Following yesterday’s look at McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and the Red Bull teams, today we complete our rundown of F1’s test drivers by checking out the second half of the grid. As we move down the pitlane the test drivers credentials get noticeably less impressive, while the money they’re bringing to their team increases. Funny that.
That’s not the case at Force India though. As Badger revealed last month they’ve signed Scottish racer Paul di Resta as their third driver for 2010. And, unlike his fellow testers, di Resta’s going to get some decent time in an F1 car, running in the Friday practice sessions before grands prix. This suggests that the team rate his feedback and want to evaluate his abilities in the car- Sutil and Liuzzi should be looking over their shoulders. His career had been drifting in a similar path to long-time McLaren tester Gary Paffett’s recently, so this is a good move for him.
Badger Verdict: There to gain experience before an F1 debut in 2011, if not sooner.
Renault have 3 testers on board this season, mainly for the sponsorship cash they can bring. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Ho-Pin Tung and Jan Charouz share the role in 2010, though none are likely to get much time in an F1 car. D’Ambrosio is the most promising of the three, having trimumphed over Kamui Kobayashi when they were GP2 teammates last year. Tung, who was featured on Badger last week, is hoping to become China’s first F1 driver. His results in the junior categories don’t suggest much more than an average level of ability, and he’s undoubtedly bringing money to the team. Charouz, who has spent the last three years racing sportscars but returns to single-seaters this year, isn’t short of cash either. Tung is the official reserve, and will step in to the breach if one of the race drivers is unavailable.
Badger Verdict: d’Ambrosio has shown some promise in GP2, whilst Tung and Charouz are primarily there for their money. None are there solely on ability- sponsors aren’t finding post-Crashgate Renault appealing.
Resurrected legends Lotus have signed European junior category veteran Fairuz Fauzy as their third driver. With the team backed by Malaysian money it’s little surprise that they’ve signed a Malaysian reserve, more as a marketing-move than anything else. He had a dreadful time in GP2 in 2005-2006, failing to score a single point, but has improved since then, finishing as runner-up in World Series by Renault last year. He had the honour of performing the first proper test of the new Lotus at Jerez on Wednesday.
Badger Verdict: In the job more for his passport than his pace. Capable, but not necessarily F1 standard.
Newboys Virgin have confirmed 20 year-old Brazilian Luiz Razia in a test driver role for 2010. South American F3 champion at 17, Razia has been in Europe for 3 seasons and raced in GP2 last year. He had a difficult first half of 2009 but scored a breakthrough victory at Monza. He’ll be bringing money in exchange for the role, but will be able to use the association with an F1 team to his benefit. The team initially announced Portuguese GP2 racer Alvaro Parente as reserve driver, but his funding fell through. Spaniard Andy Soucek is now thought to be on the verge of getting the job. It’s hardly the reward his efforts in Formula 2 last year- where he romped to the title- deserve, but at least it’s a break in F1 for the man from Madrid.
Badger Verdict: Feedback-wise there’s little Razia can offer above Glock and di Grassi and he’ll take the role as a learning experience. If Soucek gets the job he’d make a good reserve should anything go wrong with the race drivers.
That leaves three teams without confirmed third drivers: Sauber, who with the vastly experienced Pedro de la Rosa on board might not need one; and new teams USF1 and Campos, neither of whom have signed a second driver yet. If those two make it far enough to sign test-drivers expect them to bring a fair bit of money to the team. Also lets not forget Stefan GP, who remain convinced they’ll be racing in F1 this year. Should they fail to gain entry they’ll spend the whole year testing, in which case Williams refugee Kazuki Nakajima is 99% certain to be their driver. Should they make the grid Nakajima will have a race seat, and it’ll be Milos Pavlovic, who like the team is Serbian, who takes the third driver role.
So those are F1 2010’s test drivers, the poor, forgotten souls who all share one thing in common: they’re desperate to land a race seat as soon as possible.
Any thoughts on the teams’ choices regarding test drivers? Let us know what you think.