2011 young drivers’ F1 test: Guide to the drivers

2011 F1 testing

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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, 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

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

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

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 Hulkenberg’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 Hulkenberg had him comfortably handled when the two were team mates in 2009.


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

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

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

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

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.

2011 F1 testing

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    Images © Red Bull/Getty images, www.mcalren.com, Ferrari spa, GP2 Series Media Service, World Series by Renault, Superleague Formula, GP2 Series Media Service, BMW Sauber F1 Team, British F3, GP2 Series Media Service, GP2 Series Media Service, Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo

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    Keith Collantine
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    45 comments on “2011 young drivers’ F1 test: Guide to the drivers”

    1. where can i find live timing?

      1. There is no live timing for testing events.

        1. I can’t remember a testing event where there wasn’t live timing.

    2. Is this being broadcasted and if so what time. Around the same time as the race on Sunday?

    3. I would like some broadcast, that i believe will be hard to find, or some timings at least…by now only the tweets of the teams

    4. I can only see a few of these guys making it into Formula 1 in the future. Oliver Turvey and Sam Bird might be able to make it in some capacity, though Nico Hulkenberg has demonstrated that because Sebastian Vettel is so popular, there isn’t really a place for a young, fast German; consequently, the presence of Button and Hamilton at McLaren make me wonder if there is a place for either Turvey or Bird.

      Jules Bianchi and Jean-Eric Vergne will probably be placed in a team by Ferrari and Red Bull, though they’ll probably end up at Sauber and Toro Rosso respectively. If Kobayashi attracts attention from a big team and/or someone is dropped from Toro Rosso, both Bianchi and Vergne are slam dunks. On the other hand, I don’t think Daniel Ricciardo will be racing. He might be a part of the Red Bull Young Driver Program, but he isn’t beating Mikhail Aleshin, who has been in the category for four years and was once a part of the RBYDP himself. Some people seem to think he’s the heir apparent to Webber’s position, but I honestly think Red Bull would be shooting themselves in the foot, especially if they could land someone like Kubica.

      Speaking of Aleshin, I think he’d be an outside chance of driving for Marussia/Virgin. A Russian-owned team, a Russian Grand Prix and a Russian driver (especially one that attracted such attention in Abu Dhabi) might inspire Aleshin’s sponsors to front the money needed and have him partner Timo Glock. If Marussia/Virgin don’t take him, then I’m tipping Jerome d’Ambrosio for the seat ahead of Giedo van der Garde, who isn’t even testing this year. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a given that Pastor Maldonado will be racing next year; it’s only a question of who he will be driving for.

      1. I agree on pretty much all points, with the exception of your note on Ricciardo.

        I’ve seen the young fella race a number of times, and was very impressed. The way he drives is very similar to a Button style, very smooth and efficient, with not a wasted move.

        Further, I don’t think he was quickest last year in the YDT by accident. Granted, nobody in the field at that stage had really even looked at an F1 car, but they are mostly teh creme’ of the second crop, and you cant discount that.

        I wouldn’t imagine he would just slot into the first available RB seat (be it Webber’s or Vettels if he leaves, unlikely), but I also would expect him to be in the mix in 2 or 3 years.

        My pick for fastest 3 would be Ricciardo, Bianchi and Bird in that order. I think we will probably see Bianchi in a racing seat first (lets face it, he’s go the coin bvehind him) and Bird and Ricciardo will follow in a later season.

        1. +1 for the Ricciardo comment.

          He’s been fast and smooth, plus he’s composure with the media has been fantastic.. he seems like a genuinely nice guy.
          If he can find a seat in one of the 4 Red bull branded car’s he should do well.
          I might be biased though ;)

          Plus if he didn’t get unlucky at the silverstone round of the F3.5 championship (where he rolled it before turn 1), he would have won the championship.

        2. Sorry, but I don’t think Ricciardo is going to be in Formula 1 any time soon. People keep mentioning a 2012 start for him, and seem to always make a point of the way Webber appears to have flagged 2011 as his final season, the direct implication being that Red Bull would draft Ricciardo to fill Webber’s place. I can tell you right now: that’s not going to happen. In this day and age, teams like Red Bull and McLaren and Ferrari – anyone who expects and intends to compete for the World Constructors’ Championship – absolutely needs two high-quality drivers because there are so many points on offer and so many competitive teams. Red Bull would never take an untried and untested rookie like Ricciardo to fill Webber’s seat, especially if they could score someone like Robert Kubica or Nico Rosberg or Felipe Massa. They might support the young driver program, but they’re by no means obligated to take those drivers on full-time.

