The much-discussed ‘Young Drivers’ test takes place over the next three days at Silverstone, with all participating teams now having named the drivers that they will run.
As we have previously reported, this will be a departure from the traditional ‘Young Drivers’ tests in previous years, because each team will also field one (or both) of their established drivers over the course of the test to evaluate the new tyre compounds Pirelli will run for the remainder of the season.
In making some of the announcements, it could also indicate who of the established runners remain in favour with their employers and who doesn’t.
Take a look at Red Bull Racing, for instance. It has managed to squeeze in half a day’s running for Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, but it hasn’t afforded the same opportunity to the Australian’s teammate Jean-Éric Vergne, which could suggest that the Frenchman – despite outscoring Ricciardo to-date in 2013 – is perhaps not within the drinks giant’s long-term plans.
Lotus, Sauber and Williams have all opted to field just one of their frontline drivers. Despite his loathing for test sessions, Kimi Räikkönen will lead Lotus’ charge, getting the final day’s running after Nicolas Prost and the highly-rated Davide Valsecchi have their respective one-day outings. Despite scoring a podium last time out, Räikkönen’s teammate Romain Grosjean will not put on his overalls this week.
It’s a similar story over at Sauber. Contrary to speculation that he was set to part ways with the Swiss team, Nico Hülkenberg will have a half-day behind the wheel of the troubled C32, with reserve driver Robin Frijns and Kimiya Sato (brother of former F1 racer Takuma Sato) sharing the other days. Hülkenberg’s teammate Esteban Gutierrez – who has had an extremely disappointing debut F1 season – will not be driving.
Over at Williams, Valtteri Bottas won’t get to sample the new tyres, with the honours going to regular driver Pastor Maldonado. The well-funded Venezuelan will be joined by Formula 2 champion Daniel Juncadella and Williams test driver Susie Wolff.
Ferrari is running the least number of drivers, giving its latest protégé Davide Rigon two-and-a-half days’ running, while Felipe Massa gets an outing on the final day. Fernando Alonso, interestingly, is taking a break from the cockpit this week and so he won’t get to sample the new tyres until the field regroups for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July. Given the Spaniard is still very much in the championship hunt, it will be interesting to see whether the team’s strategy has the risk of backfiring.
McLaren is the only outfit opting to solely run its three development drivers. Longstanding test drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey will be joined by the team’s new hotshot, Kevin Magnussen, son of former McLaren racer Jan Magnussen. With established runners not being allowed to evaluate any development parts and with the Woking squad clearly in need of some major upgrades to its troublesome MP4-28, the decision to sideline Jenson Button and Sergio Perez is a sensible one.
As confirmed, Mercedes will be the only team missing in action, with the Brackley team having been banned from proceedings following its secret tyre test in May. The team will still receive all of the tyre data gather by Pirelli over the course of the three days, although not being on-track will give it a significant disadvantage. Then again, the team only has itself to blame…