As Britain experiences the longest prolonged warm spell since 2006, Silverstone welcomed an excellent turn-out today for the first of three days of the Young Drivers Test. While the emphasis has been taken away from the youngsters in the wake of the test becoming a Pirelli tyre test, their was still an array of young blood on show throughout the day. McLaren youngster Kevin Magnussen made the most of his track time and recorded the fastest time of the day, following up his timesheet topping first day of last years YDT at Abu Dhabi. Kevin is certainly making a name for himself.
As with any test, times are somewhat irrelevant. Particularly in the case of young drivers, consistency and feedback are the key attributes which are being observed. This is even more poignant, considering that the teams are desperately looking to obtain vital information regarding the new tyres ahead of Hungary, while being restricted to Pirelli’s programme.
Consequently, it is a pleasant surprise to see that several teams have opted to give their youngsters vital track time. It would have been easy to place their race drivers in the hot-seat, while hampering the progress of the future Formula One stars. However, as Lotus have today highlighted, the amount of data that can be gathered by a race driver is subject to the Pirelli schedule. As a result, the team have opted to place Nicolas Prost in the car for Friday, as oppose to Kimi Raikkonen as scheduled, believing that Prost will gain more than Kimi from the day’s running. “Once details of what race drivers were allowed to do here became apparent, we would have only been able to conduct a very limited programme with Kimi,” trackside operations director Alan Permane said. The most important feature of a young drivers development is track time and it is great to see that the Young Drivers Test is living up to its name, regardless of the circumstances.
Back on track, it was a promising morning for the British fans who had visited a baking hot Silverstone, as GP2 star James Calado topped the timesheet’s during the morning session. While he has completed straight line aero tests with Force India in the past, today marked James’ first real voyage into the world of Formula One. Despite taking a few laps to adjust to the brakes, Calado was quickly up to speed and drove consistently throughout his 27 lap stint.
“It was an unbelievable experience, I really cannot put it into words,” the 24-year-old said. “After a few induction laps and things the novelty of the brakes and the grip started to wear off and I was able to give some good feedback and set some reasonable lap times which for my first time is pretty impressive. It is just nice to get an initial go and on my first time in one of these things you can’t expect anything too big and you have to take it steady.” James is beginning to rekindle his form in GP2, after claiming an impressive second place in Germany. He is one among many bright British talents who are impressing in junior classes, such as Jack Harvey, Nick Yelloly and John Lancaster. While Calado’s brief stint at the top of the timesheet may have appeared sublime, James has maintained grounded, accepting that times in testing are not representative of the pecking order. “It is nice to be fast, but you don’t know what anyone else is doing and what tyres they are on or anything,” he added. “But I have settled in and obviously doing the straight-line test was nice as I had already started to build a relationship with this team up to the test.” The session will undoubtedly benefit his confidence, as he heads into the pivotal rounds of the GP2 season.
Kevin Magnussen recorded 100 laps today on his way to the top of the timesheet, yet did not hit the front until very late in the afternoon. Following James Calado’s performance in the morning, Paul Di Resta took over in the afternoon and quickly took over at the top of the timesheet. Eventually finishing in P3 was Formula Renault 3.5 star Antonio Felix Da Costa.
The Red Bull youngster experienced a full day’s running in the RB9 and like Magnussen, he too enters his second young drivers test following last season in Abu Dhabi. While Daniel Ricciardo was originally meant to take over in the afternoon, a schedule reshuffle at Red Bull took place after the team removed Mark Webber from their plans. Ricciardo will now take to the track tomorrow, driving the STR8 in the morning and the RB9 in the afternoon.
Antonio Felix Da Costa was delighted with his extended spell in the car. “It was nice to get the full day’s running, especially here,” Da Costa said. “If there’s a circuit where you really feel that you’re in an F1 car it’s here at Silverstone, with all these fast corners. It something completely different and something you have to get used to but it was a great day, a great feeling. In terms of the work, it was a good day,” he added. “Obviously, it’s not the first time for me in a Red Bull car, so everything is sort of familiar. It’s an important test for the team and my job is simply to drive consistently and not make mistakes. I think we achieved the goal of being consistent and working through the programme.”
Meanwhile, Lotus and Nicolas Prost completed some aero testing, mounting an enormous sensor rig onto the left sidepod and Williams youngster Daniel Juncadella completed his first steps in a Formula One car. Seems the teams are making the most of a test which will inevitably revolve around rubber.
Day One Timesheet
1. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m33.602s 100
2. Paul di Resta Force India 1m33.774s +0.172s 58
3. Antonio Felix da Costa Red Bull 1m33.821s +0.219s 82
4. James Calado Force India 1m33.986s +0.384s 27
5. Daniel Juncadella Williams 1m34.098s +0.496s 55
6. Johnny Cecotto Toro Rosso 1m34.193s +0.591s 75
7. Robin Frijns Sauber 1m34.236s +0.634s 72
8. Nicolas Prost Lotus 1m34.810s +1.208s 72
9. Davide Rigon Ferrari 1m34.874s +1.272s 76
10. Alexander Rossi Caterham 1m35.651s +2.049s 69
11. Tio Ellinas Marussia 1m36.676s +3.074s 36
12. Max Chilton Marussia 1m38.347s +4.745s 27