Just Who Were the 'Young Drivers' in the Abu Dhabi Drivers Test?

James WillisAnalyst INovember 24, 2010

Just Who Were the 'Young Drivers' in the Abu Dhabi Drivers Test?

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    Following a grand season finale in Abu Dhabi on the 14th November, most eyes were either distracted by the Pirelli tyre tests soon to follow or the crowning of a new youngest ever World Champion.

    However on November 16th, all 12 F1 teams gave a chance to some younger drivers to not only get experience in an F1 car but also to try and get themselves as close to a race seat as they could.

    While some of the drivers were relatively well known around the paddock, there were also some more unfamiliar faces. Here are all the drivers who drove during the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test...

Daniel Ricciardo: Red Bull

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    Born in Perth in 1989, Ricciardo looks set to have a particularly bright future in motor racing.

    In 2008 he took the title in the Formula Renault 2.0 WEC as well as finishing second in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.

    One year later in 2009, Ricciardo won the British Formula Three Championship. This result led to him being confirmed as a test and reserve driver for both Red Bull and it's sister team Toro Rosso for the 2010 season.

    During 2010 the young Australian also participated in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, finishing 2nd in the final rankings.

    Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping to take a full time race seat soon having topped the time sheets on both days of the Young Drivers Test.

Gary Paffett: McLaren

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    At 29, Paffett was the oldest of the young drivers on display. The Englishman has been testing with McLaren full time since the start of the 2006 F1 season and since then has been mentioned as a possibility for a number of race seats.

    Paffett has won a number of series in his past including the FVauxhall Junior W. Series, FVauxhall Junior Class B and Formula Vauxhall Junior in the years 1997,1998 and 1999 respectively.

    In 2000 Paffett took the title in the British F3 National Class before winning the German F3 just 2 years later in 2002.

    In 2005 Paffett won the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) having already finished as runner up in 2004. He went on to finish as runner up again in 2009, just ahead of fellow Brit and Force India reserve driver Paul di Resta.

    While it looks unlikely that he will earn a full time F1 race seat at his age it cannot be written off completely, with McLaren's last test driver Pedro De La Rosa leaving the team at the start of the season to race in F1 with Sauber at the age of 39.

Oliver Turvey: McLaren

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    Another British driver on what is already an all British F1 team and despite not having a long list of past titles, Turvey is still a bright prospect for the future.

    At 21 years of age Turvey spent 2010 competing in the highly rated GP2 series, a competition that has put the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Bruno Senna and Heikki Kovalainen into F1.

    He finished the season in 6th place, putting him in a strong position going into the 2011 season.

    On the first day of the Young Drivers Test, Turvey finished 2nd behind Daniel Ricciardo. He did not drive on the second day, instead making way for Gary Paffett.

Jules Bianchi: Ferrari

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    Jules Bianchi has an impressive resume already for a 21 year old, beginning with him being the Grandson of a 3 time GT Category World Champion and the Grand-Nephew of Lucien Bianchi, who not only competed in F1 but also won the "24 Hours of Le Mans" race.

    In 2007 Jules Bianchi won the French Formula Renault 2.0 and soon followed that with the Formula Three Masters title in 2008.

    Just one year later in 2009, Bianchi won the Formula Three Euroseries.

    He then competed in the GP2 Asia Series between 2009-2010 finishing 12th, before moving on to the GP2 Series in 2010, in which he finished 3rd.

    At the start of November Ferrari confirmed him as the team's 2011 test and reserve driver. He finished the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions as 12th and 5th fastest respectively in his Ferrari.

Sam Bird: Mercedes

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    Yet another young British talent had a chance to shine during the tests with Sam Bird driving for Mercedes.

    Bird finished 9th and 3rd fastest over the two days of the test following a strong performance in his Mercedes car.

    Despite not having a long history of previous titles, Bird has a lot of potential which he showed by finishing 5th in the 2010 GP2 Series despite a number of technical car faults.

