The three-day young drivers’ test starts at the Yas Marina circuit today.
For some drivers it may be the only chance they ever have to get behind the wheel of an F1 car.
For others, it just might be the start of something big. Here’s a run-down of who’s driving for which team, and what’s on their racing CVs.
2011: Second in Formula Renault 3.5
2010: British F3 champion
The latest graduate of Red Bull’s Driver Development programme is Jean-Eric Vergne. He has mirrored Daniel Ricciardo by winning the British F3 title one year, finishing runner-up in Formula Renault 3.5 the next, and now getting to test Red Bull’s F1 car.
He drove for Toro Rosso in last year’s test and has recently started driving for them in Friday first practice sessions as well.
2011: Seventh in DTM
2005: DTM champion
2002: German F3 champion
Paffett has been a McLaren test driver since 2005 and signed an extension on his contract with the team earlier this year.
He races regularly in the DTM but it is unlikely the 30-year-old is under serious consideration for an F1 seat, unless he was to be called on to replace one of the team’s regular drivers.
2010: Sixth in GP2
2009: Fourth in Formula Renault 3.5, one win
2008: Second in British F3, four wins
Turvey made his way through the lower categories with little sponsorship but some support from the Racing Steps Foundation.
He was unable to get a full-time seat for a second year in GP2 and has joined McLaren’s GT racing programme.
2011: Third in GP2, one win
2010: Third in GP2
2009: F3 Euroseries champion
2008: F3 Masters winner
2007: Formula Renault 2.0 France champion
Bianchi’s second season of GP2 fell well short of expectations: he scored just one point more than he had the year before.
He did suffer some misfortune – his car was over-fuelled by 15kg in qualifying for the final race, leaving him 19th on the grid, which ultimately cost him second in the championship to Luca Filippi.
But he also made problems for himself: such being stripped of pole position in Spain for ignoring yellow flags, then crashing into Giedo van der Garde at the start.
He enjoys the backing of the Ferrari Driver Academy and with ART having filled their seats for 2012 it remains to be seen if he can make the leap to F1 as a race or reserve driver, or if he will return to GP2 for a crack at the title with another team next year.
2011: Sixth in GP2
2010: Fifth in GP2, one win
Bird started his second season of GP2 strongly with second place to Romain Grosjean in the first race and two further podiums in his next two starts.
But his season went off the rails and he never finished on the podium again. He was particularly unlucky in Monaco, starting from pole position only to be left stranded at the start with a clutch problem.
He headed to the next race still tied for the lead of the championship with Grosjean. But as the DAMS driver tightened his grasp on the title, Bird increasingly slipped back into the lower reaches of the points.
The iSport driver recaptured something of his early form in the final two races at Monza, with a pair of fourth places leaving him sixth in the championship.
During his three-day test with Mercedes he will conduct an early test of the car in non-exhaust-blown diffuser specification ahead of the ban on the technology next year.
2011: Formula Renault 3.5 champion
2010: Second in GP3, three wins
2009: Second in Formula Two, two wins
2006: Formula BMW USA champion
Wickens beat Vergne to the Formula Renault 3.5 title this year. It was his second year in the category, the first coming in 2008 when he took a single win for Carlin.
He also drove for Canada in the short-lived A1 Grand Prix series. He took a commanding win in the first of two races in Durban but committed a serious error in the second by hitting a rival while driving against the flow of traffic.
He had his first run in an F1 car this year with a straight-line aerodynamic test for Virgin. The Canadian also drove for them in first practice last weekend.
2011: Sixth in Formula Renault 3.5, three wins
2010: Formula Renault 2.0 Europe champion, nine wins
Korjus became the youngest driver to win the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2010, aged 17. That propelled the Estonian into Formula Renault 3.5 this year with Tech 1, the former home of Daniel Ricciardo.
Still very early in his single-seater career, Korjus is already looking like a name to keep an eye on in the future.
