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Rookies get to grips with challenges of F1
Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  30 Jan 2014   |  7:42 pm GMT  |  39 comments

He might have completed hundreds of pre-season laps of the Jerez circuit during his career, but Felipe Massa’s early morning first drive out of the garage at the wheel of Williams’s FW36 was nevertheless special, marking the start of the former Ferrari driver’s adventure with a new team after eight seasons at Maranello.

If he was nervous it didn’t show as the vastly experienced Brazilian gradually built up pace through the morning. Fourth fastest at the lunch break, he rose to second by the close of play, looking as comfortable in blue as he ever did in red.

While Massa has been around the block enough times to dismiss any first lap nerves in a new car, for others making their way out on track this morning it was a different story. A few moments after Massa left the Williams pit, Robin Frijns guided his Caterham out on track. It was the Dutchman’s first F1 outing since impressive runs for Sauber and Red Bull Racing at the 2012 Young Drivers’ Test earned him a test role with the Swiss team.

His tenure at Sauber was short, however and the time since has been spent attempting to remain in the F1 spotlight. Caterham offered a lifeline with a reserve driver role and this morning’s run, albeit far from smooth, delighted the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 champion.

“Even though we had limited running today it’s still good to be back in an F1 car, especially with a team where I already feel like part of the family,” he said. “Since we made the announcement last week everyone’s been really good with me, integrating me into the whole setup at the factory and here in Spain much more than I’ve been with my previous teams, so it’s a good feeling.

Frijns of course lost out on a race seat at Leafield to Marcus Ericsson, and the Swede was equally enthusiastic about his first outing. “It was a great feeling to drive my first lap as a Caterham F1 driver,” he grinned. “Its great to finally be able to achieve it but this doesn’t stop here. I need to keep pushing because when you get to where I am now, you need to push even harder to make sure you stay for many years. If I don’t push, I will be out of here as quick as I came into Formula One. It’s a great moment for me but I need to work day and night to develop as a driver.”

Ericsson is confident too that 2014 will be kind to F1’s new recruits. “I think 2014 is a good year to be a rookie because everyone, even the most experienced guys, will need to start from scratch,” he said.

McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen demonstrated that this afternoon. The Dane topped the timesheet after completing his first 52 laps as an F1 race driver. It wasn’t as comfortable as it looked for the newcomer, however.

“I had butterflies in my stomach last night and I struggled to sleep,” he admitted. “I’m a rookie, I’m excited! Its a massive opportunity for me and today was big for me, its my first test as a race driver. I’m happy with today, I’ve learned a lot.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage to be a rookie,” he added. “But it’s not as big a disadvantage as it would’ve been in other years, and that’s good. I think it’s the right season to come in as a rookie because the car is so different, but I still have a lot to learn.”

Ericsson agrees: “This is a perfect opportunity for us rookies and a very interesting time in Formula One because of the regulation changes; the whole paddock has a big challenge a team, both teams and drivers.”

“It’s difficult to say what a good rookie year would be for me, as we don’t really know where the car is yet. Obviously, we are hoping that the team can move up the grid and fight with bigger teams, but before we know where the car is, it’s difficult to set any goals. I have the perfect team-mate – a guy with as much experience as Kamui will be a great help and a perfect benchmark for me. I will try and learn as much as I can from him, compete and try to beat him. And for that I need to keep pushing and improving.”

Daniel Juncadella, Force India’s new reserve driver, also sees his role as an opportunity to grow as a driver: “It’s a brilliant chance for me. Of course I hope to be a race driver one day, but right now, my reserve driver role allows me to be part of an F1 team, see how they work and learn from this experience. I will also have many opportunities to drive the car on Friday sessions as well as on the simulator, which is just what I need.”

Ericsson, Magnussen, Kvyat, Frijns, Juncadella… Only five of the many young drivers out there fighting for one same dream: a career in Formula One and to continue coming back testing in Jerez just as Massa today, preparing for yet another season at top level.

Posted by Tabatha Valls Halling in Jerez

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

To reiterate: I positively like the look of the Mercedes, and Ferrari, and am happy enough with the McLaren.

The Ferrari and Mercedes are the best looking cars I’ve seen for a few seasons.


Good luck to the new boys in F1. I hope that Magnussen will have a cracker, he is going well again in the car today.


Magnussen is the real deal !- he has blitzed it everytime he sets foot in an F1 car and today he is right there.

Definitely the rookies are on a more even playing field this year so its good for all of them. But the teams really need the wise heads to get the cars behaving properly at the circuits.

Mercedes & Mclaren are very consistent and we know Ferrari is right there too- surprise surprise manufacturer teams ! I cant wait to see 07 jump back in and fly again like he did on the opening day. Bahrain cant wait!- will the cars survive the heat & dust in the turbos who knows!


I “think” the rookies have an advantage over the regular F1 drivers in more than 1 ways. At this moment its all speculation, also looking at how well Juncadella is going at FI today.

