The 2013 Formula One Young Driver Test got underway on Wednesday at a hot and sunny Silverstone circuit. Home of the British Grand Prix, the circuit should prove a stern test for the inexperienced hopefuls.
The test runs for three days, and is the only opportunity the teams get to do real testing work during the season.
Mercedes are the only team not taking part. They were banned from the test as punishment for taking part in a "secret" Pirelli tyre test in May.
They will, however, have access to tyre data from the test.
This year, the Young Driver Test isn't quite what it says on the tin.
Due to the multiple tyre failures at the British Grand Prix in June and subsequent introduction of a different tyre construction, the rules have been relaxed to allow race drivers to take part.
Fortunately for the kids, the experienced drivers are only allowed to do tyre testing for Pirelli. Many of them, including Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, don't see the point and are sitting it out.
This leaves the proper developmental and testing work firmly in the hands of the youngsters (or not-so-youngsters).
The definition of a young driver (for the purpose of this test) is anyone who has started fewer than two races.
The only race drivers present on the first day were Force India's Paul di Resta and Marussia's Max Chilton. Di Resta shared the VJM06 with fellow Brit James Calado, who was having his first real experience of an F1 car.
Chilton was sharing with Tio Ellinas, who became the first Cypriot to drive an F1 car in a real test.
Of the more promising-looking kids, Antonio Felix da Costa, was given a whole day in the Red Bull and Robin Frijns had sole use of Sauber's car.
Daniel Juncadella and Kevin Magnussen (son of Jan) were in the Williams and McLaren, respectively. Alexander Rossi drove for Caterham and Johnny Cecotto Jr. (son of Johnny Sr.) for Toro Rosso.
Elsewhere were some curious choices—drivers who appear unlikely to ever get close to challenging for an F1 seat.
Lotus' Nicolas Prost (son of Alain) is a 31-year-old who plies his trade in GT and ice racing, while Ferrari used simulator driver Davide Rigon, whose path to F1 appeared to end several years ago.
The times were as follows, courtesy of Sky Sports:
|02*||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:33.774||58|
|03||Antonio Felix da Costa||Red Bull||1:33.821||82|
|04||James Calado||Force India||1:33.986||27|
|06||Johnny Cecotto||Toro Rosso||1:34.193||75|
* - denotes race drivers, did limited testing.
It's nearly impossible to draw any conclusions from testing, especially if it involves youngsters who have never driven the cars before. We don't know what their objectives were, or whether new parts were being tested and at what time.
But comparing the times to those set in second practice (the first dry session) for the British Grand Prix a few weeks ago, the young drivers have performed well. The best lap then was 1:32.248, set by Nico Rosberg for Mercedes.
Magnussen, Juncadella and Rossi produced quicker times than their teams managed in that session, while Calado managed a lap not far behind di Resta's. It certainly isn't the last we'll see of some of those names.
Highlights to look forward to Thursday will be Daniel Ricciardo testing for Red Bull and reigning GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi driving the Lotus.