          1. Actually I don’t think the logic carries through.

            Ricciardo isn’t beating Aleshin, but as you say he’s been there for four years, twice as long as Ricciardo. Losing by 2 points in any series isn’t bad at all, especially in a championship that gives 15 points for a win.

            Also, who says he has to go to Red Bull? Australians might like to see him do so, but it’s more likely he’d be given a try at Toro Rosso, who aren’t happy with Buemi and I don’t see the 2012 line-up being him, whoever replaces him and Alguesuari. Of course, Toro Rosso might be bought out and be given a proper line-up (one experienced driver, one rookie) – but that doesn’t mean Alguesuari’s seat is safe for 2012

        3. Further again, this is the second yr in a row that young ‘Ricca’ is topping the time sheets. Teams wont be able to ignore this for very long.

          Granted the RB6 is the best car of the year (and probably the last few as well) but a kid who comes in who doesnt normally drive them, and then comes to within 0.3 of a second of the pole sitter (and World Champ) has gotta have some big skills.

          I’m also thinking that we may see him in 2011, especially as RedBull are still yet to confirm his racing seat for the next year……. Torro Rosso?

      2. I can only see a few of these guys making it into Formula 1 in the future. Oliver Turvey and Sam Bird might be able to make it in some capacity, though Nico Hulkenberg has demonstrated that because Sebastian Vettel is so popular, there isn’t really a place for a young, fast German; consequently, the presence of Button and Hamilton at McLaren make me wonder if there is a place for either Turvey or Bird.

        I think the problem is more that there are already five other Germans in F1 occupying all sections of the field. There are only two Brits, both at the top.

    5. Ricciardo – 1:40.8 is that correct?

    6. Jonathan Wallcroft
      16th November 2010, 9:42

      I think what people mean by a 2012 start for Ricciardo is that Alguersuari or Buemi replace Webber at Red Bull and Ricciardo replaced them at Torro Rosso

      1. Can you honestly see Alguersuari or Buemi at Red Bull? Sure, they have a better chance of driving for the team than Ricciardo does, but they still have a snowflake’s chance in hell. Sebastien Buemi is said to be on the outer with Toro Rosso’s management, and Jaime Alguersuari only just ended a fourteen-race pointless streak. And it’s not like Ricciardo is set in stone as Red ull’s test driver – if anything, Jean-Eric Vergne is being set up for the role:


        1. I think it’s indeed far more likely that either Buemi or Alguersuari get dropped by Toro Rosso than any of them going to RBR.

          What I do however wonder is how efficient STR is as a sister-team to RBR.

        2. Got to disagree partially. Buemi is indeed in a bad position: if we all expected more from him after seeing him beat Bourdais, sure as hell Tost & co expected more too. Alguersuari on the other hand scored fewer points but his evolution has been visible throughout the year, ended up beating his teammate in qualifying for nearly the whole 2nd half of the season. Only tough luck, botched pitstops (2 of them, neither shown on TV) and an ABSOLUTE dog of a car precented him from shining more. He finished 11th five consecutive times!!

          My guess for 2011 is Buemi is out and Jaime stays.

          1. Further to my comment above, if Buemi is dumped this year Ricciardo may even have an outside shout for next year. Unless this is why Weber is so confident Hulkenburg will be on the grid next year.

            1. That would be a bad spot for Hülkenberg though, in the slowest of the established teams. With Lotus and Virgin both expecting themselves to make leaps forwards for next year Torro Rosso could be racing HRT to the back of the grid in 2011.

      1. The upper hand RBR’s have is scary.

        1. 1.5seconds off vettel’s pole time.. jesus thats fast

        2. It’s testing – who knows what fuel levels people are running or whether they’re running 2011 downforce levels etc…too many variables.

        3. Just look at Maldonado, HRT were hoping to beat Lotus and Virgin on times all year! ;-)

    7. Keith!


      My fellow dutchman Yelmer Buurman, raced GP2 Series / GP2 Asia Series for TRUST Team Arden (1-year in 2008) and the oddball half-season GP2 Series / GP2 Asia Series for Ocean Racing Technology (2009).

      Vice-champion in Superleague Formula in 2007.
      Runner-up this year, when the all-mighty Super Seb Bourdais (4X ChampCar champ) pulled out!

