Red Bull protégé Jean-Éric Vergne has, perhaps not surprisingly, continued Red Bull Racing’s red-hot form in 2011 by going quickest on the opening day of the ‘Young Drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi. The Frenchman’s best lap was almost a second quicker than his compatriot, Jules Bianchi, who was driving for Ferrari.
Vergne and Bianchi will be the only runners who have been handed the full three days of testing by their respective teams, and it was Vergne who settled in from the moment testing got underway at 9am local time. After topping the timesheets in the morning’s running, he then set about improving his times further, only narrowly missing out on dipping into the 1m39s bracket.
Bianchi’s day was spent largely concentrating on aerodynamic work for Ferrari, with the team sporting an unusual sensor appendage on the left-hand side of the F150° to monitor air flow and downforce.
|The test session also gives the teams a rare opportunity to assess the aero performance of their cars. Red Bull ran a flexing sensor mechanism on its front wing (left), while Ferrari brought this ugly aero sensor (right).|
An impressive third-quickest, albeit over two seconds off Vergne’s best effort, was Canadian driver Robert Wickens, who drove for the Renault team today as a prize for winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship. Wickens will drive later in this test session for Virgin Racing, courtesy of his relationship with the team’s leading investor, Marussia sports cars.
Swiss GP2 driver Fabio Leimer finished the day fourth-quickest and best-placed of the newcomer drivers in the Sauber. His best lap time was some six-tenths of a second faster than McLaren’s regular test driver Gary Paffett, who shared his day’s running with Oliver Turvey (who was eigth-fastest).
GP2 driver Max Chilton had his first circuit outing for Force India and went sixth-fastest, clocking his fastest lap on his final tour to finish up just a tenth slower than Paffett.
Half a second slower than Bird was Team Lotus returnee Rodolfo González, who clocked up the most laps of the day (87) along with Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti in the Toro Rosso, who was some 1.2 seconds off the Colombian’s pace.
HRT brought GP2 driver Dani Clos along for today’s running, with the Spaniard posting a best time just five-hundredths of a second slower than Coletti in his first F1 outing for two years.
Virgin Racing split its running between two drivers, and brought up the rear of the timesheets today. Having performed some straight-line tests for the team previously, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs ran during the poorer conditions in the morning, and was predictably slowest of all.
Frenchman Charles Pic – hotly tipped to be announced in the team’s racing line-up next year – took over for the afternoon, with his lap times coming off a sequence of short runs as he familiarised himself with the car. He will return to action for a full day’s running tomorrow.
2011 Abu Dhabi ‘Young Drivers’ Test – Day 1 Times:
|1.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Red Bull Renault RB7||1:40.011||83|
|2.||Jules Bianchi||Ferrari F150° Italia||1:40.960||85|
|3.||Robert Wickens||Renault R31||1:42.217||78|
|4.||Fabio Leimer||Sauber Ferrari C30||1:42.331||67|
|5.||Gary Paffett||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||1:42.912||41|
|6.||Max Chilton||Force India Mercedes VJM04||1:43.016||81|
|7.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Cosworth FW33||1:43.118||71|
|8.||Oliver Turvey||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||1:43.502||35|
|9.||Sam Bird||Mercedes GP W02||1:43.548||51|
|10.||Rodolfo González||Lotus Renault T128||1:44.022||87|
|11.||Stefano Coletti||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||1:45.278||87|
|12.||Dani Clos||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||1:45.329||68|
|13.||Charles Pic||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||1:46.930||30|
|14.||Adrian Quaife-Hobbs||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||1:47.292||32|
[Images via Sutton Images]