The third and final leg of the fractured 2012 young guns test got underway for six teams in more traditional surroundings in Abu Dhabi today and it was a driver with a familiar surname to Formula 1 who set the opening day’s pace.
Dane Kevin Magnussen followed in his father Jan’s footsteps by making his F1 test bow for McLaren and the 20-year-old Formula Renault 3.5 driver marked his debut by setting the pace around Yas Marina.
His best time, set during the morning before he handed the car over to veteran McLaren tester Gary Paffett, of 1m42.651s was enough to outpace fellow FR3.5 driver Antonio Felix da Costa in the Red Bull RB8 by 0.066s. For the record, the fastest time was two seconds down on Lewis Hamilton’s pole time from Saturday set in the same car.
With Paffett putting himself in third place during his 44 laps in the afternoon, the rest of the field were over a second back with the FR3.5 series champion Robin Frijns fourth at the end of his own full F1 test debut for Sauber. The Dutchman has been linked alongside Esteban Gutiérrez to the second race seat at the Swiss team for 2013 and although the three-day test could effectively be described as a ‘shootout’ between the two to partner the incoming Nico Hulkenberg, it is the team’s young drivers’ test regular Guitererrez who completes the final two days.
Frijns completed 78 laps in the C31 and admitted afterwards that he immediately found the F1 going physically tougher than the junior single-seaters he’s been used to up until now during what appeared an eye-opening day.
“Gosh this was hard work! Not in the beginning but then suddenly I felt it, especially from the brakes,” he said. “I am really tired now and know I have to go and exercise more. In the morning we started with installation laps so that I could get used to the car and the steering wheel, which isn’t that easy. In the afternoon I found it hard to understand the tyre compounds. I had only driven on Michelin tyres before, and with the Pirelli medium and soft compounds it was difficult for me after only one lap. I had the feeling the more careful I handled them the worse it became. There is obviously a lot to learn.”
In another piece of nostalgia, Nicolas Prost, four-time champion Alain’s son, was behind the wheel of Lotus’s Abu Dhabi race-winning E20 and took fifth place on the times. Toro Rosso, meanwhile, ran Luiz Razia and Caterham its Friday and test drier Giedo van der Garde, who will continue in the CT01 on Wednesday.
With the test running until Thursday, McLaren will split the remainder of the test between today’s two drivers and Oliver Turvey, while Frijns will switch over to Red Bull for the final day. Swiss-born DTM driver Edoardo Mortara and new GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi will run in the Lotus on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, with Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto in for Toro Rosso tomorrow. American Alexander Rossi wraps up the test for Caterham in two days’ time.
YOUNG GUNS TEST, Abu Dhabi – Day one
1. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1m42.651s, 40 laps
2. Antonio Felix da Costa, Red Bull, 1m42.717s, 79 laps
3. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1m43.407s, 44 laps
4. Robin Frijns, Sauber, 1m43.775s, 78 laps
5. Nicolas Prost, Lotus, 1m44.194s, 55 laps
6. Luiz Razia, Toro Rosso, 1m44.691s, 67 laps
7. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, 1m45.936s, 57 laps