Abu Dhabi Young Driver Test - Day 1 Jean-Eric Vergne ended his first day of on-track running for Red Bull Racing on top of the timesheets in the Abu Dhabi young driver test for up and coming F1 drivers. Air and track temperatures were hotter than during the grand prix, hitting 32˚C and 45˚C respectively, as testing takes place during the day, rather than in the afternoon and evening.
The 21-year-old Frenchman, who finished second in Formula Renault 3.5 this year improved on his fastest time of the morning to set a best lap of 1m40.011s during the final hour of running.
This was almost a second over Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi.
At the end of the session, Vergne said: “That was a fantastic day for me. Driving the World Championship-winning car is just great and I liked every lap I did out there. Knowing there are two more days still to do, just makes me smile more. It’s a great opportunity from Red Bull Racing; I’m trying to learn as much as possible and get as much as possible out of it.”
Robert Wickens, who beat Vergne to the Formula Renault 3.5 crown in 2011, was third fastest on his first test for Renault, lapping just a tenth faster than Fabio Leimer, who adapted well to the step up to F1 machinery after racing in GP2 this year.
“To me it was good day," said Leimer. "I was able to improve from the morning to the afternoon, and I learnt a lot for my future. I wasn’t only impressed by the power of the car, as actually I didn’t expect it to be so nice to drive. It is so stable and smooth when riding the curbs compared to a GP2 car. I was a bit worried about my neck before the test, but this wasn’t an issue. What I could feel in the end was that the concentration needed during the entire day was quite intense. Obviously I had to learn a lot about procedures and switches. All in all, I’m happy with what the team and I have done today - it was a great day, full of new experiences.”
He ended the day sixth tenths of a second quicker than McLaren's Gary Paffett, who shared the day with Oliver Turvey.
Rodolfo Gonzalez: “We did a few runs in the morning so I could get used to the car which I found very useful and it really helped to improve my style of driving. We ran some aerodynamic tests which took half of the morning, with many small adjustments and set-up changes, and then ran tire tests on the 2012 Pirelli tires. I’m very happy with the car, and the team have been absolutely fantastic and given me a lot of help today.
“I drove the T127 last year which is this car’s predecessor and I can really see the difference and improvements in the T128 and across the whole team. Obviously the Renault engine and Red Bull gearbox play a big role in the change of the car, but overall it feels as though it has more downforce and is smoother to drive. The rear end is also more stable which gives me the confidence to push into the corners and to get on the power early on the exits.
“It’s my dream to drive in Formula One so I’m really very thankful for this opportunity. I think I’ve showed I have potential with the lap times I did, and am pleased with my times overall. I’ve proved I can do the job and have really enjoyed this experience in the car and learned a lot for my future.”
Max Chilton: “I had been looking forward to this moment all my life and it definitely exceeded my expectations. The performance of the car is just amazing, especially the downforce and traction, which are mind-blowing. The design of these cars is incredible and it’s left me wanting much more. It’s scary how quick you can go through the high-speed corners, but the car is really well balanced and it feels very calm. The morning session flew by really quickly while I was getting used to the car and the systems, but in the afternoon things settled down and we managed to do some good testing. Working with such a big crew was also a new experience for me and it makes life so easy because there’s a person for every job and you can change things really quickly. I want to say thanks to the guys for a great day and I can’t wait to jump back in the car on Thursday.”
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs “I have to start by saying a very big ‘thank you’ to Marussia Virgin Racing for this fantastic opportunity today. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot. This morning I began with some CSL (constant speed limiter) runs on the straights so the team could conduct some aero measurement work and then I got into the program properly. I ran two sets of new tires and just began chipping away as I learned more about the car and how it reacts. Overall I’m pleased with the day and it’s been a huge experience for me.”
Charles Pic “Today I had my first run in an F1 car, so it was a very special day but with a lot of new things to learn. The high speed corners and braking were things I had to adjust to, but I felt my acclimatization went well. I’m very happy with this first step. At the end, we decided that some changes we need to make would take some time, so it was better to wait until tomorrow and save a set of tires. Wednesday will be a big day for me as there is a plan to do a lot of tire testing, so it is an opportunity I am really looking forward to as I will be able to learn all the types of tire and see how they react. I am really enjoying working with the team. They have been very welcoming and helpful, so I am happy with my first day of testing.”
Robert Wickens “I’m extremely pleased with today’s test session,” reflected Wickens. “It was a constructive day and we worked well going through the program that the team had set out. I have to say the track was a lot ‘greener’ than expected this morning considering we just had the Grand Prix on Sunday, the track cleaners were obviously busy leading up to today. Having run in Friday’s practice session, I was automatically dialed into the track in an F1 car though, which was an advantage.
“The R31 was as I expected, it handled well and I knew we’d be setting competitive lap times. I’d targeted a top-three finish for the day and although I’d have liked to have cracked the 1m41s mark, I’m still satisfied with my performance. You never know what everyone else is working on during test days but I just kept my head down and enjoyed the experience of working through the day with Lotus Renault GP and experiencing the car on the different sets of Pirelli’s. I’d like to thank Renault Sport for the opportunity and a big thanks to everyone at Lotus Renault GP for a great day in Abu Dhabi.”