      It’s a Rookie test, how can the youngster and prospect F1 drivers can get any actual mileage and experience with F1 machinery?

      I’m missing SF Champ Davide Rigon @ Scuderia?

      1. Rigon isn’t testing. The two Scuderias – Ferrari and Toro Rosso – are running Jules Bianchi and Jean-Eric Vergne. Are you sure you’re not confusing Davide Rigon with Davide Valsecchi, who is testig for Hispania tomorrow?

      2. Sorry, what are you saying I’ve got wrong? I said he did half a season in GP2, which is correct.

        And I’ll cut my arm off before I resort to PR euphemisms like “vice-champion”. “Second place”, “runner-up” and “first loser” are all fine though. :-)

        1. “Runner-up” is okay in my book. How else would you describe Sergio Perez in GP2 or Fernando Alonso in the main game?

    8. Im not a big fan of that Ricciardo guy. He seems very cocky and judging by some interviews very arrogant.
      Trust me he will not be well liked.

      1. I’ve heard Red Bull aren’t too impressed with him. His ability to set the car up is supposedly nowhere near as developed as they would like it to be.

        1. Yeah when you see him in the garage you can tell he is just there for the fun of it.He does not look like F1 Material to me. Looks like a Skateboarder.

          1. Ha! That was my impression the first time I saw him too.

      2. Name me a humble F1 driver in the field and you won’t name one of the best.

    9. Jonathan Wallcroft
      16th November 2010, 11:56

      I’d have to agree about Buemi I doubt he’ll stay at STR for much longer but I’ll disagree about Alguersuari even though he’s come last two years running I’d say this year he’s proved he can defend places ( he’s no Kobayashi but still) and that he’s not going to give up, Also alguesuari has been very unlucky this year finishing 11th on 5 occasions add to that he’ll still be the youngest driver on the grid next year then………..

    10. Jonathan Wallcroft
      16th November 2010, 12:05

      Oh right fair enough I was thinking he’s got a long time to learn and improve but you might be right with Vergne and Ricciardo breathing down his neck he’ll need to have Red Bull fully behind him

    11. Jonathan Wallcroft
      16th November 2010, 12:20

      Also at the start of the year I think it was Australia? we saw Alguersuari holding of Michael Schumacher in contrast Buemis greatest moment is when he inherited the lead. I’d expect that as Torro Rosso tradition goes Buemi will be replaced at Hungary 2011 by Vergne or Ricciardo

    12. Jonathan Wallcroft
      16th November 2010, 12:22

      Small point Maldonado has won the battle of the new teams and the battle of the Venezuelans.

    13. It is still a complete mystery for me why people underrate Alguersuari that much… His this year s improvement especially in qualifying was superb… Just take a look on numbers…

      Second half of 2009
      + 0,800 gap on Buemi
      First half of 2010
      + 0,400 gap on Buemi
      Second half of 2010
      – 0,400 advantage over Buemi

      Alguersuari beated Buemi 7 times from last 9 qualifying sessions… In some off them really massively
      (over 7 tenths)… He improved a lot on soft and supersoft tyres (over a second)
      He was consistently in battle for 10th place since Belgium GP (only Monza was exception)…
      He lost point after penalty in Spa, he lost another 3 points after pitstop problems in Barcelona… He lost another possibly 4 points after pitstop problems in Korea (pneumatic gun like in Spain) and he lost again possible 4 points in Singapore (water leak problem just ahead of race)

      This guy has a great talent and is improving in the same way as Vettel in his early years…

      I think in a Red Bull car, he would be some 2-3 tenths off Vettel s pace at the beginning, as he is now 4 tenths quicker then Buemi…

    14. I think when Webber’s contract ends in 2012, Raikkonen will replace him. He only wants a champion car. He has a Red Bull sponsorship on his rally team though. Everything seems cohesive.
      Red bull needs big names to make it bigger.
      Vettel-Raikkonen sounds creepy cool to fight Ferrari, Mclaren.

    15. Will the teams be able to test 2011 aero already? Like move able rear wings?
      Are the teams running on Bridgestone tyres?

    16. Ricciardo in the photo of 2009 was wearing something to keep the flexi-wing up!

      1. I think that’s just a sensor to test loads + it still looks a lot like the 2009 spec wing.

    17. Why does Ferrari insist in testing Bianchi alone? If he lets the team down, they won’t have anyone else.

    18. Guerrieri????????????????????????????????????

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