Robert Wickens set for F1 practice debut

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Robert Wickens, Virgin, Vairano, 2011

Virgin will given Canadian Robert Wickens his first run in an F1 car at a race weekend in Abu Dhabi.

The team said Wickens is being given the drive as a reward for winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this year.

He will drive Jerome d’Ambrosio’s car in the first practice session on the Yas Marina track.

Wickens said: “This year just keeps getting better and better and I can’t thank Marussia enough for their continued support.

“The Vairano test was a good grounding for me but the opportunity to kick things up a gear in a Free Practice session is obviously the next big step in my career and I hope my feedback will have a positive benefit on the team’s performance there.”

Team principal John Booth said: “Robert has had a fantastic season in Formula Renault 3.5 and was the deserving victor of a hard-fought championship.

“One of the founding principles of our Young Driver Programme was that we would reward success with important seat time to aid the progression of our rising stars through the ranks.

“Abu Dhabi is a track at which Jerome has good experience as he ran there in the same Friday morning practice session a year ago and then in the Young Driver Test the following week. The Yas Marina Circuit therefore presents a better opportunity to provide this reward to Robert as there will be less impact on our engineering programme.”

Image © Virgin Racing

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “Robert Wickens set for F1 practice debut”

  1. I’m glad for him, he’s shown a lot of talent in Formula Renault 3.5 this year and in F2 two years ago. I wonder if he’ll take D’Ambrosio’s seat for 2012.

    1. Joe Saward reports that Frenchman Charles Pic is the most likely candidate for D’Ambrosio’s seat.

      1. Joe Saward reports a lot of things.

        1. But mostly he’s right, don’t you think so?

          1. He gets stuff right more often than he gets credit for.

          2. @girts – In the past three months, he has predicted four team sales … and none of them have come true. And somehow, he missed the one team change that has happened – Virgin becoming Marussia (since Fernandes and Renault both publicly made their intentions known) despite his supposedly exhaustive field of contacts and sources.

            And he also throws tantrums when people criticise him.

        2. James Allison reports the same thing.

          1. He was sort of right about Force India. Sort of.

  2. I wonder how many drivers do a test an never make it to F1.

    Is there anywhere I could get that data?

  3. This test is very much deserved, and I expect him to be in F1 in a few years’ time.

  4. Excellent news!

    Robert Wickens is one of the young guys I’m most excited about. He seems smart, quick and a likeable bloke. I would like to see a decent North American on the grid, so hopefully he gives a good showing.

  5. With Wickens coming up through the ranks and James Hinchcliffe’s good rookie season in IndyCar, it’s a good time for Canadian motorsport.

    1. Yay Canada!!

  6. Can’t see him out-paying Pic or van der Garde for the drive but good for him, he deserves a shot. D’Ambrosio’s seat looks vulnerable – think maybe Gravity have got bored of him now Grosjean’s come good.

    1. Can’t see him out-paying Pic or van der Garde for the drive but good for him, he deserves a shot.

      @jholland – Wickens has backing from Marussia. Marussia have increased their involvement in the team to the point where they will be known as Marussia instead of Virgin. So Wickens has support, even if it’s not immediately obvious as to where that support is coming from.

  7. Motorsports is on the up here in Canada, can’t wait till he hopefully gets a full time race seat!

  8. Its great to see some Teams give Younger Drivers Test sessions,I think it gives Motorsport fans who dont watch GP2,GP3 or F3 Euroseries a indication of who’s the up & coming future F1 Drivers.

  9. Great news, well deserved too.

  10. It would be interesting to find out why Red Bull dropped Wickens, considering his results seem comparable to their other young drivers.

    1. I may go as far as to say that perhaps his results have been better. As I’m sure several Canadians have, I’ve been watching his progress for some time. I was extremely disappointed when Red Bull dropped him. Maybe it was an image thing. Robert has this terrible habit of cutting his hair and wearing his cap straight…

  11. @prisoner-monkeys But if it’s a case of running Wickens – which will cost them – or taking a £10m cheque to put Pic in the car the latter seems more likely. MVR is just a revolving door of well-funded, half-decent rookies. Pic fits that bill better than Wickens, who is less funded and more than half-decent.

    1. @jholland – the team is being renamed after Marussia, who may have invested more money in the team to buy the naming rights. That money could come in the form of backing Wickens.

      But if it’s a case of running Wickens – which will cost them – or taking a £10m cheque to put Pic in the car the latter seems more likely.

      Wickens was champion in Formula Renault this year, runner-up in GP3 in 2010, and runner-up in Formula Two in 2009. Pic’s results aren’t nearly as impressive.

      1. @prisoner-monkeys Pic had a very shaky start to his GP2 season. I think another year there would benefit him.

        1. Indeed. And with Wickens’ success in GP3, Formula Two and Formula Renault 3.5, there’s not much that he will get from a year or two in GP2. I think he’s about ready to step up.

        2. But how many years did Pic do in GP2 already? He will want to be moving on so as not to get stuck there @andrewtanner

          @prisoner-monkeys (liked yesterday’s iteration of the name better) I think Pic is in with a really good chance, but I do not know enough of Wickens (or his backing) to be able to favour one of them. It does seem more and more likely d’ Ambrosio will not be driving with them next year though.

          1. Pic has only done two years in GP2 (and before that, two years in Formula Renault 3.5). He’s another driver who is ready, even if the end of his 2011 season was a horror run of results.

            If Fernandes-Caterham are smart, they’ll get rid of Jarno Trulli and take Charles Pic, and consolidate their connection to Renault (since Pic’s family and his money comes from a company connected to their road car division).

  12. @Jailed-Chimpanzees Pic to Caterham would make a lot of sense. They’re one of the teams he’s talking to.

    I agree that Wickens is a better prospect – not sure that came across! My feeling is though, and again I’m not sure I made this clear, that running him will cost Marussia, who, whilst they may be putting more money in to the team, do not have a bottomless pot of gold. So running Wickens costs money, and they’re already putting lots of that in to owning the team. Alternatively they can offset their losses by running Pic, who = +£10m, or whatever his dad has in his loose change jar.

    If Wickens doesn’t get an F1 shot he’ll be a big loss. Hopefully someone, MVR or otherwise, will take a punt.

    1. The problem is that as deserving as Wickens may be, seats are at a premium. Some of the drivers who really should have retired by now – like Jarno Trulli – are hanging on, wasting seats.

  13. Wickens is better than Vergne, Vergne was very notty at Barcelona still Red bull young drivers seem to succeed, wish all the luck for the canadians.

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