2011: 25th in Formula Renault 3.5
2009: Le Mans Series LMP1 champion with team mates Tomas Enge and Stefan Mucke
2006: F3000 Masters champion
After winning the F3000 Masters championship in 2006, Czech driver Charouz moved into sports car and endurance racing.
He returned to single-seater racing in 2010 backed by Gravity Sports Management, joining Renault’s F1 driver programme.
However his results in Formula Renault 3.5 have been poor by his own admission: “The whole season did not fulfil our vision,” he said after ending his 2011 campaign with ten points, six fewer than he had in 2010.
2011: GP3 champion, four wins
2010: Third in F3 Euroseries, two wins
2009: Third in F3 Euroseries
2008: Formula Renault 2.0 Europe and NEC champion
Halfway through the GP3 season Williams’ reserve driver Bottas was tenth in the championship. He had failed to score in the two most recent races at Silverstone.
The Finnish driver bounced back at the Nurburgring where he scored his first victory of the year, becoming the tenth different winner in as many races – which tells you something about how closely matched the drivers were in GP3’s second season.
Bottas, a protege of Mika Hakkinen, added two further wins in the next three races and a fourth at Monza sealed the title, which he won by seven points over ART team mate James Calado. The 16-race season producing a dozen different winners.
However his ART team picked Calado over him to make the graduation to GP2 next year. Calado won his second GP2 race for them in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Bottas will drive on the first two days of the test for Williams.
2011: Formula Two champion, seven wins
2008: Italian F3 champion, nine wins
Bortolotti won the Formula Two championship in emphatic style at his second attempt, having also raced in the category in 2009.
He earned his test with Williams as a prize for his F2 championship triumph.
2011: 20th in GP2
2009: Fourth in British F3, one win
Max Chilton is the younger brother of British Touring Car driver Tom Chilton. He scored seven points in his first two seasons of GP2 combined.
He will drive for Force India on the first and last days of the three-day test.
Johnny Cecotto Jnr
2011: 24th in GP2
2008: Third in German F3, two wins
The son of the driver who was Ayrton Senna’s first team mate in F1, Cecotto looks to follow the path of fellow Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado into Formula 1.
But he’s hardly set the world alight in three seasons of GP2, in which time he’s scored just three points.
2011: 13th in GP2, one win
2010: GP3 champion
2008: Formula BMW Europe champion, seven wins
Gutierrez may soon join Sergio Perez as the second Mexican driver in Formula 1.
Having won the GP3 title last year he had an impressive first season in GP2, improving throughout the year, and misfortune kept him from winning more than once. A wheel came off following a pit stop at the Nurburgring, when he had been leading.
But he came out on top in a battle with eventual champion Romain Grosjean to finish second in the Hungary sprint race having started 24th on the grid.
ART have kept him on board for a second season in 2012.
2011: 14th in GP2, one win
2009: Formula Master champion
Aside from a win and a second place, Leimer rarely scored in his second season of GP2, despite taking the seat vacated by last year’s champion Pastor Maldonado.
He triumphed in the sprint race in Spain having started last on the grid for the feature event. He clawed his way up to eighth (boosted by Romain Grosjean’s exclusion for a technical infringement).
That gave him pole position for the shorter race, in which he had Dani Clos easily handled and won by a comfortable margin of ten seconds.
He also won the feature race in last week’s GP2 final at the Yas Marina circuit. The Swiss driver will get one day at the wheel of the Sauber.
2011: 11th in GP2, two wins
2010: Ninth in GP3
Coletti’s GP2 season got off to a good start with a win in the second race of the year.
That was followed by a string of anonymous races before he popped up to win another sprint race at the Hungaroring.
In damp conditions he started from 21st on the grid on slicks and moved up to 12th when the safety car came out. When it went back in he took advantage of his warmer tyres to move up six places immediately, and four laps later he was in the lead and on his way to victory.
Disaster struck in the next race at Spa. Coletti suffered compression fractures of his spine when he hit Mikhail Aleshin, whose car had slowed suddenly when his engine went into a “safe mode”.
