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Vergne still on top as Young guns F1 test comes to an end
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Nov 2011   |  12:33 am GMT  |  16 comments

The only in-season test of the 2011 season came to an end today at Yas Marina Circuit, Abi Dhabi as the Young Guns switched off the engines after three exciting days.

For many of the drivers it was a first taste of F1 power; a couple of them are as young as 18 years of age. For teams it has been a chance to test out ideas for the 2012 car, try out the experimental Pirelli tyres for next year and in some cases, to evaluate some young drivers.

For the third day in a row the fastest man was Jean Eric Vergne, in the Red Bull, but most of the teams were not going for headline lap times today, so the margin was large.

There were more niggly reliability issues for Red Bull, a sign that they have been trying some experimental technology this week, as the race cars have been bulletproof this season. So it has not been the cleanest of tests for Vergne. But he won’t be complaining; the test has really helped to make his name and it will be interesting to see what Red Bull and its driver development director Helmut Marko decide to do with Vergne and Dan Ricciardo -who theoretically is ahead of him in the queue – next season.

With Renault, which has always promoted French talent in F1, becoming an increasingly significant partner to Red Bull Racing, Vergne could be a candidate for fast tracking towards a prominent role with the team.

He set his fastest lap on the first lap of a four lap run, and although the track temperature was 51 degrees, far hotter that during daylight running last weekend at the Grand Prix, his time of 1 min 38.917 compares well with the best daytime lap of the race drivers.

Pirelli meanwhile has done a lot of useful work this week as it prepares for 2012. The experimental tyres are designed to generate more grip from the rear, which they say, “tends to provoke more understeer and also enhances the possibilities for overtaking.”

McLaren welcomed the British Prime Minister David Cameron today, to its new road car plant at Woking as a celebration of British high tech engineering, while the race team was giving Oliver Turvey a second run in the car. The young man from Penrith, Cumbria completed 89 laps as the team evaluated the 2012 Pirelli tyres as well as ideas for the 2012 car.

The Mercedes team ran a 2012 exhaust position this morning. Sam Bird set the second fastest time of the day in the afternoon on a set of soft tyres on the fourth lap of a five lap run, rounding out an consistent week’s work for the young Englishman. He was mainly focussed on multiple short runs today.

Williams had Mirko Bortelotti, the F2 champion at the wheel today. Bortelotti has driven an F1 Ferrari before, setting some fast times in a test at Fiorano a couple of years back. Today Williams’ senior engineer on site Tom McCullogh had plenty of praise for the Italian, “He did a really good job, improving on each run and iterating down to some good lap times. Overall, he gave excellent feedback, was consistent and is clearly physically fit,” he said.

Meanwhile American Alexander Rossi had a run in the Lotus, completing 74 laps.

1. Jean-Eric Vergne Red Bull 1:38.917 46 laps
2. Sam Bird Mercedes 1:40.897 104
3. Jules Bianchi Ferrari 1:41.347 106
4. Oliver Turvey McLaren 1:41.513 89
5. Max Chilton Force India 1:41.575 79
6. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:42.049 77
7. Mirko Bortolotti Williams 1:43.277 74
8. Kevin Ceccon Toro Rosso 1:43.686 35
9. Alexander Rossi Team Lotus 1:44.283 74
10. Jan Charouz Lotus Renault 1:44.470 82
11. Stefano Coletti Toro Rosso 1:44.545 48
12. Nathanael Berthon HRT 1:45.839 51
13. Robert Wickens Marussia Virgin 1:45.934 34
14. Charles Pic Marussia Virgin 1:46.348 49

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if you were mercedes, ferrari, mclaren or redbull, they might as well test all these development parts in the brazil race itself, in race conditions. There is absolutely nothing to lose for any of them – none of them are at risk with regards to the constructors championship.

id be very surprised if they didnt bang on loads of 2012 mod parts for the final race. wouldn’t it be massively valuable for mercedes to run the 2012-exhaust config during the race in brazil? they’d be silly not to.


Why JEV and Ricciardo could not be at STR in 2012 ? Buemi and Alguersuari had their chance, they were in F1 for nearly 3 years. Buemi has never won a championship, ALguersuari didn’t impress as much as Vergne in F3 or Ricciardo, and he was nowhere in 3.5 also. But there is an other option, apparentely Trulli has a clause of results, and quite francky he is being eatten by Kova, and in France we speculate about Ricciardo going to green lotus and Vergne at STR with Alguer. Vergne and Ricciardo by there results in other categories or there test, deserve to be in F1 far more than Koba, Dambrosio, Karti, Alguer, Buemi, Petrov, Senna whom never won anything in their career. And we quite happy in France because we may have 3 drivers in F1, with Bianchi driving the fridays morning with Force India, and when you know is huge talent Di resta and Hulk must be scared. The french connection is back!!!


