Gary Paffett in the McLaren MP4-25

2011 young drivers’ F1 test: Guide to the drivers

2011 F1 testingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The end-of-season young drivers’ test has attracted a range of drivers from countries as varied as Bulgaria, Venezuela and Indonesia.

Some of them are tipped to be in F1 next year and there are some names to keep an eye on for future seasons.

Here’s a guide to who’s driving at Yas Marina on the 16th and 17th of November.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Jerez, 2009

Daniel Ricciardo returns to test for the new world champions having also driven for them at Jerez last year.

The 21 year-old Australian has been racing in Formula Renault 3.5 since then, finishing runner-up in his debut season in the category, winning four times including at Monaco. Last year he was the British Formula Three champion.

Ricciardo set the fastest time in last year’s young drivers test. He is a member of Red Bull’s driver development programme and has been the team’s official reserve driver this year.

His plans for 2011 have not been announced yet and with all four Red Bull F1 race seats filled the most likely options are a second crack at Formula Renault 3.5 or a graduation to GP2.


Gary Paffett in the McLaren MP4-25

McLaren are sticking with known quantities in Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey.

Paffett has been a test drive for McLaren since 2005, but has never made an F1 race start. He currently races in the DTM for Mercedes, having won the touring car title in 2005.

Turvey has also driven for McLaren before, though not as extensively as Paffett. He won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2006 and just finished sixth in his first year of GP2.

The pair will also handle the driving when the teams get their first taste of Pirelli rubber on the 19th and 20th. McLaren are the only team to not have either of their race drivers present.

The tyres being used for that test will not be Pirelli’s definitive 2011 compounds.


Jules Bianchi, Ferrari, Jerez, 2009

Ferrari are another team who are running the same driver as they did in last year’s young driver test: Jules Bianchi.

Bianchi ended his first GP2 season as top rookie for the ART team. He was third in the championship thanks to his consistent points-scoring despite not winning a race.

He is the most senior driver on Ferrari’s young driver development programme.

The top three finishers in the Italian Formula 3 Championship will also get to drive a Ferrari at Vallelunga in Italy on December 2nd. Cesar Ramos (Brazil), Stephane Richelmi (Monaco) and Andrea Caldarelli (Italy) will get to drive an F2008.


Sam Bird, ART
Sam Bird, ART

Sam Bird, Bianchi’s team mate at ART in GP2, will test for Mercedes. He finished four points behind Bianchi in the championship.

His previous F1 testing experience includes several appearances for Williams from 2007-2009.


Mikhail Aleshin in the Renault R29 at Magny-Cours
Mikhail Aleshin in the Renault R29 at Magny-Cours

Renault will give one test day to Russian Mikhail Aleshin as his prize for winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship. He beat Ricciardo by just two points.

After Aleshin drives the car on Tuesday, Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio will take over the R30. D’Ambrosio has appeared in Friday test sessions for Virgin this year and will also drive for that team in this test.

Force India

Yelmer Buurman
Yelmer Buurman

Force India will use regular test driver Paul di Resta to assess two new talents. He will set benchmark times against which they will be compared.

Dutchman Yelmer Buurman and Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa are the two newcomers to the car.

Buurman, 23, did half a season of GP2 two years ago and has been racing in the oddball Superleague Formula series since then, winning six times.

Da Costa, 19, was the top rookie driver in the F3 Euroseries this year, ending the season seventh. He is managed by Portugal’s last F1 driver, Tiago Monteiro.

Di Resta, meanwhile, will also participate in the separate Pirelli test session on the 19th and 20th, alongside 2010 racers Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi.


Pastor Maldonado, GP2, 2010
Pastor Maldonado, GP2, 2010

Williams are another team who give over one of their test days to the champion of a series. In their case it’s the Formula Two champion Dean Stoneman, who will drive the car on the 16th.

The following day Williams will test the driver who is expected to take Nico H???lkenberg’s place at the team next year: 25-year-old Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.

Although much has been made of his financial backing from Venezuelan petroleum firm PDVSA, Maldonado was a convincing champion in GP2 this year. Granted, it was his fourth year in the category, but he still won six consecutive feature races and had the championship wrapped up with two races to spare.

However it’s also true that H???lkenberg had him comfortably handled when the two were team mates in 2009.


Sergio P??rez visits Sauber factory

Sauber will split the two days between their new 2011 driver Sergio P??rez and test driver Esteban Guti??rrez – both from Mexico.

Guti??rrez, who won the inaugural GP3 championship with ART this year, will test on the 16th. Next year he graduates to GP2 with the same team.

P??rez will drive on the 17th and he will also get half a day at the wheel of the car during the Pirelli test on the 20th.

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, British F3, 2010
Jean-Eric Vergne, British F3, 2010

This year’s British Formula Three champion Jean-Eric Vergne will do the driving for Toro Rosso.

The 20-year-old Frenchman dominated this year’s British F3 series, following in the footsteps of Ricciardo last year and Jaime Alguersuari the year before that.

Vergne also dipped his toes into Formula Renault 3.5 and won his third race in the category at Silverstone.


Rodolfo Gonzalez, Arden
Rodolfo Gonzalez, Arden

Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonz??lez will do the bulk of Lotus’s running, at the wheel on the 16th and half of the second day as well.

Gonz??lez won the junior (‘National’) category of British F3 in 2006 but since then wins in any category have been hard to come by as he’s flitted between F3 (British and European), European Formula 3000, GP2 Asia and GP2.

In his first full season of GP2 this year he scored just four points while team mate Charles Pic accumulated 28.

Bulgarian Vladimir Arabadzhiev will get the car on Wednesday afternoon. He did 16 GP2 races this year but failed to score.


Davide Valsecchi, iSport
Davide Valsecchi, iSport

Before getting behind the wheel of the Williams, Maldonado will drive for HRT on the 16th. He’ll return to them for both days of the Pirelli test as well, making him the only driver to get all four days of testing in.

HRT’s other day will be split between two GP2 drivers, Josef Kr??l and Davide Valsecchi.

Valsecchi dominated the GP2 Asia championship last year and although big things were expected of him with iSport in GP2 this year it took him until the final round of the championship to win a race and was beaten on points by team mate Turvey.

Kr??l suffered a horrendous accident in the race at Valencia – much like Mark Webber’s – and the resulting back injuries kept him out of the cockpit until last weekend.


Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin, Korea, 2010
Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin, Korea, 2010

Virgin will split the first day of the test between Rio Haryanto and Jerome d’Ambrosio.

Indonesian driver Haryanto, 17, won his place at the test by being the highest-ranked driver in the F1 team’s sister GP3 squad this year. Haryanto won last year’s 2009 Formula BMW Pacific Championship.

Luiz Razia will get his first proper test of the VR-01 having only previously driven it for filming purposes. He drove a Super Aguri at Estoril recently in preparation.

The 21-year-old Brazilian ended his second season in GP2 11th in the championship, as team mate to Maldonado at Rapax.

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