The fourth Free Practice (or Free Practice 4 in English) can be considered boring for a Grand Prix weekend programme, as its result does not count towards Qualifying and is often considered unrepresentative of the performance of the Grand Prix. pilot.
However, this session created nine years ago, has great importance. During the opening round of the 2013 season in Qatar, the traditional full hour available until then was left behind, making way for an hour divided into three sessions: 30 minutes of FP4, then 15 minutes of Q1, finally 15 minutes of Q2.
The idea behind this new format was to make the track less dangerous so that the faster and slower drivers don’t get in each other’s way, and everyone can safely time attack .
As is known, the drivers must set the best possible times in the first three free practice sessions to enter the top 10 of the classification for combined times. The top 10 therefore go straight into Q2, which ranks the top 12 on the grid, and are joined by the top two from Q1.
Therefore, the fourth practice sessions are fundamental to the teams’ strategy, as this is the only session of the weekend where lap performance does not count and where the drivers can really focus on their race pace.
In addition, racers can check the reliability of the settings they intend to use or the wear of a specific tire during a long run without returning to the pits, just like in a race.
Although the distance traveled is less than that of Sunday, the data is still substantial and, therefore, rich in lessons when it comes to fine-tuning the last details.
“They are two different sessions, one in which we work towards the race and the other in which we push to the maximum”, explained Fabio Quartararo during the Dutch Grand Prix.
“Some drivers can start FP4 on worn tyres, so the position doesn’t really matter, it’s more the work done. During the session you have to feel that it’s going to be useful for the race. Sometimes you can finish fifth, sixth or even 10th in FP4 and do a better job than finishing second or third.”
While the lack of performance representation may make it a less interesting session, FP4 is still truly a key day, the impact of which is only measured during the race.
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