[mod] how do you kick out a driver for not winning a championship within their first 3 years in f1.
JEV won’t jump Dan to a TR seat he doesn’t have race experience yet he either gets a HRT seat or caterham.

[mod] winning a title in other categories does not mean you will be any good in f1.


I don’t know whether to be impressed with Vergne’s times or not. Either the Red Bull is a superb car and he’s just driving it well. Or the Red Bull is an average car and he’s driving it superbly.

If it’s the former, does this not speak against Vettel? Let me explain – the gap between the Red Bull and Ferrari/McLaren (and the rest of the field) during these 3 test days has been much larger than we’ve seen from the championship racers. So either Vergne is above average for a F1 race driver or Vettel is below average (as his gaps haven’t been as large as the ones Vergne has posted).

I’m sure there are other circumstances that play with the figures – like McLaren testing 2012 parts and using different tyre compounds; perhaps doing long run evaluations rather than short.. I dunno. Just seems a bit odd 🙂


The times aren’t very important because of the many many possible variables. DRS-usage, fuel levels, tires, engine mappings, could all explain such big time differences. Red Bull would want to evaluate Vergne so he probably had a better chance to go for a quick time compared to Gary Paffet who must’ve been on a strict testing schedule.

However it’s clear that the RB7 is by far the best car and probably one of the time all great chassis.


If it speaks against Vettel, it shouts against Webber. Alternatively, it could speak against the Ferrari and McLaren testers, or else be down to a lack of comparable running (testing times are always served with pinches of salt, after all). Vergne’s clearly not done anything wrong (such as crashing or lapping 1s slower than the Ferrari) but we’ll have to await Red Bull’s decision – after all Ricciardo truly set the charts alight last year (more favourable rubber or not).

Also, James pointed out that there were various technical problems for the team, which implies experimental kit was being used, so perhaps next year’s Red Bull will be even quicker (perish the thought!)


Reading comments by some of the drivers who took part in the test, they think they are ready to race in F1 because they think they have done a good job during the testing period. What they should realise is, setting time on a test day is totally different to wheel to wheel racing.


Surely none of them are lacking experience in wheel to wheel racing?


Except for a handful of exceptions, most of the drivers who thought they could conquer F1 fell by the way side. Not only young drivers, but experienced drivers too. Remember how long Romain Grosjean lasted when he arrived last time? Can you still remember Justin Wilson? Daniel Ricciardo was impressive during the 2010 test session but still couldn’t make it in to a competitive car. F1 is a different game altogether.


In view of Petrov’s outspoken comments, could we see one of the Renault-aligned “young guns” replacing him? Or is his money too important?



Last year we saw the track evolve quite a bit over the 3 days, it hasn’t done that this time. Any thoughts?

Annual book ordered can’t wait.


Last year’s Young Guns test was on Bridgestones. There was then also a Pirelli test. It ramped up a lot due to the Bridgestones


Hi James,

I admit that I have posted the following elsewhere but I’d really love to know your thoughts: Hoping you might be able to speculate on what you think will happen with the Red Bull Junior drivers next year? As an Australian I would be very disappointed if Daniel Ricciardo missed out on a Torro Rosso drive by having Jean-Eric Vergne leapfrog him. JEV is carrying a lot of momentum thanks to this test, whereas DR seems to have lost some attention by running at the back of the field – albeit very competitively against Liuzzi.

Is there any chance that both Beumi and Alguersuari will be shown the door in favour of a season long head-to-head with DR and JEV to see who gets Webber’s RBR seat in 2013? Or do Torro Rosso need the stability of keeping one of their current drivers? I think after 3 years (SB) and 2.5 years (JA) they’ve had a good period to show what they’re capable of.

Perhaps JA could go to HRT to fulfill their Spanish team identity, and SB could go to Lotus/Caterham as part of the RBR partnership. Trulli hasn’t been confirmed as a race driver for next year yet has he, just that he’s got a contract with the team?


Yea, I also think that Ricciardo will most likely go to TR and Vergne will go to HRT. Torro Rosso is starting to gain some of its independence from RB so I don’t think they will be willing to put 2 rookies in the car.


Trulli have confirm with team lotus/ caterham f1 team next year..


I think DR has done well against Liuzzi but has he got himself noticed?

You’d have to look at the data to know how he stacks up against Vergne. Red Bull look very closely at the data when making their decisions, eg to move Vettel from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. If I was guessing I’d say Alguersuari will stay at TR, Buemi will be moved on and it’s up to Marko whether he puts Vergne or DR in the second seat, with the other one perhaps doing 2012 at HRT.

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