The first day of the F1 young drivers’ test is over. Of the 23 taking part in the three-day test, fourteen were driving today. So far as I’m aware, nothing significant happened and the young drivers generally did well.
In the morning, Jean-Eric Vergne topped the times for Red Bull with Jules Bianchi about two seconds behind in the Ferrari. McLaren ran Oliver Turvey, who was 0.9s behind the French driver. Finn Valtteri Bottas was getting the most out of the Williams and set the fourth-fastest time.
In the afternoon, Charles Pic took over from Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in the Virgin, while Gary Paffett took over in the McLaren. The British team have been using the time to work on 2012 modifications, since Paffett has no race experience despite testing for a long time with them. Vergne was again fastest, with Bianchi around 0.9s slower in the Ferrari. Robert Wickens in the Renault set the third-fastest time. Williams had a few gearbox troubles, but Bottas still managed some good running.
Team Lotus welcomed on board new sporting director Steve Nielsen today. He will be starting work in September. Steve formerly worked at Arrows, old Team Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton and (most recently) Renault, and will be replacing Dieter Gass.
In the young drivers’ test, McLaren have revealed that they will be using regular test driver Gary Paffett (who has never driven in a Grand Prix) alongside Oliver Turvey; Mercedes will field Sam Bird; and Ferrari will field their test driver Jules Bianchi.
Arden’s GP2 final lineup was announced early this morning, mixing its GP2 and GP3 teams. Simon Trummer, who found his pace late in the season in GP3, will partner Josef Kral. This means that there will be two Czech drivers in the GP2 final.
There is still no news on who will be driving for Super Nova.
Gary Paffett, DTM driver and McLaren test driver, and of course today’s birthday boy, has not made it into F1 many times. In 2006 he was one of McLaren’s trio of test drivers, alongside Pedro de la Rosa and Lewis Hamilton. But it was GP2 champion Lewis who got the McLaren drive the next year when JP Montoya left the team.
It’s not like 30-year-old Gary has a bad racing record. He was DTM champion in 2005, having come second the year before, and in the last two seasons he came second both times as well, since he finished runner-up to Force India’s new boy Paul di Resta. Still, with Paul out the picture he might be able to get another DTM championship.
He’s definitely a good driver, if a little old to become an F1 rookie now. DTM isn’t as popular as F1, but it’s a good challenge. He still gets to drive F1 cars, having taken the MP4-25 out this year in winter testing. Alongside de la Rosa he’s a valuable asset for the team.