Former Formula 1 driver Mark Blundell believes strict rules surrounding on-track testing need to be reconsidered to assist younger drivers transitioning from junior championships.
During the early part of his F1 career, when testing was not bound by sporting regulations, Blundell spent an extensive amount of time in the cockpit for Williams developing new technology away from race weekends. He would later do similar work for McLaren.
Currently, teams are not allowed to run current cars outside of a race weekend unless it is done so on a permitted ‘filming day’ which allows them only 100km of running on demonstration tyres from Pirelli.
Testing has been steadily reduced over the past 15 years as part of cost-cutting measures, however, teams have now since favoured state-of-the-art simulators within their own factories, which drivers spend hundreds of hours on but it’s no replacement for the real thing.
Blundell wants to see teams sign young drivers and help give them real-world development on the track to help them progress instead of potentially missing out on a seat in F1.
Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Blundell said: “I do feel the sport has gone a little bit out of kilter because I think it would be fantastic to get the test teams back up and running with a restricted budget, but at the same time developing the next generation of talent where they have the confidence to go and sign that guy to put in their car.
“It’s a high risk situation signing a driver who has just jumped out of an F2 car and into a F1 car, it’s not just about driving the car, but the other pressures that go with it.
“So you will see a Verstappen come in and set the world alight, then he had a little bit of a lull and now has come back even stronger, but only a team like Red Bull were able to actually do that and take the risk onboard, and we’ve seen some churn there as well with that team.
“Some of the other guys just won’t take it and there is accountability at stake for that and we don’t get the change in drivers that we used to.”
Blundell also made a quip about incumbent drivers which often leads to little availability in F1 at any given time.
“Looking at it, there are drivers with teams for quite a long time these days. I only wish it was like that when I was doing it, it would have been a lot easier.”