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.
YOUNG GUNS TEST, ABU DHABI, Day 3
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