The Red Bull Juniors had a very clear mandate at the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ Test.
It used to be the case that the only time of year a grand prix team took a holiday was in the weeks after the final race of the season. Now even that’s been taken away as the mechanics and engineers from Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso showed up at the Yas Marina circuit (some of them a little bleary-eyed) on Monday morning to begin preparation for Tuesday and Wednesday’s Young Drivers’ Test.
'I’m happy with what I achieved!'
Last year Jerez, Spain was the venue for the inaugural Young Drivers’ Test, designed to give drivers with two or fewer grand prix starts a chance to drive the good stuff – because the modern restrictions on testing mean many of them would not otherwise have any experience of an F1 car before racing one. That was the situation that Jaime Alguersuari, the 2008 British F3 Champion – found himself in at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009. It won’t be true for his successors, 2009 British F3 Champion Daniel Ricciardo and 2010 British F3 Champion Jean-Eric Vergne, who drove for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso respectively this week.
For Daniel, it was his second opportunity in the F1 car, after driving the RB5 at Jerez last year. Speaking to redbull.com on the eve of the test he told us second time around things were going to be a little bit more relaxed.
“Abu Dhabi is going to be different to Jerez because last year I didn’t know the team that well – but now I’ve spent a year with them [as reserve driver], I won’t be as nervous and hopefully I’ll get a good two-day programme out of the event.”
Unlike last year, when Daniel was working through a development programme leading up to the launch of the RB6, this year’s test was intended to give Red Bull Racing’s official reserve some seat-time. “I think this is really more for me. I’d like to do some long runs to really test my fitness levels and obviously get an idea of what I need to do to improve in case something happens next year.
“That said, I’ve got heaps of tyres to work with – 20 new sets I think – as we have to use up all of the Bridgestones. I have Mark and Seb’s data from the race weekend to use as a benchmark and it’s going to be really interesting to see how close I can get. Basically, the plan is that I’m here to kick arse!”
Having topped the timing sheets in Jerez last year, Ricciardo repeated the feat in Abu Dhabi, topping the timing sheets on both days, in the process beating Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time on Saturday by 1.2seconds. In what must go down as his only rookie mistake of the test, Ricciardo afterwards was quick to deflect praise and point out the track was much faster during his low-fuel runs.
“I didn’t really know what to expect but I was hoping I could compete. Going quicker is always nice but the track had improved with grip that was quite a bit better than at the weekend because of all the rubber that’s gone down. It’s impossible to say what times Mark or Seb would have done – but it’s still nice to see and I’m happy with what I achieved!”
Rather than concentrate on 2011, Ricciardo says the team chose to examine developments “that were invented earlier this year but maybe didn’t get a good chance in 2010,” adding that the post-Championship hangover didn’t seem to have kicked in yet for the crew in the garage:
“Actually, every one in the garage was buzzing! They didn’t get much of a break but they were all excited about what they’d achieved – and I’m sure when they’ve got back to England they’ll have an opportunity to celebrate properly and enjoy the fact they’ve achieved something really special – but during the test the atmosphere in the garage was very relaxed and happy.”
After a season combining reserve driver duties for RBR with his own championship campaign in the World Series by Renault, Daniel headed home from Abu Dhabi for a short break in Perth, Western Australia, “but I’ll be back in the UK in a couple of weeks: I wouldn’t want to miss the Red Bull Christmas Party – that should be good fun.”
- For more from the Red Bull Junior Team, click here
- Check out more about Daniel here
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