Magny-Cours was the venue chosen as the young driver test resumed this past week. Amidst battling to host French GP against Paul Ricard circuit, the authorities had lodged a proposal early September to the French motoring governing body. They rely on central government’s backing to bring grand prix scenes back to France since 2008. The three-day test could have aided the aspirations of a chance to be in the revised F1 calender for next year with the pit complex evolving to suite F1 standards.
Barring the teams such as Williams, HRT and Marussia who exploited the first test that took place on the week following Silverstone race; another three participated at Magny-Cours: Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India. The current Force India tester and Ferrari academy driver Jules Bianchi swapped to Force India on Wednesday but remained behind Ferrari’s wheel on the alternate days. The Italian GP2 driver Davide Rigon filled up the Ferrari seat in absence of Bianchi. Mercedes’ regular test driver Sam Bird took charge while former Redbull junior Brendon Hartley drove the last day. The prime GP2 title contender Luis Razia having tested for Caterham and Marussia before and fellow GP2 persona Rudolfo Gonzalez tested on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
Jules Bianchi topped the timing sheets half-second quicker than Razia of Force India. But the Renault World Series driver Sam Bird set the most laps as he evaluated a revised exhaust system on his Mercedes W03. Razia having went onto complete sixty five laps had some issues cropped up in the morning session but made the most out of afternoon all the same. He spun out after the lunch break and brought a red flag at one point.
Ferrari tested new front wings and validated the results of aerodynamics updates it used for Friday running over the race weekends. Force India, despite having some issues, ran with a new front wing and did some balance corrections later in the noon. Bird was the most productive of all as he felt accomplishing the mission of the day.
1. Jules Bianchi, Ferrari, 1m 18.070, 87 Laps
2. Luiz Razia, Force India, 1m 18.535, 65 Laps
3. Sam Bird, Mercedes, 1m 19.094, 95 Laps
The Frenchmen Jules Bianchi led the way but this time around with Force India as he lapped one and half second up on his previous best that set the early benchmark. He was full-on with examining various aero tweeks and clocked over hundred laps with the team he usually appear with on FP1. Force India kept their eyes set on Bianchi for a potential drive in the future.
Sam Bird, with Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher looking on, went a little over a second shy on Bianchi as he clocked 125 laps on his final day. The Coanda exhaust lured the attention as the team continued to make amends to get the most out of existing regs. The Italian Rigon promoted from simulation to track duties was tasked with aerodynamic work and ran several different iterations of front wings with Ferrari as he enjoyed a staggering 163 laps on the F2012.
1. Jules Bianchi, Force India, 1m 16.467, 117 Laps
2. Sam Bird, Mercedes, 1m 17.482, 125 Laps
3. Davide Rigon, Ferrari, 1m 17.925, 163 Laps
The final day of the Young Driver Test saw Brendon Hartley, one of Brackley based team’s simulator drivers, have his chance to drive the Formula One car on track since 2009. The prevailed wet conditions led to the use of Pirelli Inters and Wets. Bianchi went third time fastest in a row with Ferrari after the promising youngster completed works on aerodynamic measurement and set-up evaluation. Meanwhile, the New Zealander, Hartley helped evaluating the revised exhaust system. Rodolfo Gonzalez managed to complete a 79 lap programme which included experimenting with various tyres and setups with Force India.
1. Jules Bianchi, Ferrari, 1m 16.985, 138 Laps
2. Rodolfo Gonzalez, Force India, 1m 18.018, 79 Laps
3. Brendon Hartley, Mercedes, 1m 18.671, 87 Laps
Drivers felt complete with the track stating that it was technically well-suited for testing. However, the teams had a wealth of data from the test to study back at the factory over the next few days and in advance of the forthcoming race in Singapore. Biachi’s times with Force India made him a strong contender for race seat provided if there was one left available for next season.