In recent years, Formula One teams have conducted a test in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season for their young stars. It is a rare chance to gain experience in a Formula One car while still climbing the racing ladder. This year, the Young Driver Test is split in two – at Silverstone this week, and then at Abu Dhabi as usual at the end of the year.
This week’s test takes place on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 July at the home of British motorsport, just a few days after the British Grand Prix. Only three teams are taking part – Williams, Marussia and HRT. The other nine teams will test in Abu Dhabi.
This is the only opportunity available to the teams to test on track for the rest of this season, which raises the question of why so few teams have chosen to take part. It’s not only about testing the young drivers. There is valuable data to collect from running the cars, perhaps with new parts that could find their way onto the cars for later races. Yet most of the teams have chosen not to run this week, which makes very little sense from a car development point of view.
Williams are testing their reserve driver, Valtteri Bottas, who has been taking part in some of the Friday practice sessions during the season. Bottas is the reigning GP3 champion, and his experience in the FW34 should make this a productive test both for him and the Williams team.
HRT will be giving Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua his first taste of a Formula 1 car today and tomorrow. The 24-year old from Shanghai won the 2011 Chinese Touring Car Championship and joined HRT’s development programme in April of this year. After failing to qualify for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the team has made steady progress and is now able to consistently compete with Marussia on the track. This test will be crucial to HRT continuing to move forward.
The Marussia F1 team is still reeling from Maria De Villota’s horrific testing accident last Tuesday. She had been lined up to drive at the Young Driver Test, but the team has had to make other plans after the crash. Marussia will be running their GP2 drivers, Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto, each of whom has tested an F1 car once before. The two drivers will each have one day in the car.