NOVEMBER 17, 2011
Vergne impresses again
As the Abu Dhabi young driver test reached its conclusion Jean-Eric Vergne, unsurprisingly perhaps, topped the time sheets for the third consecutive day at the wheel of Red Bull's RB7.
Vergne's best lap (1:38.917) was just six hundredths of a second slower than Mark Webber's qualifying time for the Abu Dhabi GP.
It was the hottest day of the test, with air temperatures reaching 33ÀöC and track temperatures as high as 55ÀöC. The team's morning programme went to plan but the afternoon was interrupted by a number of reliability issues which prevented the team from
fully completing its planned tyre test.
Head of race engineering Ian Morgan said: "Looking to Jean-Eric, I must say I have been very impressed with him. He's not really been in our car for any length of time before this week and he hasn't made a single mistake. He's good at taking in information and using it as required and he's been consistent and controlled. He was able to do as we ask and put in a lap time whenever we needed - he's done a good job."
Second quickest was Sam Bird (1:40.897), who did 104 laps as Mercedes ran with a 2012 exhaust position in the morning and returned to a standard car specification and focused on developing the set-up of the car on the soft Pirelli tyre in the afternoon.
"We have had a very good test," said Ross Brawn, "It has enabled us to make a good start to our 2012 preparations. Sam has performed extremely well, providing consistency and accuracy in both his driving and feedback, and our engineers have been very impressed."
Ferrari tester Jules Bianchi (1:41.347) was third fastest ahead of Oliver Turvey (1:41.513) in the McLaren and Max Chilton (1:41.575) who did a second day for Force India.
"We managed to do quite a lot, including some set-up work and a few long runs after lunch," Chilton said. "At the end of the day I had some fresh tyres but it was a shame there was a red flag in the middle of my final run. Still, I'm happy with the job I've done this week. Working with the team has been an incredible experience and I've learned a massive amount."
Chilton's quickest lap was just over a second shy of Paul Di Resta's Q2 time at the Abu Dhabi GP.
The red flag was brought out by Esteban Gutierrez (1:42.049) spinning the Sauber en route to sixth quickest time of the day.
With Valterri Bottas Macau-bound, Mirko Bortolotti, who won seven times in 16 starts en route to winning the FIA Formula Two Championship, took over driving duties at Williams and turned a 1:43.277 best.
Kevin Cecco (1:43.686) shared Toro Rosso's STR06 with Stefano Coletti (1:44.545), the pair doing half a day each.
American Alexander Rossi (1:44.283) was out in the Lotus T128.
"In the afternoon we did some performance runs, which I wasn't entirely pleased with," Rossi said, "I felt I could have achieved more and I feel there is a lot more potential to unlock."
Jan Charouz set a 1:44.470 with the Renault R31, with Nathanael Berthon managing a 1:45.839 best from eight sets of soft and supersoft Pirellis on the HRT.
"I'm very tall and the fitting wasn't ideal," Berthon said, "but I think that my performance was good; the engineers told me that they were really satisfied with the test."
Race engineer Angel Beena said: "We had a good connection with the driver and he adapted very quickly. You could see he was really motivated, brave on quick corners but also very professional. I think he has great potential."
Frenchman Charles Pic was back in the Virgin to complete the planned longer run tyre programme. Pic did 49 laps of with a best time of 1:46.348.
Canadian Robert Wickens took over the car for the afternoon following his outing in the first free practice session at last weekend's grand prix, getting down to 1:45.934 as he worked with Pirelli's development compounds.
Next weekend's Brazilian GP apart, the next time we will see F1 cars run in anger will be when the 2012 testing season starts in anger next February.
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