Jean-Eric Vergne Yas Marina Max Chilton

Jean-Éric Vergne has completed a clean-sweep of the three-day ‘Young Drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit, becoming the only driver to break the 1m40s barrier over the entire event. He finished the day almost two seconds faster than Mercedes GP’s Sam Bird, while Ferrari’s Jules Bianchi rounded out the top three.

The Frenchman’s best lap, a 1:38.917, was posted in the first half of the day, with the time being just 0.4 seconds slower than the lap-time Sebastian Vettel had posted to claim pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last weekend.

It was an impressive showing from the Frenchman, leaving senior Red Bull figures themselves with another dilemma of how to utilise his services next season.

Having been generally off-the-pace in the first two days of running Sam Bird finally took his Mercedes GP runner to the pointy end of the timesheets – albeit almost two seconds slower than Vergne – in the late afternoon when the team finally elected to run a few quick laps.

Sam Bird Mercedes GP's top-exiting exhausts

The Brackley-based squad has spent the majority of the three-day test concentrating on testing developments for its 2012 challenger, including the mandatory upper-body exhausts.

Bird’s performance displaced Ferrari reserve driver Jules Bianchi to third-quickest, with the Frenchman clocking up the most laps of any driver during the day.

Oliver Turvey had his first full day in the McLaren and went fourth-fastest, one spot ahead of his compatriot Max Chilton, who took the Force India VJM03 on his second circuit outing for the team.

Sixth-fastest was Sauber’s reserve driver Esteban Gutiérrez, who interrupted proceedings late in the day with a spin at Turn 2, which damaged a wheel rim on the Ferrari-powered C30.

Mirko Bortolotti Alexander Rossi

With Williams’ reserve driver Valtteri Bottas having raced to Macau to qualify for the Formula 3 Grand Prix, the Grove team ran Italian driver Mirko Bortolotti as his reward for winning the FIA Formula 2 championship title. His best lap-time was just 0.1 seconds slower than the fastest time managed over two days of running by Bottas.

Eighth-quickest was Italian teenager Kevin Ceccon in the Toro Rosso, who shared driving duties with Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti (11th-fastest). The pair sandwiched American driver Alexander Rossi (having his first outing for Lotus) and Jan Charouz (Renault).

After having a few cursory laps late on the second day of testing to familiarise himself with the car, France’s Nathanaël Berthon posted 51 laps for HRT, finishing one-tenth of a second quicker than Canadian driver Robert Wickens, who shared the Virgin Racing car with Charles Pic.



2011 Abu Dhabi ‘Young Drivers’ Test – Day 3 Times:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Red Bull Renault RB7 1:38.917 46
2. Sam Bird GBR Mercedes GP W02 1:40.897 104
3. Jules Bianchi FRA Ferrari F150° Italia 1:41.347 106
4. Oliver Turvey GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 1:41.513 89
5. Max Chilton GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 1:41.575 79
6. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 1:42.049 77
7. Mirko Bortolotti ITA Williams Cosworth FW33 1:43.277 74
8. Kevin Ceccon ITA Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 1:43.686 35
9. Alexander Rossi USA Lotus Renault T128 1:44.283 74
10. Jan Charouz CZE Renault R31 1:44.470 82
11. Stefano Coletti MON Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 1:44.545 48
12. Nathanaël Berthon FRA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 1:45.839 51
13. Robert Wickens CDN Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 1:45.934 34
14. Charles Pic FRA Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 1:46.348 49

[Images via LAT and Sutton Images]


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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.