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“Kindergarten F1″ kicks off in Jerez
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“Kindergarten F1″ kicks off in Jerez
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Dec 2009   |  7:44 pm GMT  |  47 comments

Today saw the start of the first and only F1 test of the winter – the three day young drivers’ test at Jerez. Under new rules, this is the only time F1 cars will run before February.

Rather patronisingly described by Toro Rosso as “Kindergarten week” in its press statement this evening the test is a chance for the next generation of F1 stars to showcase their talents.

And with nine empty spaces on the grid for next year, according to yesterday’s FIA entry list, there is a chance for someone to catch the eye, as Kamui Kobayashi did in the final two Grands Prix. Incidentally his name is now being linked to a possible move to Renault with Panasonic sponsorship.

Picture 37
There are some exciting drivers in action this week, for me the most exciting is Jules Bianchi, the 20 year old Frenchman who won this year’s F3 Euroseries. He is managed by Nicolas Todt, who looks after Felipe Massa and he will drive for two days in the Ferrari. He has a fantastic reputation according to insiders I have spoken to. With Ferrari getting itself in a pickle this summer after Massa got injured in Hungary, team boss Stefano Domenicali said that the team would now be putting a young driver programme in place and Bianchi is expected to get that opportunity.

Picture 36
“I am really proud to have made my Formula 1 debut at the wheel of a Ferrari, for the greatest team in the world, ” said Bianchi this evening. “At the start, I was being careful not to make any mistakes, then once I felt confident, I pushed harder. The team spirit here is incredible and I hope I have made a positive impression on them and I want to do even better tomorrow.”

Also testing for Ferrari, squeezed into the final day only are the top three finishers from the Italian F3 series, Daniel Zampieri, Marco Zipoli and the Mexican Pablo Sanchez.

There are some British hopefuls out this week too, Gary Paffett, who has been McLaren test driver and surely deserves a chance from one of the new teams, if they don’t require a sponsored driver. Mike Conway gets an outing with Brawn/Mercedes and Paul di Resta, who beat Sebastian Vettel in F3, was second fastest today for Force India. Oliver Turvey also got a run in the McLaren.

Topping the time sheets today was Andy Soucek, whose drive with Williams was a prize for winning the FIA Formula 2 series, for which Williams builds the chassis.

Marcus Ericsson is another driver many in F1 are keeping an eye on, he is running with Mercedes this week, while Alex Rossi and JR Hildebrand bring an American presence to F1. There is also the Chinese driver Ho Pin Tung in the Renault and a new Aussie, Daniele Ricciardo in the Red Bull.

One driver close to getting a race seat next year with Virgin is Lucas di Grassi. He is having a run with Renault. The only driver out this week whose race seat is confirmed is Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg.

Brendon Hartley and Mirko Bortolotti will be hopeful that their performance for Toro Rosso might open some doors, as Jaime Alguersuari has yet to be confirmed. Hartley went off this morning.

1. Soucek Williams 1m19.158s 87 Laps
2. Di Resta Force India 1m19.369s 46
3. Paffett McLaren 1m19.426s 54
4. Ricciardo Red Bull 1m19.534s 112
5. Bianchi Ferrari 1m19.626s 90
6. Conway Brawn 1m19.920s 58
7. Rossi Sauber 1m20.227s 82
8. Ericsson Brawn 1m20.333s 49
9. Baguette Renault 1m20.511s 105
10. Hildebrand Force India 1m20.537s 49
11. Turvey McLaren 1m20.856s 27
11. Hartley Toro Rosso 1m21.325s 69

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47 Comments
  1. jw1980 says:

    Some exciting drivers here i agree. Bianchi is just the driver France needs to re energise their interest in F1 again.
    I would say Paul di Resta is the most exciting prospect out there. I really was hoping that a team would take a risk on him. He could be the next Hamilton or Vettel.
    I have heard that he could be racing for Force India in 2011. Is that likely James?
    Lets hope Gary Paffet gets an opportunity next year although you do fear that his F1 opportunities might have passed by him.

  2. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    James,

    Why the short shift on Rossi? Considering he’s only 18 years old and has a grand total of one GP2-level weekend, I’d say he was pretty darned impressive today. He set times competitive with guys 2-5 (if not more) years older than him and who have more F1 testing and time in more powerful cars than he does. He’s got a pretty impressive resume, as well, and at such a stupidly young age. He was also impressive in the GP2 test a month or so ago, even leading a wet session before a reliability issue.

    In Rossi, I think we may have the next competitive American F1 driver. At least, as an American, I very much hope so.

  3. TinyJim says:

    hehe don’t need to speak to any insiders to know Bianchi has something special. It’s as clear as day if you just watched him in karts.

