F1 has been away for one full day and, frankly, we missed it. So thank goodness for the young driver test, which kicks off at the Yas Marina circuit today. All drivers taking part must have contested no more than two grand prix (none of today’s runners have even entered one) and in some cases will be paying top dollar for their chance to impress F1’s team bosses. Here’s Badger’s run-down of those taking to the track today.
For results from day one click here.
Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo
21-year-old Australian who won the 2009 British F3 title and was runner-up in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship. Definitely talented, but recent rumours have suggested he’s fallen out with Red Bull’s Helmut Marko as Daniel wants to do GP2 whilst Helmut thinks it’s a waste of time. What is it with Marko and Aussies this year?
McLaren – Oliver Turvey
Tested for McLaren last year and is back for more in 2010 after enjoying a very impressive debut season in GP2. Looks about 15 but is in fact 23, so if he asks for a drink please serve the lad as he’s worked hard this season and fully deserves it.
Ferrari – Jules Bianchi
The Italian squad’s protégée didn’t quite live up to billing in GP2 this year and was effectively jumped in the queue to join F1 by Sauber newboy Sergio Perez. Still, finished third and will be favourite for the title next year, he also replaces Giancarlo Fisichella as the Scuderia’s full-time test and reserve driver in 2011.
Mercedes – Sam Bird
2010 saw Bird face a deluge of bad luck but also excel with a maiden GP2 win at Monza. Badger’s chuffed he’s been given a chance to test with a top team, just as he said he wanted to when we talked to him back in April. Read it here and be sure to Back the Bird.
Renault – Mikhail Aleshin
Won a superb Formula Renault 3.5 campaign, passing Ricciardo just two laps from home to snatch the title from the Aussie’s grasp. This test is a prize for that championship and Mikhail is unlikely to go any further with the team unless they feel like doubling their Russian contingent for 2011.
Williams – Dean Stoneman
F2 champ Dean Stoneman is running for Williams today as a reward for his title-winning exploits. We spoke to Dean shortly before he headed out to Abu Dhabi and the full interview is available here.
Force India – Paul di Resta & Antonio Felix da Costa
Regular test driver and potential 2011 racer Paul di Resta runs in the morning, and his experience should see the Scot towards the top of the timesheets. We’ll also see Antonio Felix da Costa get behind the wheel. The teenager, who has been a race-winner in F3 Euro Series and is managed by former Jordan and Midland driver Tiago Monteiro, will become the youngest Portuguese racer EVER to pilot an F1 car today. History in the making, folks!
Sauber – Esteban Gutierrez
Sauber’s new-for-2011 test driver Esteban Guttierez will be in the car today, the Mexican driver’s second time in F1 machinery after a run in the team’s former incarnation of BMW-Sauber last winter. In celebration of this I had fajitas last night and the resounding success of my meal suggests to me that young Guttierez is a star of the future. That and his GP3 performances, obviously.
Toro Rosso – Jean Eric Vergne
Possibly this writer’s favourite driver on earth at the moment (it’s nothing to do with the shades), Jean-Eric Vergne is something we’ve not seen in F1 for many years: French and fast. He made mincemeat of the British F3 series in his rookie year and looks like Red Bull’s best move since they allowed a German lad named Vettel to race a BMW-Sauber at the 2007 U.S Grand Prix. Could well end up replacing Buemi or Alguersuari if they don’t perform next year.
Lotus – Rodolfo Gonzalez
Badger was slightly bemused when we saw the name Rodolfo Gonzalez next to Lotus’ on the entry list. He’s just come off the back of a pretty bad GP2 season and having not hit the heights at the age of 24 is by no means on the F1 radar. Not sure how he landed the job (err, money?) but he’s probably better than the chap they’ve got in for day two.
Hispania – Pastor Maldonado
With Nico Hulkenberg departing the team yesterday we’re all becoming convinced moneybags Maldonado is a cert to join Barrichello at Williams. But Pastor’s not all cash – the boy can drive, and it’ll be interesting to see how he runs in the frankly-useless 2010 Hispania car. Switches to Williams for the big audition tomorrow before returning to the Spanish squad for Pirelli testing. For more Badger coverage of Pastor click here.
Virgin – Rio Haryanto.
His name is Rio and he drives an F1 car! Geddit? Yes, Rio Haryanto is a 17-year-old Indonesian lad who surprised many observers by winning a GP3 race in 2010 and finishing as the highest placed driver for the Manor team. Being as they’re the same people who run Virgin Racing they offered their top performer an F1 test and Rio was the successful man. Or boy, as the case may actually be.