Ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season, most teams will have at least one ‘shoot day’ to fine-tune their new cars.
Haas became the first of 10 teams to reveal their 2023 look earlier this week, with the American team showing off the livery in which the VF-23 will compete.
However, the VF-23 itself won’t be shown until the team has taken the car out on track for the first time: Haas will hold a ‘shakedown’ of the car at Silverstone on 11 February.
Most teams will choose to hold a shakedown of their new cars before the start of official pre-season testing in Bahrain at the end of February, as such shakedowns allow for any unforeseen mechanical or technical issues with the build of the new cars to be pinpointed. and smoothed out before the start of the critical three days of track testing.
But how do these shakedowns fit into the current rules: how can teams run private track tests with a current car?
F1 teams use FIA regulation loophole for ‘promotional events’
There is a provision in the sporting regulations to allow each team a certain amount of time on the track in a current car in order to collect promotional material.
This aims to compile footage and stock images to show the car from every angle. Just think of the amount of TV and internet adverts you see throughout the year of a current Formula 1 car being driven around a circuit that may not even have hosted a Grand Prix – these promotional events are where shot this material.
Of course, where there’s a current car on the track, there’s an opportunity for the teams to learn something relevant. That’s why, in recent years, these promotional events (known colloquially as ‘filming days’) have allowed teams to shakedown their cars before pre-season testing begins.
But filming days have strict rules: Crews can’t just show up and start pumping in the rounds. The rules have been carefully considered to ensure that no team can gain a competitive advantage from filming days.
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What are the rules for an F1 filming day?
The rules for an F1 filming day are set out in Article 10.4 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, which outline the regulations for the ‘testing of current car promotional events’, which actually state that the event is used ‘purely for marketing and promotional purposes”.
Each team is allowed two of these days over the course of the season, so expect the vast majority of the 10 teams to have used one before pre-season testing begins.
The rules state that teams are only allowed a maximum distance of 100 kilometers of driving time. Usually, teams opt for a smaller track setup that they have booked for filming day, allowing them to do more laps.
For example, the shortened ‘International’ layout at Silverstone is just under three kilometers, meaning that a team using that layout could complete 33 laps during a shooting day. Using the full Grand Prix circuit, which is just under six kilometres, would allow for a total of 16.9 laps (so pitting after 16, or ‘breakdown’ on track after 16.5!).
The car must be equipped with the standard FIA ECU for the day of filming and as stated in Article 8.3.1 of the Technical Regulations can only be used with FIA approved software and can only be connected to the control system harness , to the sensors and actuators in the manner specified by the FIA.
Finally, to ensure that teams cannot perform underhanded performance racing, Pirelli supplies specific tires to be used on filming days. These compounds are rock hard, can even resemble wet tires in terms of grooves and patterns, and are incredibly durable: they are demonstration tires that are often used for demonstration racing (with a thousand burn-outs and donuts) that the teams ( think Red Bull) often take place in cities around the world with older cars.
Adding to these restrictions is the fact that, usually, the car is being followed by a camera car or two – standard street machines equipped with camera arms and operators to capture the required angles for their sponsorship-friendly video and images.
There’s no doubt about it: a day of shakedown filming can only be used by teams to ensure a very basic level of reliability before real F1 testing!