    He will no doubt hope to go even better in 2011 in the same series unless he manages to find a F1 seat.

    Other than his time in the GP2 Series, his best result came as 2nd place in 2005 in the Formula BMW UK.

Jerome D'Ambrosio: Renault & Virgin Racing

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    The 24 year old Belgian has already had some experience in F1 season having made 4 Friday Practice Session appearances in a Virgin Racing car (pictured).

    Despite his testing for Renault, the French team's boss said that it was already "95% certain" the driver would race for Virgin in 2011.

    In the past D'Ambrosio has won the Formula Renault 1.6 Belgium (2003) and the International Formula Master (2007).

    He has also finished 2nd in the GP2 Asia Series (2008-2009) and 9th in the GP2 Series (2009) amongst other results.

    He finished 10th on the first day of testing in a Virgin Racing car and then 2nd on the next day of testing in a Renault car.

Mikhail Aleshin: Renault

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    Aleshin began his test for Renault on his way out of a very successful 2010 season for the 23 year old Russian.

    During the 2010 season, Aleshin won the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with 8 podium finishes over 17 races.

    In his past he has also won the Formula Renault 2000 Italia in 2004 as well as being runner up in the Formula Renault 2.0 Germany in 2005.

    Aleshin spent his 2009 season in the FIA Formula Two Championship and finished in third place following a number of successful races.

    In his test for Renault he finished 6th on the timesheets on day one before passing the Renault car onto Jerome D'Ambrosio for the second day.

Pastor Maldonado: Williams & HRT

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    Maldonado should need very little introduction around the paddock being the reigning GP2 Series champion. Past champions of the series include Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg (who's now available race seat is expected to be filled by Maldonado).

    The 25 year old Venezuelan has been competing in the GP2 series since 2007.

    In his past Maldonado has also won the Italian Formula Renault in 2004 while finishing 3rd in the 2006 Formula Renault 3.5 under controversial circumstances.

    He finished 11th on day one of the test in his HRT car before moving up to 8th on the 2nd day in his Williams car.

Dean Stoneman: Williams

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    It would appear Britain has a very bright future in motor racing with Dean Stoneman also being British.

    The reigning Formula Two 2010 Champion has also won the Formula Renault UK Graduate Cup in 2008. His impressive resume continues with a runner up position in the 2007 Formula Renault BARC.

    Stoneman has also finished 4th in the 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 UK and 3rd in the 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 UK Winter Cup.

    Despite only testing for one day with the Williams team, Stoneman managed to set the fifth fastest time in his car.

    Out of all the British prospects that were on show over the two days, Stoneman looks one of the more likely to earn a full F1 race seat soon.

Yelmer Buurman: Force India

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    At 23 Buurman already has a huge amount of experience in different series throughout his career.

    He has raced in multiple Formula Renault categories, British Formula Three, Formula Three Euroseries, Superleague Formula and the GP2 Series, as well a numerous other competitions.

    His best result came in the 2008 Superleague Formula, in which he finished 2nd driving the PSV Eindhoven car. He has also finished 3rd in both the 2003 Formula Renault 2000 UK Winter Championship and the 2004 Formula Renault 2000 Netherlands.

    On his one day of testing for Force India he finished 10th fastest, around about 3 seconds off the leader.

Antonio Felix Da Costa: Force India

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    Antonio Felix da Costa was the second youngest driver on show over the two days of testing but he proved that age doesn't matter with a solid performance.

    The younger brother of fellow racer Duarte Felix da Costa, Antonio appears to have the world at his feet. Despite Force India only giving him one day on the track, he beat the team's impressive reserve driver, Paul Di Resta, by an entire second on day one's time sheets. Although Di Resta did manage to beat that time the following day.

    The 19 year old Portuguese prodigy has already won the 2009 Formula 2.0 NEC title having been runner up in the previous year. He also came third in the Eurocup Formula Renault in 2009 to make it a particularly successful season.

