Giancarlo Minardi has called on motorsport's governing body to act in the interests of rising talent as the bottleneck created by F1's stagnating line-up causes those ascending the ladder to the top flight to look elsewhere.
Although there is still a gradual turnover over names on the grand prix grid, former team owner Minardi is concerned that the FIA appears to be doing little to bring on young drivers, especially when it comes to giving them a chance to acclimatise to F1's particular idiosyncrasies. While noting that the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Robert Kubica, Paul di Resta and Jaime Alguersuari
have all be afforded the chance to step up to the top flight in recent years, the Spaniard was forced to do so during the first year in which in-season testing was outlawed, while the other three had to grab precious free practice outings with the likes of BMW
and Force India.
While the chance to run a third driver in one of Friday's F1 sessions remains, few teams appear keen to take advantage of it - Team Lotus, Force India
and Toro Rosso
are the most eager - but Minardi believes that that could change if the FIA intervened.
“Thanks to the preparatory championships, the boys now get ready for the leap and their young age allows them to easily adapt to the methods of F1," the Italian noted, "But we must give them the opportunity to compete and create healthy competition with those who are already there.
"The results of Vettel, Kubica, di Resta and Alguersuari are under everybody's eyes and the FIA should take account of this before all the work that has been done from when they were racing karts becomes absolutely useless.
"My recipe is very simple: force all teams to use a young driver during the first session on Friday morning. Today, some teams do so only out of necessity, but imposing it as a fixed rule means we could have twelve rookies on track at the same time. In this way, the choices of some teams will not be dictated by the budgets brought as a dowry, but by using drivers from the prized list."
Although the matter of in-season testing, potentially in the form of one or more 'young driver' tests, has been raised in recent weeks, and is backed by FIA president Jean Todt, Minardi believes that regular outings for rising talent could lead to a greater turnover on the F1 grid.
"A team that has in its hands a young talent will think twice before renewing the contract of a pilot at an advanced age. Today, the average age is rising because the teams are afraid to invest in a young driver who is unable to test and is faced with many unknowns. At that point, the balance leans toward the experience.“
Third driver opportunities in 2011 have not always been afforded to up-and-coming pilots, with former HRT racer Karun Chandhok getting several outings with Team Lotus, but the likes of Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia have both also been considered by the Norfolk-based operation. While Chandhok enjoyed a brief return to the F1 grid while replacing veteran Jarno Trulli
in Germany, the biggest 'success' of the season has been Daniel Ricciardo, although the Australian was 'placed' at HRT by Red Bull
after impressing in his regular outings with Toro Rosso, rather than being called up by his original team. Nico Hulkenberg, meanwhile, appears at every race with Force India, and the former Williams
racer is heavily tipped to return to the F1 field in 2012.