18/11/2011

Abu Dhabi - young driver test

F1's only twilight race may be over for another year but the action at Yas Marina certainly wasn't. It was time for the three day young driver test.

Force India fielded two GP2 drivers: 20 year old Max Chilton (left) and 22 year old Johnny Cecotto Jr (right) in the VJM04.


(click to enlarge)

Tuesday saw the first day of the test with Chilton in the car. After the test he said the following on his twitter account (@MaxChilton_):

"Had a very enjoyable morning I got to grips with the car & the controls well and have now got some soft developement tyres this afternoon!"

"Great day, I now have 81F1 laps under my belt and I finished P.6 for the day but had no kers so really happy! #F1RookieTest"

As Max said he covered 81 laps which put him 6th, just one tenth behind experienced McLaren test driver Gary Paffett - a good effort!

Wednesday saw Johnny Cecotto Jr grab his first taste of F1. He completed 84 laps which put him P5.

Johnny said the following after his run:

"Amazing is the only word to describe today. Everything was just incredible from the moment I left the pits to begin my first lap. These cars are so impressive: the power, the braking performance and the aerodynamic grip you get through the corners – it makes you say ‘wow’. And there are so many systems on the car, too, such as the KERS, which really impressed me. It was good to try out some of the 2012 tyres in the afternoon and the team seemed happy with the data and my feedback. Overall it was just an unbelievable experience to work at such a professional level, with a great crew, and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me such a wonderful opportunity."

The final day of young driver testing saw Chilton once again driving the car. The British driver covered 79 laps and ended the day P5.

These positions are largely irrelevent as we don't know fuel loads and car specifications (some teams were trying new parts for 2012) however we can make some loose comparisons.

The fastest qualifying lap we saw over the Abu Dhabi GP weekend was 1:40.205 by Adrian Sutil in Q2 - we can compare that to Chilton and Cecotto Jr's times to see their ability (although with very little F1 experience).

Tuesday (full results here)
Sutil Q2: 1:40.205
Chilton: 1:43.016 (+2.811s)

Wednesday (full results here)
Sutil Q2: 1:40.205
Cecotto Jr: 1:42.873 (+2.632s)

Thursday (full results here)
Sutil Q2: 1:40.205
Chilton: 1:41.575 (+1.370s)

As expected the newbies are considerably down on the experienced Adrian Sutil. What is interesting from this data though is that after both newbies had one days experience (at the end of Wednesday) - Cecotto Jr was faster than Chilton by 0.2s. On Thursday Chilton improved his best time massively to get within 1.3s of Sutil, an improvement of 1.5s compared with his Tuesday best. This could be down to a number of factors though such as track conditions/fuel load or car setup.

So a great experience for the two GP2 drivers and i am sure Force India picked up some valuable data too - a win win situation!

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