Monday, November 26, 2012

F1: Young Drivers Test - 2012 Edition

Naturally, Alexander Rossi was pleased with his outing after making his F1 race weekend debut at Barcelona for Caterham F1. (Source: formula1onlive.com)
First off, I’m still basking in the afterglow of “FormulaOneItus” at Austin, Texas and as always - I’m now playing ‘Ketsup with Der Vurld de Motorsporten; Ja-Ja!! Thus didn’t have time to squeeze in the latest Young Guns outing from Yas Isle preceding Austin. And I notice I managed to skip last year’s Young Drivers test  in Abu Dhabi too; not sure why?

Alas, I have now gone back and discovered that this year’s Caterham F1 test driver Alexander Rossi did take part for the then Lotus-Renault team. NO! NOT that Lotus-Renault, but the other Lotus-Renault; you know the one that wasn’t named Lotus Renault GP, which was the former Renault F1 team... Instead Rossi was with the former Lotus F1 Racing Team; Oh Never Mind! EGADS! Aren’t we A-L-L glad that the Loti double entendre thingy is now over!

Thus Rossi is firmly aligned with the Caterham concern, while last year’s test actually saw all three of my future Formula 1 driver picks participating, with Rossi, “thee Young Wicky,” nee Robert Wickens and Esteban Gutierrez all at Abu Dhabi. Wickens drove for both le Reggie (Renault) and Virgin and Gutierrez drove for Sauber.


And remember that the Young Drivers test is only available for drivers who haven’t contested more than two Grand Prix’s in the past two years.

Yet this year’s Young Drivers Test format seems quite amuck, especially since the various F1 Constructors have decided to do their testing at different venues on different dates - having seen tests run at both Silverstone and Magny Cours, marking the return of Formula 1 machinery to France for the first time since 2008.

Hispania, Marussia and Williams participated at a bleakly overcast Silverstone during two days of British summer following the British GP where the first Chinese-born national Ma Qing Hua, 24-years old made history driving a Formula 1 car by running 54-laps for HRT.  

Ferrari, Force India and Mercedes took to the track at Magny Cours from 11-13, September, where appropriately native son Jules Bianchi topped the time sheets all three days.

Next up, the remaining Constructors ran at Abu Dhabi from 6-8, November, following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - where Caterham, Lotus, McLaren, Red Bull, Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso all took turns running their young charges.

Caterham
Returning for his  third season ending Young Drivers Test was America’s Alexander Rossi who took over from Dutch F1 hopeful Giedo van der Garde on Day-3, after the Dutchman put in considerable testing mileage for the team. As ‘Guido hopes to graduate from GP2 for the team next year on the backing of sponsorship funds, as the team may be seeking two “Pay drivers” if it loses the all important race for tenth place in this year’s Constructor standings...

Lotus
The Enstone based team took the unusual step of running 31-year old Nicolas Prost, son of “The Professor,” aka four time world champion Alain Prost - along with Edoardo Mortara and Davide Valsecchi, the 2012 GP2 champion. With the three drivers running in the same order as listed one day apiece at the test...

McLaren
Was caught totally unawares by the name Kevin Magnussen being at the top of the timesheets for Day-1 in the MP4-27; as yeah, that name should sound familiar, as Kevin’s father is known as ‘MAGS over here in Sports Car land, aka Jan Magnussen, the former F1 and IndyCar driver.

And the Woking based squad was the only outfit to run multiple drivers during each day’s testing, seeing the Dane Magnussen share the first day with Gary Paffett. Then the team’s normal test/reserve drivers Paffett and Oliver Turvey took over for the second day before MAGS’ Junior (Magnussen) returned and completed enough mileage to obtain his FIA Superlicense, with Turvey taking over later in the day...

Red bull
The soon to be triple Constructors champion team ran one of its newest Red Bull Junior Academy piloto’s, Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa who came on strong at the end of this year’s World Series by Renault 3.5 series with four victories alongside Rossi at Arden Caterham Motorsports - running the first two days before handing over to Robin Frijns, who seems to be hot property at the moment. While naturally the Adrian Newey designed RB8 was Bullish the entire test...

Sauber
On the first day’s outing, the Himwal based team ran Netherlands Robin Frijns, possibly as a reward for winning this year’s World Series by Renault 3.5 series, although traditionally that prize has been doled out by Renault in years past; as Frijns mentioned how completely knackered he was from the amazing braking forces of  modern F1 chassis.

Then for the remaining two days, Mexican test driver Esteban Gutierrez kept his Young Drivers testing 100% attendance and took over the squad’s C31-Ferrari; hoping to use the Abu Dhabi test as an audition for Sauber’s second race seat in 2013, now that the team has signed the Incredible Hulk, nee Nico Hulkenberg as Sergio Perez’s replacement...

Toro Rosso
First day testing saw Luiz Razia behind the keyboard of the team’s STR-07 before Venezuela’s Johnny Cecotto Jr  took over on Day-2 with Razia returning for Day-3, fever and  all!

And like 2010’s results, when ultimately four testers named Jerome D’Ambrosio, Paul di Resta, Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo graduated into becoming race drivers, last year’s Young Driver participants saw two more advance - with both being from France. As Jean-Eric Vergne not only topped the timesheets in the all conquering Red Bull RB7, but landed a seat at its ‘lil ‘Seester team Scuderia Toro Rosso. And Charles Pic made his way into the rebranded Virgin Racing squad Marussia with the help of his family’s trucking business.

Returning to this year’s final test session of 2012 are a total of six-drivers, with the likes of: Cecotto Jr., Gutierrez,
Paffett, Razia, Rossi and Turvey all driving at the Yas Island circuit once again, obviously hoping to follow in the footsteps of Vergne and Pic, albeit the latter’s ride seems somewhat in doubt, with Max Chilton’s name being bandied about.

Other possible graduates could be Bianchi at Force India; van der Garde possibly replacing ‘KOVY (Heikke Kovalainen) or Vitaly ‘VO5 Petrov at Caterham, where Pic could wind-up also? While Gutierrez seems a lock for Sauber’s second seat in order to keep the Mexican TelMex connection humming along. Yet the Bianchi Force India connection seems a bit odd to Mwah, as I’d have thought he’d go the Sauber  route due to his Ferrari links and manager being the son of ex-Scuderia boss Jean Todt; as I’d like to see the “Young Wicky” (Robert Wickens) land the seat instead...

So who’ll make the cut for 2013? You make the call! 



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