If approved by the FIA, the GP Prep Drivers Academy may result in pilots gaining the necessary miles to obtain a superlicence and should hopefully remove the barrier that a lack of testing has brought in recent years. It has not gone unnoticed that Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari will be taking part in his first ever Formula 1 test on Wednesday, despite having made his Grand Prix début last August.