Thu, November 17, 2011
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Formula One puts young drivers to the test

2011-11-17 03:37:35 GMT2011-11-17 11:37:35(Beijing Time)  SINA.com

Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Spain drives during the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi November 13, 2011. Picture taken with a fisheye lens. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - Formula One turned its attention to promising young drivers, and one older face, on Tuesday with teams testing developments and tyres for 2012 at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina.

Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, who drove a Toro Rosso in Friday practice for last weekend's grand prix at the circuit, had a taste of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull and set the fastest unofficial time of the day in one minute 40.011.

The 21-year-old was followed on the timesheets by compatriot Jules Bianchi, who kicked off three days of testing for Ferrari with 85 laps and a best of 1:40.960.

Third was Canadian Robert Wickens, switching to Renault after taking part in Friday practice last week for Virgin Racing, with Switzerland's Fabio Leimer fourth on his test debut for Sauber.

The aim of the test is to help young drivers progress to Formula One while also giving teams a chance to try out new ideas at a time when testing is otherwise banned.

However, some teams have been accused of using the test as a money-spinner, trying out an array of well-funded youngsters eager for a chance, while others have focused more on their own technical agendas.

McLaren's use of Gary Paffett stretched the definition of a young driver test, with the Briton now in his 31st year and older than many of the regular F1 race drivers including Sunday's winner Lewis Hamilton.

"I think he's still young enough to be in Formula One," McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said at the weekend.

"He's someone who deserved and still does deserve an opportunity in Formula One so I think we are very proud to be able to showcase him."

Paffett was fifth fastest, sharing the day's testing with compatriot Oliver Turvey. Britain's Max Chilton did his first laps in the Force India and Finland's Valtteri Bottas tested for Williams.

Briton Sam Bird was in the Mercedes, who see the test as an important chance to try out their new exhaust positions developed for 2012.

"We've got a comprehensive programme, probably like everyone else we have a list that's bigger than the time available," team principal Ross Brawn said at the weekend.

"In our case, the priority is the technical programme... we've got Nico (Rosberg) for the long term and we are not right now in the market for a young driver."

Other youngsters testing were Frenchman Charles Pic, linked to a race seat at Virgin/Marussia next year, Spaniard Dani Clos with HRT, Britain's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (Virgin), Monaco's Stefano Coletti (Toro Rosso) and Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez (Team Lotus).

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