    Been singing his praises ever since I first saw him drive in Formula A at the European Championships. While he lacked the experience and speed of the top karters he just looked so freakin’ good in a kart. And the fact is this – if you don’t perform at the highest levels in karting you simply don’t win F1 WDC (bar Hill :) )

    1. James Allen says:

      Tell us more about Bianchi.

      1. TinyJim says:

        Some drivers have a clear comfort in a motor vehicle, and with Bianchi he just so at ease with the kart. He drove with extreme flair which is very difficult to do in modern kart considering the amount of castor and grip they produce. Also his kart and him, visually, looked the dogs nuts!

        He only ever won one major title – the World Cup (not to be confused to World Championship). But with more experience could have won more. He also helps out his little brother who races karts (another talent on the way?)

        He very much reminds me of another kid that has done similar things in modern karting Aaro Vainio. This kid is Finnish, and came very close to winning the 2009 World Championship outright in Macau. He’s only like 15 or 16! He associated with Kimi so keep an eye on him James. You heard his name here first :)

  4. Liam says:

    are they using the 2009 cars?

      1. Martin says:

        I presume Ferrari and McLaren would turn off/remove KERS as this is more representative of 2010?

  5. dank_ross says:

    I know it’s only testing, so times can be taken with a pinch of salt, but Rossi continues to impress me.

    18-years-old, has the grand total of one race in a GP2-spec car under his belt, yet is able to fit in among drivers with two or more years experience today in Jerez.

    Definitely the next competitive American F1 driver.

  6. Graeme says:

    Hi James

    What spec cars and tyres (narrow front or not) are they running? 2010 or 2009. Also what engines the teams are running? I noticed on the list that Sauber has no BWM name and Brawn has no Merc name.

    Thanks for the great blog!

  7. Malcolm says:

    James, do you have any inside information on how much Mirko Bortolotti’s record lap at Fiorano is actually worth? I remember last winter, times were all over the place as drivers were using 2008 downforce on slicks, or 2009 downforce on grooved tires… so do you know if his record lap was in a comparable car/tire combination to the previous record?

    If his record comes from real talent, he may be a guy to look out for! (Perhaps that’s why Toro Rosso have yet to confirm Alguersuari so far, hoping that Bortolotti will set a scintillating pace!)

    1. Chris Crawford says:

      Malcolm, do you think though that the problem with Alguersuari is that he had very little time in F1 with no chance of testing during the season, in effect being thrown into the lions den and literarily getting eaten up… seems a shame the someone with his talent hasn’t been given a proper chance if it’s true the Torro Rosso are holding back in signing him.

      I actually really felt for him the last few races

      CHRIS

      1. jose says:

        There are drivers that need time to get to their maximun level. The real talents, just need a couple of laps to make an impression.
        Jaime can be one of the first type, but at 18, he might be running out of time. The pile up of the young red bull guys at jerez on tuesday morning, might help him get another chance. But if he gets it, he needs to make an impression, otherwise gone is the f1 dream. Tough business.

  8. Steve says:

    Very Happy to hear Kobe’ is still in the frame for a drive. F1 needs all the excitement it can get and ’10 will be just that little bit more interesting if he’s on the grid.

  9. Alan Zechter says:

    I have had a quick look at some of the pictures of today’s test and it seemed odd that Sauber are using the old BMW livery with all of the old sponsors. To a lesser extent this is also true of Brawn/Mercedes.

  10. Andy says:

    I was going to ask the same thing. I guess Williams was running Toyota engine and sauber with BMW?

    I imagine they must be 09 spec in full?

  11. Dean says:

    Jules Bianchi more than likely will be in F1 come 2011. He put on a masterful display in F3, and is no doubt the promising star not in F1 right now.

    Paul Di Resta I think deserves a drive very much right now. Looks very quick in an F1 car, and not to mention he beat Vettel in a head to head in F3. We can only hope a great talent doesn’t just miss joining the F1 circus.

    1. James Allen says:

      With Sauber maybe…..

      1. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

        Exactly what I was thinking.

        Sauber looks like it’s going back to the role of developing future Ferrari drivers, i.e. Massa (and Raikkonen, although he wasn’t contracted to Ferrari in the way Massa was).

      2. Dean Coulter says:

        More than likely. Since he signed a deal with Ferrari today, it’s likely Ferrari will push him into a seat at Sauber come 2011, similar to what they did with Felipe Massa.

        No doubt Nicholas Todt is good manager to have given his connections.

        Also, with the French GP still gone, Bianchi could be just the thing to ensure a push for it’s return.

    2. jose says:

      Tell that to tommy byrne…

  12. lola says:

    Go Bortolotti. Go!!!!