    After finishing seventh in Formula Three Euroseries in the 2010 season, Felix da Costa is definitely a name to watch for the future. Especially after his third place finish on the time sheets on his day of testing with Force India.

Paul Di Resta: Force India

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    Paul di Resta was another one of the drivers on show who needed very little introduction around the paddock.

    The Force India test and reserve driver has already competed in a number of Friday Practice Sessions for the team and has not failed to impress.

    The Scottish 24 year old has strong family roots in motor racing, being the cousin of both Dario and Marino Franchitti.

    In 2006, di Resta won the Formula 3 Euroseries title and then went on to wind up the year with a victory in the Masters of Formula Three race.

    He has also finished 2nd and 3rd in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) in 2008 and 2009 respectively, as well as a 3rd place in 2004 Formula Renault UK.

    Di Resta was 8th and 7th on the timesheets on days 1 and 2.

Esteban Gutierrez: BMW Sauber

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    The 19 year old Mexican has a strong racing history already and looks set to have a good future in the sport.

    In 2007 Guttierez finished second in Formula BMW USA winning him the FBMW USA Rookie of the Year award.

    The following year, in 2008, he went on to win Formula BMW Europe before also coming third in the 2008 Formula BMW World Final.

    In 2009 Guttierez came 9th in the Formula Three Euroseries only to move on to the GP3 series the following year. By the end of 2010 the young Mexican had taken the GP3 series title with two races to spare.

    Despite only driving on the first day of testing, Gutierrez managed to finish in an impressive 4th place on the timesheets.

Sergio Perez: BMW Sauber

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    Another young Mexican who will be looking to take every chance he gets to see how F1 works having been the first new driver confirmed for a race seat in the 2011 season.

    BMW Sauber have bought him onto their team to race alongside Kamui Kobayashi in F1 for 2011, following an impressive performance in the 2010 GP2 series, in which he finished 2nd behind Pastor Maldonado.

    The 20 year old's best past result in the past came in the British Formula Three National Class in 2007, in which he finished 1st.

    Following a 12th placed finish in the 2009 GP2 series, Perez moved up a level in finishing the same 2010 series in 2nd place.

    Perez managed 6th place on the time sheets on day two of testing.

Jean-Eric Vergne: Toro Rosso

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    The 20 year old Frenchman was the only driver to test for Toro Rosso over the two days and looked to give a good account of his talent as well.

    Vergne has already won the Formula Campus Renault in 2007 as well as the British Formula Three Championship in 2010.

    In 2009 Vergne also managed strong runners up finishes in both Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and Formula Renault 2.0 WEC.

    Over the two days of testing Vergne came 7th and 9th on the timesheets after earning some great lap times in the Toro Rosso car.

Vladimir Arabadzhiev: Lotus

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    http://bit.ly/guRGQd - Lotus Racing

    Arabadzhiev was one of the surprise choices to take part in the young drivers test with Lotus despite being around five years older than most of the other drivers.

    The Bulgarian began his career in 2006 in the Italian Formula Three Championship, finishing 11th in the standings.

    In 2007 he moved on to the Euroseries 3000 Championship in which he finished in 7th place. In both 2008 and 2009 Arabadzhiev also finished 7th in the International Formula Master Series.

    He then went on to race in the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series, finishing 20th, and the 2010 GP2 Series in which he finished 29th after being replaced late on in the Series.

    Arabadzhiev finished his day of testing in 15th place in his Lotus car.

Rodolfo Gonzalez: Lotus

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    Surprisingly another Venezuelan, Rodolfo Gonzalez was given arguably his best chance to secure an F1 drive by Lotus.

    Gonzalez earned his best result in 2006 when he took the title in the British F3 National Class. The 24 year old has also finished 5th in Euroseries 3000 (2009) and 9th in Formula Renault 2.0 UK (2005).

    In 2010 Gonzalez raced in the GP2 Series but managed only four points, putting him in 21st position.

    Gonzalez finished the testing in 13th and 14th places over the two days in his Lotus car.