Coletti missed the rest of the season but the Monegasque driver was able to test for DAMS and Coloni last month. He will drive for Toro Rosso on Tuesday and on Thursday morning.
2011: Auto GP champion
2010: Fourth in Spanish F3
Ceccon won the Auto GP championship this year but was helped by his three closest challengers missing two races each.
He also did eight rounds of the GP2 championship, substituting for the injured Davide Rigon at Coloni, making his series debut at the age of 17.
He will drive on Wednesday and in the afternoon on Thursday in Abu Dhabi.
2011: 26th in GP2
2006: British F3 National Class champion
The Venezuelan driver has made 39 GP2 starts in three years and has just four points to show for it.
He was Charles Pic’s team mate in GP2 last year and was comfortably beaten by the French driver. Pic is testing for Virgin this week (see below).
Gonzalez also drove for Lotus in the young drivers’ test last year.
2011: 12th in GP2
2006: F3 Sudamerica champion
Razia is already familiar with the T128. He had a chance to drive it in pre-season testing and also in the first practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix.
He drove for Lotus’s GP2 team AirAsia this year. He won once in his first season of GP2 in 2009, but hasn’t repeated it since.
2011: Third in Formula Renault 3.5, two wins
2010: Fourth in GP3, two wins
There will potentially be two American races on the calendar in 2013, and Rossi is one of the best prospects for a home driver at the races in Austin and New Jersey.
Rossi won the Formula BMW world final in 2008 and has finished in the top four in the three different series he has contested since then.
2011: Ninth in GP2
2010: Fourth in GP2, one win
Clos fell well short of his 2010 level in in his third season of GP2 – also his second with former champions Racing Engineering.
The Spanish driver has previously tested for Williams.
After the first test had begun HRT announced Nathanael Berthon would drive for them on the second and third days.
Berthon finished 13th in Formula Renault 3.5 this year.
After the first day of the test HRT added that Jan Charouz will also drive for the team.
2011: Fourth in GP2, two wins
2010: Tenth in GP2, one win
2009: Third in Formula Renault 3.5, two wins
Pic took an astute tactical victory in the GP2 feature race at the Circuit de Catalunya earlier this year. He protected his tyres during the opening stint allowing him to only change two instead of all four at the mandatory pit stop, allowing him to jump team mate Giedo van der Garde and Sam Bird to take the win.
Pic often shone in the feature races which are a good barometer of a driver’s overall ability. He finished second in three of the last four, and had another win in the sprint race at Monaco.
There were a few errors along the way as one, notably at the Nurburgring, where he was disqualified after failing to serve a drive-through penalty.
There have been rumours Pic will replace Jerome D’Ambrosio at Virgin next year.
2011: Fifth in GP3, one win
Quaife-Hobbs drove for Virgin’s GP3 sister team for the past two years. He scored his single win at Valencia, jumping into the lead from third on the grid at the start.
He only finished on the podium once more during the season but it was enough to secure him fifth place in a closely-fought championship.
As well as driving for Renault, Wickens will also spend a day with Virgin, who he made his F1 practice debut for last weekend.
In addition to the teams’ normal allocation of testing tyres, Pirelli are also bringing an extra eight sets of tyres for the team including a mixture of this year’s compounds and 2012 development tyres.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We ran some experimental tyres on Friday in Abu Dhabi, and we?óÔé¼Ôäóll also be running some new tyres in Brazil.
“Together with the information we accumulate during the young driver test, we?óÔé¼Ôäóre gathering plenty of data in preparation for next year, where we will see a reduction in lap times between the compounds to hopefully make racing even closer.”
2011 GP2 drivers at the test
Here’s how many of the drivers from F1’s premier ‘feeder series’ will appear at the test:
|5||Giedo van der Garde||18||49|
|24||Johnny Cecotto Jnr||18||0|
*Ineligible due to previous F1 race experience.
Following the young drivers test
F1 Fanatic Live will be running during all three days of the young drivers’ test.
A link to the live page will be posted on the home page shortly before the start.
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Images ?é?® GP2, GP3