Today and for the next three days the F1 teams will test at Abu Dhabi in what has become the traditional “Young Guns” test.
The idea behind it originally was to evaluate young up and coming drivers, who haven’t taken part in Grands Prix, giving them a chance to drive a real F1 car, rather than a simulator.
But as ever in F1 some teams have taken it differently. McLaren for example are using the three days to do some serious evaluation work on 2012 technology with 30 year old Gary Paffett leading the way, although Day 1 they ran Oliver Turvey as well.
Paffett has been a McLaren test driver for many years, never raced, and has few opportunities these days to drive an actual car. His work will give McLaren very good data from three days of testing new parts and Pirelli 2012 tyre prototypes.
Ricciardo is next in line to get a promotion to a race seat at Toro Rosso, but you never know what Marko is thinking. He might jump him with Vergne, so this week Ricciardo will be watching nervously.
But before then he has to do some serious work to help Ferrari get its 2012 concept right. Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali spelled out at the weekend that with the ban on blown diffusers next season and the move back to conventional exhausts and rear end aerodynamics, the front wing becomes ever more crucial to the car.
Hence all the work Ferrari has done in the last couple of races with its famous flexi wing. “It’s better to have problems now, than to find them out in February,” says the Ferrari team boss, who has to deliver at least multiple wins and a championship challenge next season.
In Abu Dhabi this week, Bianchi has to do a programme of work to, says Domenicali, which will also focus a lot on the new 2012 tyres from Pirelli “The idea is on the one hand to give Bianchi some important experience and on the other hand obviously, to test the new tyres from Pirelli.”
As to the experimental Pirellis in use this week, motorsport boss Paul Hembery says, “The 2012 tyres have a squarer profile, designed to distribute wear more evenly across the footprint, while the softer compounds have been adjusted to reduce the risk of blistering.
“This new range of tyres is designed to bring the relative performance of the compounds closer together, thereby making strategy even more important next year. The new tyres are also designed to increase performance, making the 2012 tyres some of the most extreme that Pirelli has ever produced.”
Speaking to team strategists and engineers at the weekend, they want tyre choices that are 0.8 seconds per lap apart in performance. Any less than that and the strategy will be predictable and much more, as it is at the moment, and the harder tyre becomes one to avoid.
Pirelli would like to be even more central to the racing next year and that’s what this week’s tyres are a staging post towards.
Elsewhere Robert Wickens will get a chance in the Renault as well as the Virgin car. Charles Pic, rumoured in French circles to have already signed a race deal to replace Jerome D’Ambrosio for next year, will also be out in the Virgin car.
F2 winner Mirko Bortolotti and GP3 star Valtteri Bottas will have a run with Williams, Kevin Ceccon is out in the Toro Rosso.
ABU DHABI YOUNG GUNS TEST, Day 1
1. Jean-Eric Vergne Red Bull 1:40.011 83 laps
2. Jules Bianchi Ferrari 1:40.960 85
3. Robert Wickens Lotus Renault 1:42.217 78
4. Fabio Leimer Sauber 1:42.331 67
5. Gary Paffett McLaren 1:42.912 41
6. Max Chilton Force India 1:43.016 81
7. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:43.118 71
8. Oliver Turvey McLaren 1:43.502 35
9. Sam Bird Mercedes 1:43.548 53
10. Rodolfo Gonzalez Team Lotus 1:44.022 87
11. Stefano Coletti Toro Rosso 1:45.278 87
12. Dani Clos HRT 1:45.329 68
13. Charles Pic Marussia Virgin 1:46.930 30
14. Adrian Quaife Hobbs Marussia Virgin 1:47.292 32
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