Luiz Razia: Virgin Racing

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    Luiz Razia comes from a nation with a very rich background in not only F1 but also motor racing as a whole. The nation that has already given the sport drivers like Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello could soon have another driver in F1.

    Razia, the 21 year old Brazilian, took part in the GP2 Series over the 2010 season and finished in 11th place with his Rapax team car, an improvement on the previous season's 19th place.

    His best result however is taking the title in the South American Formula Three in 2006, followed by a third place finish in the 2007 season of the Euroseries 3000.

    Since then he has steadily progressed up to the GP2 series where he is now and his test with Virgin Racing looked relatively positive.

    He finished his day of testing in 12th place.

Rio Haryanto: Virgin Racing

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    The youngest driver on show over the course of the tests was 17 year old Indonesian, Rio Haryanto. On his one day of testing he finished 14th, 4.5 seconds behind the nearest car. This is not a bad reflection on his ability however, it merely shows his age.

    In 2008 Haryanto finished 3rd in Formula Asia 2.0 followed by an impressive title in the the Formula BMW Pacific in 2009.

    At just 17 years old, Haryanto became one of the youngest ever people to not only drive a F1 car but also earn the right to test one.

    With many years of development still left after impressive performances in the lower series, Haryanto is definitely a name to watch.

Josef Kral: HRT

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    Josef Kral, a 20 year old Czech, is another one of the drivers from the 2010 GP2 series that was on show over the two day tests.

    In 2005 Kral finished third in the Czech Formula 1400 before moving on to Formula BMW ADAC in 2006, in which he finished 12th.

    In 2007 he earned his best result as runner up in Formula BMW UK. In 2008 he finished 6th in the International Formula Master, followed by a 3rd place finish in the same tournament in 2009.

    He then went on to compete in the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series, finishing 11th, as well as the 2010 GP2 Series in which he finished 24th after missing numerous races.

    On his one day of testing he finished 13th on the time sheets.

Davide Valsecchi: HRT

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    Again a driver from the 2010 GP2 championship, Davide Valsecchi earned his chance to test with HRT.

    The 23 year old Italian earned his best result in the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series when he won the title. During his time in the 2010 GP2 Series he finished in a respectable 8th position.

    Valsecchi also raced in the GP2 Series in both 2008 and 2009, when he finished 15th and 17th respectively.

    His participation in the 2008 and 2008-2009 GP2 Asia Series also ended with 8th and 4th place results.

    Valsecchi finished 11th on the timesheets on his one day of testing in the HRT car.

Day One Results

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    1Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:39.616
    2Oliver TurveyMcLaren1:40.725
    3Antonio Felix da CostaForce India1:41.381
    4Esteban GutierrezBMW Sauber1:41.432
    5Dean StonemanWilliams1:41.552
    6Mikhail AleshinRenault1:42.073
    7Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:42.489
    8Paul Di RestaForce India1:42.736
    9Sam BirdMercedes1:42.985
    10Jerome D'AmbrosioVirgin Racing1:43.518
    11Pastor MaldonadoHRT1:43.750
    12Jules BianchiFerrari1:43.894
    13Rodolfo GonzalezLotus1:44.924
    14Rio HaryantoVirgin Racing1:49.439

Day Two Results

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    1Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:38.102 
    2Jerome D'AmbrosioRenault1:38.802
    3Sam BirdMercedes1:39.220
    4Gary PaffettMcLaren1:39.760
    5Jules BianchiFerrari1:39.916
    6Sergio PerezBMW Sauber1:40.543
    7Paul Di RestaForce India1:40.901
    8Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:40.944
    9Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:40.974
    10Yelmer BuurmanForce India1:41.178
    11Davide Valsecchi HRT1:43.013
    12Luiz RaziaVirgin Racing1:43.525
    13Josef KralHRT1:44.143
    14Rodolfo GonzalezLotus1:44.312
    15Vladimir ArabadzhievLotus1:45.723