The third and final day of the Young Drivers Test was certainly an interesting one. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was on show this afternoon and made the most of his time on track, claiming the top spot on the timesheet. Meanwhile, Williams development driver Susie Wolff stole the headlines as she took part in her first timed Formula One test; the first women to achieve this since 1992.
Wolff has been a part of the Williams set-up since 2011, yet until today the 30-year-old has only taken part in straight line aero tests behind closed doors. In a trouble free day, the Scot managed to complete several aero runs in the morning followed by pit stop practice after lunch and varied performance analysis in the afternoon. She completed 78 laps in total throughout the day, with Williams profiting from a day free from Pirelli’s restrictions after they suffered heavily on Wednesday and again yesterday.
Felipe Massa was just one of the paddock personnel caught up in the Wolff hype. He stated; “I think she was pretty good, she was pretty quick and that’s really fantastic to see a lady driving Formula One. I was really happy when I saw the lap times and pretty happy for her. It would be nice maybe to see a team pushing Susie’s driving on the racing and for Formula One it would be very interesting for everybody.”
While a woman in F1 may be excellent in terms of sporting interest, Williams are perhaps placing Wolff in the spotlight for all the wrong reason. Call me a cynic, but I feel that Wolff’s appearance today is nothing more than a publicity stunt. She has limited single seater experience at the highest levels and has spent much of her career as a consistent midfield runner in the DTM. At the age of 30, even if a race seat became available, a team would be employing her on a short term basis rather than as long term solution. Despite this, today went as well as could be expected for Wolff, who will have boosted her reputation.
Meanwhile at Red Bull an 18 year old Carlos Sainz Jr was able to build on the running he attained yesterday afternoon in the Toro Rosso, with his debut in the RB9. Several members of the paddock have tipped him for major success in the future, yet the GP3 rookie has remained grounded. When asked whether he could be in F1 next year, he replied; “To be honest I don’t think so. I’m a GP3 driver who got the opportunity to test a Toro Rosso and a Red Bull. This obviously is a big boost for myself, for my self confidence and to keep pushing in all my areas. But I’m still 18 years old. I’m very young and I have no way to go next year to Formula 1. There’s no rush and I’m patient. I know that there’s still a long way to go and not because I did a Formula 1 test does it mean I’m going to be a Formula 1 driver. I’m quite calm about it and really pushing to improve.” The mere fact that we are considering Sainz for a 2014 seat is credit to his temperament and undoubted ability. He is sure to have a sparkling future ahead of him.
In terms of Sebastian Vettel’s afternoon performance, the German was his clinical self and quickly took over the P1 spot, which was being held by Sainz at the time. This particular effort of a 1:32.894 remained the fastest time of the day throughout the rest of the session. Christian Horner reflected on Vettel’s inclusion in Red Bull’s test arrangements, upholding a stance contrary to that of Lotus. The Team Principal reflected; “You learn every time you run the car so it is great to have Sebastian here. It is also gives us a good benchmark to see Ricciardo alongside.” Daniel’s day may not have been free of drama, yet the Aussie’s personal best time in the RB9 yesterday was a mere 0.3s away from Sebastian’s table topping attempt this afternoon. While fuel loads remain a mystery, Ricciardo will take heart in this statistic, which may also prove an important factor when Red Bull eventually make the crucial decision regarding Mark Webber’s replacement.
Elsewhere today, Lotus had replaced the novelty message of “#WhereIsRoscoe” from yesterday’s outing, with “#WhereIsKimi” following the team’s late schedule changes saw Nicolas Prost replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final day. Meanwhile, Force India had an extremely productive day with Adrian Sutil behind the wheel. Sutil spent most of the morning at the top of the timesheet after an early medium compound run. The German spent the afternoon examining the Pirelli prototype in regards to long run performance.
Contrary to Force India, Marussia suffered a particularly bad day at office as both Rodolfo Gonzalez and Jules Bianchi binned the car into the unforgiving gravel trap. Gonzalez’s misjudgment came early in the morning, while Bianchi failed to make up for lost time, committing a similar error after setting a personal best first sector. They managed just 63 laps collectively.
So, after a test which revolved around tyres, all appears to be well ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The mere fact that we have not been focusing on tyres will be comfort for Pirelli, who have seemingly extinguished safety fears. The British Grand Prix now seems a world away.
Day Three Timesheet
1. Vettel, Red Bull, 1:32.894, 79 laps
2. Sutil, Force India, 1:33.242, 99 laps
3. Prost, Lotus, 1:33.256, 83 laps
4. Sainz, Red Bull, 1:33.546, 35 laps
5. Rigon, Ferrari, 1:33.592, 20 laps
6. Massa, Ferrari, 1:33.624, 69 laps
7. Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:33.647, 42 laps
8. Paffett, McLaren, 1:34.924, 77 laps
9. Wolff, Williams, 1:35.093, 89 laps
10. Van der Garde, Caterham, 1:35.155, 65 laps
11. Kyvat, Toro Rosso, 1:35.281, 16 laps
12. Pic, Caterham, 1:35.576, 46 laps
13. Sato, Sauber, 1:35.642, 57 laps
14. Gonzalez, Marussia, 1:36.339, 24 laps
15. Calado, Force India, 1:36.451, 5 laps
16. Bianchi, Marussia, 1:36.744, 39 laps.