  13. Steve W says:

    What a great performance from Paul Di Resta. To be second fastest in a Force India despite only running for half a day just underlines the promise that this young Scotsman has. I have followed him for the last 4 years now in the F3 Euroseries and DTM and he is sensationally quick. I just hope someone is impressed enough to give him an F1 seat next year, not as a test driver, but has a race driver, as he really deserves a chance.

  14. Simon from Melbourne says:

    James, what chance is there that Daniel Ricciardo earns himself a Toro Rosso full time drive courtesy of his performances this week?

    He was fastest for majority of the day at Jerez, in only his first ever F1 appearance.

    Was also quickest of the lot at a World Series by Renault test last month and blitzed the field in British F3.

    Ricciardo was also much quicker than Jules Bianchi in Macau. Therefore, surely he must have some currency on the open market at the moment.

  15. Sam Heather says:

    Anybody know what livery was being worn by the Brawn-Mercedes team?

  16. Robert McKay says:

    Bit rich of Toro Rosso calling it “Kindergarten week”, when they are the kindergarten for the main Red Bull team. It’s not like they’re running super-experienced drivers in races, let alone tests, is it?

  17. Robert says:

    Well the NASCARisation of F1 is complete.

    All interesting development is banned, people are only allowed to test these dull and sanitised cars when the governing body tells them to.

    1. khan says:

      Agreed

      On track action is diminishing and off track, we have got a soap opera like spygate, liegate, crashgate, the FOTA breakaway, Manufacturers quitting one after other and rumours of take overs from all sort of people.

      Policy makers at FOM, FIA and FOTA need to re-align the long term strategy for the sport.

      1. krad says:

        I disagree the racing has been closer than ever this year. Are you suggesting you want a return to the boring schumi years of 2000-2004?

  18. Spyros says:

    Kamui Kobayashi at Renault? I’d like to see that!

    1. monktonnik says:

      I’d actually like to see him at one of the new teams, if only because Renault seem a bit iffy at the moment.

      For me Kobayashi proved he should be in F1 with his races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

  19. Owen says:

    Hi James,

    I noticed in the pictures that Ferrari and Red Bull were not running the front wheel covers in yesterday’s Jerez test. Is there a technical reason for this?

    Thanks
    Owen

    1. Paul says:

      They have been banned for 2010… guess the teams were getting some intel on temperatures without them?

  20. Paul says:

    Let’s not overlook the obvious – Soucek did a great job yesterday. He has really impressed me this year with his domination of F2 and now thoroughly deserves a reserve drive role at Williams next year. I expect di Resta, Riccardo and possibly Baguette will get a reserve drive role at the teams they tested for today out of this week also.

    I don’t get the impression that Bredon Hartley will be backed by Red Bull for much longer. A year ago he was testing for Red Bull and now he’s only got a day at the junior team? It hasn’t helped that he’s had a very poor year (despite his fortunate F3 reverse grid victory). He needed a better performance than today to justify his worth.

  21. Konstantin says:

    Talking of impressions.. you are absolutely right! If everybody in the pubic noticed how quickly he got to grips with his f1 drive then surely one of the teams have signed a contract with him.

  22. Chris Crawford says:

    So what’s eberybodys thoughts on the likelyhood that Jacques Villeneuve will be back with us for the 3rd time prob with Lotus next year?

    It’s great getting all these new up and coming drivers, but with so little testing allowed these guys are really struggling so someone like JV is actually going to look very attractive to a team like Lotus with his experience and as a former world champ!

    I for one was a fan of JV and no doubt many will think his time was 10 years ago???

    Chris.

  23. Mark Crooks says:

    James I read that Adam Carroll has a strong chance of getting a seat at Virgin.

    Do you think we’ll see him next year and what are your thoughts on him?

    Being a fellow Ulsterman I’d love to see him get a chance. I think F1 could do with another honest and outspoken Ulsterman to shake things up a bit!

    1. James Allen says:

      Good driver, lot of determination. Deserves a chance.

    2. “…Being a fellow Ulsterman I’d love to see him get a chance. I think F1 could do with another honest and outspoken Ulsterman to shake things up a bit!”

      again
      ;)

      1. Mark Crooks says:

        That’s why I included “another” in my sentance :)

        No one will come close to Irv The Swerve in my mind!

      2. Don’t forget John Watson!!

      3. monktonnik says:

        He is one of my all time favourite racing drivers.

        Anyone who calls their yacht anaconda is alright in my book.

      4. Mark Crooks says:

        I like the name “monktonnik” is that by chance another name for the very fine wine called Buckfast ;)

  24. Chris Crawford says:

    I would love to see Adam Carroll on the grid. We need another Eddie Irvine….

  25. Steve W says:

    Paul Di Resta 2nd again on final day! This guy is too good to be ignored by F1, he HAS to be given a race seat!

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