1. The driving dtyles in GP2/lower formulas may closely resemble what is needed with the 2014 F1 V6?

2. They don’t carry the baggage from the last few years of F1 driving and won’t have to unlearn them.


Last day of January testing then. I bet Christian and Adrian have had some serious brainstorming sessions with their mates at Regie. Early days and all that, but you still want as much info as you can collect and having your car/engine stranded on the side of the track in a pile of steam isn’t very helpful. Also, bear in mind ambient/track temps at Jerez are quite low, and any engine, particularly a turbo, loves crisp, cold air. When F1 heads off to Bahrain next month in presumably warmer and drier climes, will be a good examination of the engine’s thermal discharge properties in hot weather. That’s a point, two of the first three races in F1 this year take in the swampy, muggy humid heat of Sepang and the dry as a bone scorching oven baked temperatures of the Bahrain desert. Two of the toughest races concerning an engine’s ability to maintain efficient thermal discharge and ability to keep cool. That’s why getting mileage on your car early and learning from those miles is so important.


That’s so true – cooling the batteries seem to be one of the biggest challenges right now, so the Bahrain tests are going to be very interesting. You can even smell that something is overheated when some of the cars drive past you in the pit lane…


I didn’t have to scroll to the bottom to see who wrote this article. You definitely have a different style of reporting.


Your comment made me smile! 🙂


Thats a really well written article. Tabatha, you are a talented journalist!


OT James, according to this article you’re Ferrari’s Tech Director! Congratulations! 🙂

I’ll paste the fragment as they could change it: “James Allen della Ferrari ha ammesso che affronterà il tema dopo Jerez”


Call me Ingenere!


James, all these years you’ve had us believing you were at the track to commentate when in fact you were overseeing Ferrari’s race weekends! No wonder you were so gutted at Abu Dhabi 2010 and Brazil 2012; you’re team and driver lost! Ha ha!


So far, not a foot wrong, I’m impressed with Magussen. Also, as I’ve posted previously, I’ve just got a feeling about McLaren this year. Would sincerely love to see a McLaren whitewash.

I am also expecting some improvement from Williams. Given their Mercedes power unit, if it is indeed more reliable, they need to ensure they score well early doors before the likes of Lotus etc sort themselves out.

On current prediction, I see McLaren and Mercedes on top, with Ferrari not far behind. Haven’t seen enough of Red Bull to see where they slot in, but on basis of drivers’ comments, I’m guessing 4th.

Then I see Williams, pretty close behind, followed by Force India and Sauber. Awaiting signs that Caterham and Marussia have caught up.

This is me setting a marker to look back upon in March

Love 2014 F1!


Not a foot wrong? What about multiple spins one of which he hit the wall?


I would agree that at this moment in time if you’ve got a Merc V6 turning your rear axle, you’re going to be competitive.

dimitar kadrinski

I cant stop laughing, reading “predictions” for the championship after only 3 days testing and less than 300 laps done from any team alone.

Really guys… you make my day


It may well prove unfounded, but, it’s a marker to be revisited for accuracy. Eg 2013, Jerez proved no indication. 2009, the first test did.

Will you allow me the pleasure of saying ‘told you so’ if my (admittedly) gut feeling predictions are proved right?? 😉


“So far, not a foot wrong, I’m impressed with Magussen.”

He’s only been in the car for half a day!


Have a listen to Ted Kravitz, apparently McLaren are impressed


I’m sure they are


That should be Lotus pretty close behind Williams


Go Massa! I’ll cheer you on even in the blue car.


It will be interesting to see how the drivers perform in the first few races, testing times will mean nothing in terms of driver performance.

Ricciardo? I would rate him lower than Webber, Alonso will no longer have a patsy, and remember the problems Grosjean had during the first lap.

I imagine it will be mid season before we can draw any real conclusions about rookie performance because of reliability/aero issues.


I would not rate Dan R lower than MW except in experience he has always been fast though does seem to suffer from the same first lap issues of dropping places he will need to address that as Grojean has and then I would expect in a better car ( possibly ??? ) this year be on the podium regularly. For him to beat SV well we will see as if the car is a handful then Seb may not shine as brightly.

We will see after the first 5 or 6 races on that one .

Martin (England)

“he rose to third by the close of play”

2nd at the close of play chaps.




In line with my feeling, Ericsson gonna be strong.

Kobayashi isn’t the only driver he will beat!


Speaking of rookies, did anyone notice a certain Robert Kubica win the first two stages of the Monte Carlo Rally in arguably the weakest factory backed car? – it took dear old Kimi well into his second season to win his one and only

WRC stage…King Kubica, imminent WRC and F1



Andrew Murdoch is Massa’s engineer


Magnussen may have had pre-F1 nerves and butterflies, but he performed magnificently. Show me a rookie that didn’t! I think he is the real deal, and what’s more I’m begining to think McLaren have a quick car this year. – Relatively speaking that is!


Hopefully McLaren capturing the timesheets are not glory runs in fumes !!!

Wish Magnussen good luck, this is a great opportunity to make or break his career.


Or have they accidentally fitted a suspension part upside-down like they did last year 🙂


lol good one


Hi guys, I know this is off topic but has rob smedley definitely left ferrari to continue with massa at Williams ???? Always liked him as a race Engineer.


Starts in march. Just seeing out his contract with Ferrari.


I was going to ask the same question about Big Rob. I hope he is, as I reckon Frank and Big Rob will get on well. In my opinion, Big Rob is the epitome of a straight talking no nonsense Yorkshireman – just like that other big Yorkshireman, Jeremy Clarkson – and they like that approach at Frank’s. Also, I reckon Frank can be in a good place with Merc engines and Pat Symonds street wise, sassy approach to aero and tactics.


As far as I’m aware, he will be at Williams this year but he will be in a more senior position than race engineer. Unfortunately I don’t know his official title but he has followed Massa, just not as his race engineer.

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