Formula 1 held an altered version of its annual Young Driver Test at the Silverstone circuit in the UK on July 17-19. The event is normally a chance for the teams to get their reserve drivers, test drivers, and lower formula stand-outs into an F1 cockpit and test their skills while helping the team improve their car. This year however, the teams were also allowed to test Pirelli’s newest tires, which are a fusion of the 2012 tire construction with the 2013 tire compounds.
The first day of the YDT was essentially a showcase of the young talent in Formula One as only two current F1 race drivers, Paul di Resta of Force India and Max Chilton of Marussia F1 Team, were on the track. The star of the day was F1 legacy Kevin Magnussen who topped the time sheets with a 1:33.602. He also put in the most laps on the day, totaling 100 circuits in the McLaren Mercedes MP4-28. The 20 year old Danish wheel man is the son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen who also has some time in a McLaren machine as he drove for the team in 1995.
Di Resta was the second fastest of day one, with Red Bull Racing Junior Team driver Antonio Felix de Costa behind him in third. Though he was only the tenth fastest driver of the day, American Alexander Rossi had a productive drive for Caterham F1 Team during which he reportedly tested some components meant for the team’s 2014 car. That, coupled with Rossi’s continued improvement and Caterham’s lack of a go-to driver could indicate that 2014 could be the year that we see an American return to a Formula 1 race seat.
All eyes were on Daniel Ricciardo on day two of the event as the Aussie driver hit the circuit in a Toro Rosso in the morning and a Red Bull in the afternoon. Ricciardo is currently a Toro Rosso race driver, but has been named as one of three candidates to fill the RBR race seat that Mark Webber will vacate at the end of the season. Ricciardo was impressive, landing in the top spot with a 1:32.972 in his Toro Rosso machine and the third spot in the Red Bull RB9.
Carlos Sainz Jr, a Red Bull Junior Team driver, was the second fastest driver of day two when he took some drive time with Toro Rosso. Odds are high that either Sainz or de Costa will replace Ricciardo at Toro Rosso if he moves to RBR. Lotus F1 Team reserve driver Davide Valsecchi put in the fourth quickest lap of the second day with a 1:33.554.
The final day saw seven different 2013 race drivers on the track as teams began focusing more on the new Pirelli tires. Three-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets as he stepped into the cockpit for Red Bull in the afternoon, and Adrian Sutil was the second fastest on the day for Force India. Another famous F1 last name looked impressive at Silverstone as Nicolas Prost, son of four-time World Champion Alain Prost, was the third fastest of day three for Lotus. Prost was originally slated to drive only on day one, but when Lotus decided to not put Kimi Raikkonen in the cockpit due to some of the restrictive measures placed on race drivers at the YDT, Prost picked up an extra day of drive time.
Davide Rigon is a name that should be watched, as the Scuderia Ferrari wheel man out performed current Ferrari race driver Felipe Massa on day three. Ferrari has said they are committed to Massa, but if he continues to struggle for the rest of 2013, Rigon could get a shot at a race seat next season.
Overall Red Bull stole the show at the Young Driver Test. Their decision to test Ricciardo created a stir and could mean that RBR is getting some signals from Raikkonen that he wants to stay with Lotus, thus making Ricciardo the new top choice. In addition to that Red Bull’s younger drivers Sainz and de Costa looked very impressive and could be stepping up to F1 soon if a seat opens up.
The teams will now head to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 26-28.